I recently read an article discussing how the mass amounts of information that companies collect about us, online and elsewhere, and how it gets used. What stunned me in the article was how frankly they listed information was available to companies, and just how MUCH was available. To sum it up for you all, here’s the list of things that Were being tracked, and those that could have been:
Were Being Tracked:
- Use of Credit Cards and Coupons
- Surveys you have done, refunds you have mailed away for.
- Any Call the customer help line
- Any email from them you’ve ever opened.
- Any time you visit their website
- Your age
- Whether you are married and have kids
- Which part of town you live in
- How long it takes you to drive to the store
- Your estimated salary
- Whether you’ve moved recently
- What credit cards you carry in your wallet
- What Web sites you visit.
What else they COULD track, but would not say if they did or did not:
- Your ethnicity
- Your job history
- The magazines you read
- If you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced
- The year you bought (or lost) your house
- Where you went to college
- What kinds of topics you talk about online,
- Whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce
- Your political leanings
- Your reading habits
- Your charitable giving and…
- The number of cars you own.
And this is all just one company, and what they can buy from their sources. I’m sure there’s a lot more information out there that’s been collected. Some of what’s listed above I found pretty startling. The truth is, allowing companies to gather our information is a mixed blessing, it does let them better target their services more accurately to each of us. At the same time, it doesn’t seem right that there’s an industry set up out of sneakily gathering your personal information, and then selling it off to companies, and that’s exactly what’s going on today. The good news is, there are things you can do to take your privacy back!
Most of the information above is being gotten from online sources, and there are plug-ins for most web browsers to help! Adblock, BetterPrivacy, Noscript and Ghostery are all popular ones for Firefox, and can be found here: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/extensions/privacy-security/
Tell us: How concerned with online privacy are you, and what steps do you take to safeguard your private information?
For those interested, the article that got me started on this post was “How Companies Learn Your Secrets” on the New York Times Website. Take a peek at it yourself here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&hp