Too Much Information – How Gathering of Your Personal Data Might Be Too Much
You’re hoping to get a head start on your wish list for the holidays. So you log in to your favourite search browser and type in holiday gifts, and it gives you a list of items that truly interest you: hoodies that are similar to what you already own, AirPods charger, mobile device holder, laptop bag, books of your favourite authors, Funko Pop editions of your favourite comic book heroes, and others. You even get ads from the store where you bought your new backpack from two weeks back, and the ads are tempting you to get another one. You’re incredibly impressed as the search browser seemed to have read what’s on your mind.
But then you pause and think. If the search browser knows this much about you, then that only means it has been tracking your every search all this time. It follows every website you’ve ever visited. It even knows those items in which you are most interested in buying or have recently bought, hence the ads it is constantly throwing in your direction.
In one way, it saves you the time and effort to go through an extensive search. But in another way, how confident are you that all the information and personal data it managed to gather won’t end up in the wrong hands, leading to consequences that might put your privacy and other confidential information in danger?
This is the dilemma that we all face now as we rely more and more on technology to do tasks for us, whether it’s ordering a new laptop charger, booking a ride to your study partner’s house, or paying your mobile phone bills. The more tasks that we have allowed our devices to do for us, the more information we have put out there and the more likely they are to be hacked or our information leaked.
Sure, it is convenient to go from one app to another on your phone without having to enter a log-in or username and a password because your mobile device already saved them for you. It saves you the time and effort of memorizing all those passwords because everyone of us can attest to forgetting a password or two occasionally. That’s why every app or website has a “Forgot Password?” feature – it’s a basic necessity these days. But think, what if your device falls into the wrong hands? You probably are not worried about the value of the device so much as you are with what your device contains. So in this regard, too much data gathering is risky.
And it doesn’t happen only at home, it also happens in schools. Nowhere is safe. According to a Washington Post article, with more and more educational institutions moving onto digital platforms for teaching, the more risk there is for students to have their personal information out there, such as name, email address, grades, and test scores.
Being off the grid is not an option, especially now when most of your classes probably have moved onto the online learning platform. However, there are steps you can take to lessen the risk of losing your personal data.
A good place to start is to look at your social media accounts. Are you taking pictures and posting them for everyone to see where one can actually pinpoint where you live? Do you post and do a location tag for every photo? Sure, you probably want to show off to your friends how a brand-new limited-edition hoodie looks awesome on you, but never overshare information because you never know who’s lurking on social media.
Another way to protect your data online is to be wary of clicking on links from unrecognized sources. Sure, the link may look legitimate or promising, like how to improve your grades in math, but if it comes from an unknown source, get rid of it as fast as you can. If it is truly a non-malicious email from your family or friends that is of utmost importance, they will confirm if you indeed received what they sent. Otherwise, ignore it.
If you do like connecting with others online or doing shopping online, be sure to go on legitimate sites. Be on alert for people posing as employees who ask for more information than you would normally give. For example, an online retail store employee won’t ask for your SIN. At the same time, if fellow site users reach out to you claiming they simply want to ask you for product or service recommendations, they don’t need to ask for your complete mailing address or your birth date.
Going online these days is a necessity, but remember the rule of thumb when it comes to your personal data. If something doesn’t feel right, then you are probably right.