As a Facebook and mobile phones user, I’m not completely surprised by these latest reports. Customer information costs them relatively little to collect and can be sold for significant sums of money to advertisers who are increasingly able to deliver custom messages to people based on their tastes, interests and even their exact locations. This doesn’t seem inherently bad, right?
But there may be a darker side to all of this information exchange. While Verizon claims that the information they may sell is anonymous, is that really the case? When enough bits of information are put together purchasers of the data might be able to connect the dots. While I doubt anyone would be interested in putting the puzzle pieces of my digital profile together just to locate or “spy” on me, it is disturbing to realize the possibility exists.
I’ve always been somewhat sensitive to my privacy and as a result have limited the information that I share about myself and others. But it seems that those concerns are being shared less and less by the public and by corporate executives. Just last month, Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, said in an interview, “privacy is an ‘old people’ issue.” He may be right, but I’m not convinced.
Soon, if you have enough money, you might be able to find the exact location of some of those old people and even more younger people, along with their exact age, gender, browsing history and maybe even their religious preferences, marital status, nationality, and other sensitive information. That is a troubling thought. So I decided it was time to spend some time reading the privacy language in the user agreements that I accepted when I started using various websites and apps. After all, it’s my responsibility to understand the agreements that I’ve made with others – even if I just clicked the “accept button.” The good news is that you can re-read and even change your privacy settings on most sites. It’s probably worth checking out and will definitely put you to sleep if you’re having trouble sleeping at night.