Throughout the whole world, thousands if not millions of people are unaware, oblivious, and uninformed about how their personal information is being used, collected, stored and shared in today's complex digital world. Think about it, how many webpages, forums or social media platforms do you visit per day and how many hours do you do it for? If you come up with a number between 5 to 8 hours per day then you are right! The average Internet user spends roughly 6.5 hours online every day, going through countless webpages, blogs, social media and even cute dogs clips on YouTube, and every time you do that you permit the circulation of your personal information. Every time you click on that “Accept” button you give consent for the websites to collect your personal data. You might think it's harmless, but have you ever wondered what it really was about? Or what is this “personal data” the website is hinting to collect? Well you are in luck! As today's post will explain what personal data is, who stores them and how you can protect it.
What Is Personal Information?
Personal Information or Personal Data can be identified as - any information that relates to an identifiable living individual. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology personal information is “any information about an individual, this including any information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual identity, such as name, social security number, date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name, or biometric records and any other information that is linked or linkable to an individual , such as medical, education, financial and employment information.” In basic words personal information is any information or data that is linked towards you as an individual person. To illustrate this, think about who you are as a person. What makes you, you? What personal characteristic defines who you are? Could it be your hair colour, your height, favour food or animal, your education, political opinion or your personality? All these things are considered personal information or data about you that can be used in conjunction to identify you as a living person. This is what we call personal data - any information that relates to an identifiable living individual.
If we were to look at identical twins, how do we distinguish one another? We look at the personal information that they have such as personality or physical traits to tell them apart and identify them.
Examples of personal data may include:
● Name and surname
● Home address
● Phone Number
● Username associated with you
● Personal Email address
● Identification Card Number
● Location Data
● IP address
● Cookie ID
● Medical Data
● Education Data
● Finance Data
● Search terms
Now you might be wondering how does this relate to personal information on the internet? There is no way a website could know all of this? Well unfortunately it can and we have been agreeing to all of this by a click of a button. Anything you do, say, think or feel can be recorded and nowadays social media amplifies this process as social media platforms are the perfect ways to capture your personal data as you share content relating to where you are, the things you do, say, think and feel
For instance, you may be thinking that you are discreet about your political views. However, Facebook manages to make deductions on your political views based on your social media activities - the pages you liked, visited and even what your friends visited and liked. If you have visited a Trump page and liked it or have a majority of Facebook friends who liked Trump’s pages, Facebook will mark you as an conservative republican and therefore show you ads related to conservative republican views. This is a classical example of how social media captures and stores your personal data. Over the period of a year a social media platform would have a stockpile of your personal data given them the ability to know who you are and find ways to profit of you. This is what happened in 2011 to Max Scherms an Australian activist, who requested to see his personal data that Facebook stored on their servers. He was mailed a CD-ROM containing a 1,222 page document. This offered a glimpse into Facebook ability to store and keep private data of an individual without their knowledge.
The Big 4
Now that you know what personal data is and how it can be recorded in various ways, the question now is - is my personal data safe? To know this, we must look at the “Big Four”.
More than half of the world’s rentable server storage is managed by four gigantic corporations. Amazon is by far the biggest, with about a third of the market share and more than 35 data centres across the globe.
The next three biggest providers are Microsoft, IBM and Google, each of them adobe a similar global pattern of data servers.
Various of these major server providers regularly duplicate their client’s (internet users) data across their network. This means that your data such as your personal information is uploaded to servers in the country you are located, and then it would rebounce in various other countries.
The issue with this is that there is always a risk that the country your personal data goes to does not have the same level of data protection. If your data ends up in another nation, it can be unclear who has access to it. This puts you at a risk, as your personal information is out there in the world.
The good news is that the major 4 big corporations that are monopolizing the data industry invest tremendously on their cyber security. For example, Google has proclaimed that their data centres are protected with several high levels of security to prevent any unauthorized access of your data. Check out their video below to get more information as they bring the viewers on a personal trip to see brains of how they manage our data:
Things To Do To Keep Your Personal Data More Safe!
1) Personal information is like cash: Value it. Protect it. Personal data, for example, your purchasing history, IP address, or geolocation, has huge incentive to organizations – similar to cash. Make educated choices about whether to share your information to specific organizations by considering the amount of personal data they are requesting, and comparing the advantages you may versus the advantages the organization may get.
2) Monitor your applications. Numerous applications request access to personal data, for example, your geographic area, contacts list and your photo album, before you can utilize their services. Be insightful about who gets that data, and careful about applications that expect access to data that isn't needed or important for the service they are providing. Erase unused applications on your phones or gadgets and keep others secure by performing updates. One usual way to keep your applications in check is by always installing trustworthy antivirus applications. This application scans and observes any abnormal activities and informs you.
3) Manage your privacy settings. Check the privacy and security settings on web services and applications and set them to your comfort level for information sharing. Every gadget, application or program you use will have various options to restrict how and with whom you share data. By exploring these options, you could potentially stop your personal data getting to the wrong hands.