Data: Should You Be Paranoid?

I think we all know or are quickly realizing that everything we do leaves a trail of breadcrumbs.  That trail is a series of data points which now can be aggregated to create a record of you.  What you do?  What you buy?  What ads you respond to?  Who your friends are?  The list goes on. 

The question of course is whether you should be paranoid and worried about it. This video below shows you the extreme scenario of how data could be abused.

In a more balanced view, Time Magazine had an article call Your Data, Yourself which just appeared on March 21, 2011.

Oddly, the more I learned about data mining, the less concerned I was. (Joel Stein, author of article)

The article talks about a variety of companies that collect and sell data:

  • Google Ad Preferences
  • Yahoo!
  • Alliance Data
  • EXelate
  • BlueKai
  • RapLeaf
  • Intellidyn

The author makes a key point…a lot of the things we get for free are free because people collect and sell our data.  Otherwise, these “free” business models wouldn’t exist.  Would you pay for all the content and other things you get today or do you just want to understand what happens to your data?

On the other hand, the author shows you how data put together adhoc can paint erroneous pictures of you.  Should you care?  Do you want to fix this?  Can you control it?

This is all important since there is some do-not-track legislation being discussed.  (See Joe Manna’s post on this for some additional perspective)  Several people bring up the good question…

While we say that we don’t like to know that our data is being used to target ads at us, do we really want to have to sort through all the irrelevant advertisements?

Of course, we all become a lot more sensitive around healthcare data.  But, somehow, I doubt many of us think about what happens when we use our work PC to research a condition (see article on 10 ways to monitor your employees).

The article also suggests some sites for protecting yourself:

Don’t expect this one to go away.  With issues like the data breach at Epsilon, people are concerned.  Additionally, as data gets co-mingled and your credit score is used to determine health programs (for example), there may be limits about what and how information is used.

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