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Taking Control of your Data

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

In today's world, it is difficult to remain anonymous and protect our privacy. This problem stems from our use of ‘free’ service organizations that provide products like search engines, social media, online shopping, and emails at no up-front cost. However, these organizations use their platforms to collect our data for various marketing strategies and provide access to third parties without our consent. While this offers us the ability to stay in touch with those that live far away, search for contacts and job opportunities conveniently, and shop without leaving our houses at no added cost, the trade-off is that our personal data could be misused.

What is Personal Data?

Defined: Personal data is defined as information relating to an identified or identifiable individual. It involves an identifiable person or people who can be identified directly or indirectly.

This could reference a multitude of distinguishing aspects such as identification number, a name, date of birth and can even go into factors such as DNA and fingerprint

Privacy in Big Data Economies

It is no secret that we live in a big data world. Most decisions are made leveraging analytical approaches that search, compile and cross-reference large data sets in order to come up with insights about customers. These insights are sold in a variety of ways such as targeted ads and mailing campaigns.

These large data sets range from public information to internal customer data that comes from companies. This means that people need to be more vigilant than ever if they want to protect their privacy.

Ways Data is Shared

We as consumers are giving away personal data daily without thinking about it twice. Below are some examples of data collection and how it's been used:

  • Using a loyalty card at a supermarket allows the store to gather data about how you shop.

  • Online surveys and quizzes collect personal demographics from participants.

  • An online search for a specific item, the data of your search is collected and often immediately sold to other vendors who carry the item or related items.

  • Information you post on social media.

  • Voice recognition on devices like Alex and even your cell phone carriers are listening to people and pulling data from voice interactions.

Data Collection Process

It is very important that users understand data is collected in various ways. Businesses collect customer data needed to set up and maintain customer accounts and run operations. They collect demographics, names, unique identifying information, social security numbers, and dates of birth, but also data pertaining to money spent, products or services purchased, data pertaining to how and when purchases are made, payment information, and much more.

The data is used to uniquely identify a customer and to provide security verification when accessing an account. The data is also used to fulfill the orders, conduct customer service and receive payment. Additionally, companies use this data to gain more insight into customers in order to target them more efficiently with marketing. Going one step further, they are sharing this data with other businesses so that those organizations can also market to people in a more targeted way. The companies then may utilize online banner ads that are targeted to the specific interests of the person, targeted direct mail, and calls. They also are likely to pass the info they purchased further and resell it to other businesses.

Using data in this way is highly financially lucrative. Companies no longer need to conduct expensive and time-consuming customer surveys that produce vague results, because they can access much more accurate, real-time data. It is also proven to be a very effective marketing tactic that leads to sales.

How to Control Your Data

  1. Review the privacy settings on all your social media accounts, then do it again, and re-review them often. Set the strictest guidelines that prevent your information from being shared. Utilize strong passwords on all accounts and change them often.

  2. DO NOT use free, unsecured wi-fi. Your online activity information is not well protected unless you use a secure, closed network. You’d be amazed how easy it is to get information from a strangers computer on a public network (Expect this in another blog post)

  3. Surf the web anonymously, using proxy services and virtual private networks

  4. Only provide the information that is required. For example, if you are shopping at a store, they often ask for your email at check out, but this is not required to complete the transaction.

  5. Sun Tzu wrote in Art of War “know thy enemy and know thyself”. Read articles about the newest strategies being used in data marketing. These strategies change constantly and it is important you know their angles of collection.

To learn more about protecting your data, visit

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