Data Privacy Day 2019: Increasing Threats to Online Privacy


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In the past year, internet users started realizing the vast amount of data we’ve given away to companies, and how they used it in ways we wouldn’t have imagined.

Data privacy was constantly on our minds in 2018: there was data breach after data breach, Cambridge Analytica (and other Facebook scandals), and legislation like GDPR and the California Privacy Act. Since the start of this year, we have already seen talk of an FTC fine on Facebook, and multiple data breaches–including the largest data breach in history.

But despite all of this talk, and some changes in legislation, do people feel that their data has become more private? Not really. 83% of Americans said that internet companies were specifically a source of growing concern, according to the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI):

data privacy day 2019

If anything, everything in the past year serves to show us just how much data is being collected about us, and how we can’t predict what can happen when we share our data.

Companies Are Using Your Data in Ways You Can’t Predict

The problem isn’t just that we don’t know who can access our data: it’s that companies are  using it in ways that we would never think of, even if we did take the time to read every tiny-font, over complicated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy that we’ve agreed to.

Companies like Facebook tell us that they are just using our data to serve us “relevant” ads. Companies like AncestryDNA and 23andMe say they’re using it to better their product or develop medicine. But really, we can’t predict what they will do with that data.

An app might ask you to grant them location access in order to help them get traffic information, but would probably not explain that the data will be shared and sold. That disclosure is often buried in a vague privacy policy.

data privacy day 2019

Companies (and data brokers) can determine where you live by connecting “anonymized” location data to public records–if they know where your phone rests most nights, they can pretty easily determine your address. According to an investigation by the New York Times, apps are collecting your data every 20 minutes. This means that companies can figure out not just where you live, but the route of your commute, where you work, where you eat lunch, where you go after work and with whom, and predict (or influence) what you might do tomorrow or next week.

Staying Anonymous Online is Harder Than Ever

That information, and the inferences that come with it, can be sold (or leaked) to pretty much anyone. According to an analysis conducted by MIT researchers, “just four fairly vague pieces of information — the dates and locations of four purchases — are enough to identify 90 percent of the people in a data set recording three months of credit-card transactions by 1.1 million users.”

And that’s not all. Once your information is out there, it can get pieced together to build an online profile of you. Even if it’s been anonymized, once it’s been combined with enough other datasets and machine learning, new inferences about your life can be made that you wouldn’t even think to consider before agreeing to share your data.

As Apple CEO Tim Cooke recently said:

“One of the biggest challenges in protecting privacy is that many of the violations are invisible. For example, you might have bought a product from an online retailer—something most of us have done. But what the retailer doesn’t tell you is that it then turned around and sold or transferred information about your purchase to a “data broker”—a company that exists purely to collect your information, package it and sell it to yet another buyer… Let’s be clear: you never signed up for that.”

While we are generally skeptical of tech giants’ calls for data privacy legislation, we agree with Tim on this one. We didn’t give our data to that retailer, or that website, or that media platform, just so that they could sell it to someone else. And this practice isn’t going away anytime soon- companies will continue to ask for our data if we want to buy their products or use their services.

DeleteMe Helps You Get in Control of the Data That’s Already Out There

Your personal information can be found all over the internet–just Google your name! You will be shocked at the number of websites offering up your personal information: name, birthdate, address, contact info, and relatives’ names. These websites aren’t only what helps companies connect your ‘anonymized’ data to identifying information–anyone can find this from just a quick search.

data privacy day 2019

With DeleteMe, you can take control over your data by making sure it is removed from–and stays off of–data broker sites like Whitepages, Spokeo, and Intelius.

Blur Puts You in Control of Who Can Access Your Data

Your personal information gets out because is constantly being collected, packaged, and sold to marketing companies or other data brokers every time you give a website your personal information or make online purchases with your credit card.

Instead of giving away your real information, use Blur’s Masked Info to stay as private as possible. Masked Cards will allow you to create a “virtual credit card”, so that when you make an online purchase, the company will not have your real credit card number. This way, if there is a hack or a breach, your real credit card information stays safe because they don’t have it. You can also use any name you want while using the Blur Masked Card billing address – keeping your billing information private.

You can also use Blur to mask your email address and phone number when making purchases or signing up for online accounts. This information will still work–emails will be forwarded to your regular email, but the company will not have your real email address and be able to sell it, and thus marketers will not be able to link your account to your other online accounts to build your ‘online profile’–keeping you private online, and in real life.

Using DeleteMe and Blur, you can remain private while doing normal online activities–privacy by design, without sacrificing convenience.

Data Privacy Matters- Today and Every Day

Data privacy isn’t about hiding a little piece of data, like the recipe you Googled or the coupon you used. It’s about keeping these little pieces of personal data from being put together by Facebook, Google, or data brokers to create a picture of who you are, what you do, where you go, and your friends and relatives. It’s those aggregates that aren’t what you thought you were getting into when you made your Spotify account or bought that coat online–they are violations of your privacy.

Your data is yours, and you should decide who can access it and for what purpose. Get back in control of your data with Abine.

About Abine

Abine, Inc. is The Online Privacy Company. Founded in 2009 by MIT engineers and financial experts, Abine’s mission is to provide easy-to-use online privacy tools and services to everybody who wants them. Abine’s tools are built for consumers to help them control the personal information companies, third parties, and other people see about them online.

DeleteMe by Abine is a hands-free subscription service that removes personal information from public online databases, data brokers, and people search websites.

Blur by Abine is the only password manager and digital wallet that also blocks trackers, and helps users remain private online by providing ‘Masked’ information whenever companies are asking for personal information.

Abine’s solutions have been trusted by over 25 million people worldwide.

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