Have you ever wondered what happens to the information you enter when you’re online? You are craving a particular food, and you quickly jump on your browser to search for a particular food item or recipe and click on enter. You get a search result, open different links, and finally choose an option. Voila! You have successfully made an order of your favorite food, after which you close your browser and move on with your day. Interestingly, that singular chain of action which you just performed had immediately formed a digital footprint of you. Congratulations, you now have a full caricature of yourself duly created online, and you’re now a subject of interest amongst different applications on the internet.
Now, there are different food companies that have created online digital advert accounts with the top social media platforms where you have made your recent searches and have paid to get access to your data. In this case, they all begin to compete for the caricature of you, all trying to get your attention based on your recent and historical searches. The following day, at around the time you made your food search the previous day, you are innocently surfing the internet, and suddenly an advert pops up telling you about this new recipe and how you need to give it a trial. Before you angrily press the close button beside the pop up, another advert gently slides through the bottom of your screen, and at this point, all these companies are forcing the digital caricature of you that has been created digitally to appeal to your emotions to remind you that you’re usually hungry by this time and they’ll like you to try out a meal from them.
The above scenario is a simple portrayal of what happens in our daily lives and how our individual data is what is driving the major wealth transfer in the world currently. Now we have apps that have access to the microphone on our devices, and you will be shocked that after discussing about your intent to get a product over a phone call with your friend, the next advert that you see staring at you is one about the product you just mentioned over the phone. Now you are wondering what kind of witchcraft this is, that is reading your minds and showing you adverts based on what you were just talking about. Unknowingly to you, you had permitted these apps to gain access to our microphones, probably when you were installing them the first time. Unfortunately, most of us don’t take the time to go through the voluminous terms and conditions of these applications before clicking on the “I accept” button whereas we had given them the permission to use and own our data.
This then calls for an answer to the question of who really has access to your data and what data do they have access to? Recently, search engine giant, Google, was exposed for tracking the locations of their users even if those users had turned off their location history which meant advertisers were still able to target their adverts towards users based on their location proximity. In this case, we could see that Google used the data as if it was theirs.
In summary, I would like to say there is no guaranteed way of keeping all user data secure online, but being mindful and conscious of your digital identity and whoever might be tracking your data can help you take adequate steps to manage it.