The Double-edged Sword: Data Collection vs. Privacy
Posted by Pamela S. on Monday, October 1st, 2012
Everyone has their own comfort level regarding the amount of information that they want to share with the world. Younger people put it all out there on Facebook. Some people are upset that Google Street View has taken a photo of their house and publi
shed it online. Your privacy is being compromised everyday, and it isn’t by us, in the private investigation industry.The biggest threat to your privacy is through data collection by advertising companies or the government.
Those people who are uncomfortable about Google Street View have to realize that when you are in a public space, whether you are standing on your front lawn, or at the grocery store, you have no expectation of privacy. That is the legal test we use when conducting surveillance. You have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public washroom, or inside your home.
When we are conducting online searches, we know how to do so without compromising our client’s privacy. There are hundreds of companies and organizations tracking your information. We don’t want them tracking ours, and we don’t
want them tracking yours.
I’ve written about this topic lately, but I have to point you towards this brilliant article in the The Wall Street Journal, “The Economics of Surveillance”. This isn’t the form of surveillance that we do, as private investigators, but the kind of online and public surveillance that affects your privacy on a daily basis.
The WSJ found more than 20 ways that your information is being recorded. This includes everything from license plate readers to online data scrapers. Companies conduct data collection on your shopping habits and even monitor conversations on Internet forums for market research purposes. Forum posts could include confidential information you have shared regarding health concerns or other personal matters. Read WSJ article “’Scrapers’ Dig Deep for Data on Web”.
If you want to know what sites are tracking you, check out privacyscore.com. It may surprise you to know that compared to many other sites you probably think are safe, Facebook rates a much higher score. Wikipedia gets a score of 100, because it is ad free, has no reason to track you for commercial reasons, and no personal data is shared. Facebook actually scores a 94, while Target (the department store) only scores a 50.
There are a number of free programs online that allow you to monitor who is tracking you, and block those sites. Privacy Score has a a service called Privacy Fix, there is Do Not Track Plus from Abene, and one from Mozilla called Collusion.
It isn’t only the online world tracking your interests. According to WSJ, your cable provider and your digital video recorder are also collecting information about you. Maybe you don’t care whether anyone knows that you are watching The X Factor, but you may not want anyone knowing about the XXX movies that you rent on Pay Per View.
It may be strange for a private investigation blog to be writing about making your information less visible, all I’m saying is that you have a right to know what information is being collected and why. Most of your personal data is being collected by marketing and advertising companies. That is why when you click on some websites, ads relating to other items you have searched magically pop up.
Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Sheer has recruited the best from the FBI, DEA, IRS and Secret Service to build a formidable team at Sheer Investigations. Our private investigators have the sensitivity and experience to handle the most delicate investigations.