4 Ways Companies Gather Data About You
We all know that at some point, companies gather data about you in a variety of ways. Although many companies use this data for legitimate reasons, such as improving their product, there are other companies that are far less considerate. These are companies that take that data, then sell it to the highest bidder in an attempt to increase their profits. As customers become increasingly aware of how their data is used, companies are finding more creative ways to gather data about you. In this article, we go over several different ways that a company can obtain information about you, and how they use it.
Scouring Public Records
Everytime you interact with the government, whether it be registering to vote, buying a home, or even getting married, it is recorded in a government database as a matter of public record. These records can be accessed by anyone, and are often shared with many businesses during the course of normal operations.
Giving out Loyalty Cards
“Loyalty cards are awesome, right? With a single card, I can get discounts on the stuff I already buy? It’s almost too good to be true!” Unfortunately, that is usually the case. As one of the biggest tradeoffs of using a loyalty card is the amount of data you give away to the merchant for using the card. In addition to basic information, such as your name and address, every time you use the card you also give away data on your purchasing habits, such as what products you buy, how often you buy them, and how much you normally spend in a trip.
Offering Free Services
In the article “If You're Not Paying For It, You Become The Product” by Scott Goodson, he describes the many free services that we use and how they are just collecting data about ourselves to be used in other ways. For example, free wifi hotspots can be used to see the sites that we frequent. Alternatively, free email services scan your emails so that they can figure out how best to target you with advertisements that you would click on.
Selling you Listening Devices
With modern technology such as Amazon’s Alexa, or smart lights that turn on or off depending on whether you are in the room, things have never been easier. But many of these Internet of Things (IoT) devices often serve a secondary, more nefarious reason: they are always connected to internet, and constantly send information about their surroundings back to the company. For example, did you know that the CEO of iRobot, the company behind the Roomba robot vacuums, thinks selling maps of your home to third-parties will let them help you improve your smart home? At the expense of your convenience, information about your interests and behavioral habits may be tracked and sold to the highest bidder.
So why should I care?
As stated during the opening of this article, a majority of companies collect data in order to improve their own products and services. However, what happens when that data collection begins to intrude into your own privacy? What if your favorite store knew that you were pregnant even before your parents did? Things from buying habits, likes, and dislikes can be used for targeted advertisement. Your pattern of life can shed insight into very personal details of your life that you would prefer stay private. Things like targeted advertising may seem innocuous at first, but when you see companies like Google buying Mastercard’s data to better target their ads, it makes you wonder, do I really want companies to know how I live my life?
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