"The lampposts are listening to me! I'm sure that after a conversation I had while walking down the street, I see related ads on the internet." Yes, someone I know claims this is happening to him, says o Tony Anscombe head of public information at cybersecurity firm ESET.
If your profession is related to cybersecurity or privacy services, then you will have heard similar claims, and when you try to explain how companies collect data that is used for advertising, your explanations fall on deaf ears as your listener will have to accept that they have probably, but perhaps unknowingly, allowed their data to be collected and used.
The process is often invisible as data is collected behind the scenes from the actions we take and the information we openly disclose. Companies then use the technology to make "smart" inferences about our preferences.
If you use, for example, an application GPS to find a restaurant specializing in a particular cuisine, the search provider will know the following about you:
- that you eat out
- what day of the week do you eat out
- possibly how often
- how far you are willing to travel,
- your dietary preferences,
- the time of day you eat etc.
In this case, all you revealed was the name of the restaurant, but the information derived from this action can be important.
"Back to my friend who thinks the traffic lights are listening to him after a ride down the street in which they debate whether to go to an Indian or Chinese restaurant, get in the car and use the GPS of their phone to drive to the restaurant. The next week they see an ad for restaurants on their cell phone. After all, were the traffic lights to blame or did they deliver the information themselves?” says Tony Anscombe from ESET.
It is difficult to understand how the collection of data and the conclusions that can be drawn and probably a topic that is interesting when someone explains it, but too complex to lead to specific actions to avoid data collection.
"I would hazard a guess that even those in the know are probably revealing more information than they realizeSays the Tony.
Educating consumers about the value and importance of their personal data is why in January 2008, the US and Canada created Privacy Day. It is an extension of it Personal Data Protection Day established in European countries since 2006.
January 28th also commemorates its 1981 signing Convention 108, an international treaty on privacy and data protection.
In the US, the day has evolved into a week, giving greater opportunities for events and participation. Since 2008, the world of data and privacy has changed significantly. The value of data is now recognized by companies and governments, thus leading to significant recording of personal data. This has led to the need to enact legislation, such as General Regulation on Data Protection (General Data Protection Regulation – GDPR) in the EU and the California Privacy Bill of Rights (CPRA), providing some protection to individuals who wish to control the use of their personal data.
Awareness raising activities such as Privacy Week they are important as they lead to discussions between individuals, businesses and governments.
However, the concepts of what personal data is, its value, the risk of misuse or even just its use should be a topic that everyone is taught during basic training and before they start using their first "smart" device. This should include an understanding of the rights afforded by privacy legislation to the individual, the right to delete, amend, request such data, etc.
If we do not understand the importance of the personal information collected and its value or our rights to manage our data, we are likely to go about our daily lives blaming the traffic lights for the advertisements we will see on Internet next week.