The Advanced Guide To Personal Data Ownership (And Privacy)

The Advanced Guide To Personal Data Ownership (And Privacy)

As information become more and more valuable, privacy becomes a very rare commodity. If you do a quicks search of yourself on pipl.com or any other such service – or even if you just google your name – you will find out just how much information about you is out there.

To prove a point, I did a quick search of myself – and even i was surprised at some of the results. For starters, my web alias was there in plain sight, right under my name (not much of an alias then!), and along with the expected social media profiles, but my name also popped up in the Member’s directory of a student’s organization I was in back in college. Underneath it all were several companies claiming to know my data and willing to sell it (that’s the “sponsored” part).

Pipl.com finds your data

That is a pretty sobering experience, especially if you keep in mind that it’s just a tip of the iceberg. So what can you do to hold on to the last bits of privacy and, more importantly, make your own data safe? Well that really depends on how far you want to go.

The Technical Side

Data Security

There are many things you can do to make sure your browsing is anonymous. The question is, are you really willing to do it. First of, you can block third-party that track your browsing habits, then you can do the same with your location tracking, and while you’re at it, block JavaScript, as this programming language also has the capability of leaking out identifying information.

If you know some basics, then you’re already aware that these actions will drastically change your browsing experience, but that’s the price you pay for keeping your privacy.

If you want to take a step from privacy to anonymity, you can use The Onion Router (Tor), which uses a vast network of computers to route your web traffic through a number of encrypted layers, obscuring the origin of the traffic – you.

But you’re still not completely anonymous online – if you want to browse, download, and upload completely anonymously, you’ll need VPN solutions like TorGuard or Private Internet Access.

But, Tena, that’s a lot of work! And so much technical mumbo-jumbo!

Of course it is, dear reader. Companies that track your data (or agencies) have a wide array of very advance technologies at their disposal, and you, an average internet user, have only a handful solutions that you are probably not that familiar with.

But let’s keep in mind that we’re talking about privacy here, not anonymity. If you don’t really need to go off the grid, you’ll probably be fine with some less drastic measures.

Forget About Social Networks

social networks gather data

Actually, don’t even sign up for any of them. You may think that you’re playing the system by not filling in your Facebook info or Twitter biography, but in reality, most generated data comes from your activity, not the static letters you punched in when you first signed up.

Not signing up for any social media does reduce the number of data like the one provided at pipl.com. To prove my point, I did a bit of a faux-pas and searched my ex boyfriend aka the only person I know who has no social network profiles whatsoever. While my pipl.com search came up with dozens of results, his only result was a barren Google + profile, because he does not live in the stone age, and actually has Gmail.

However, the data that might be available at sites like pipl.com may very much be focused on your name, social network profiles and other contacts, but the “big data” is what you create with every interaction you make online, and especially on the social media – who you follow, what you post, like or just look at – everything counts.

Okay… So What Can I Do?

Know what you post and share. Treat everything as if it were public, because it is.
Know what you post and share. Treat everything as if it were public, because it is.

At this point you’re probably frustrated with me, because keeping your privacy means living like a digital hermit, or hide in the shadows of encryption. In reality, you’re probably already active on several social networks, and you’ve googled TOR and decided that’s really not for you. And you actually like cookies.

Your last line of defence is to be informed. Know what’s going on, know your rights, know what your signing up for – don’t just click and agree to everything that comes your way. But more importantly, think about what you yourself share and post, because you are the largest and the main source of information about yourself.

I’ve pretty much given up on the internet anonymity – my face and bio are plastered under thousands of articles on the web, my job is to keep track of the social network and to sign up for every new platform out there. So what I do is keep in mind that every bit of info I post is a public affair – whatever privacy settings I have.

Regarding everything as public property makes you think more soberly about what you share, and makes you more aware of the image you’re creating – what you share you share on purpose, and with an afterthought. 

So, your best chance at owning your data is realizing they are neither yours nor private once you post them.

Author:

Tena Šojer

Tena graduated from University of Zagreb with a masters degree in English and Anthropology. Her interests are writing, science, technology and education, and her goal in life is to find a way to pursue them all at the same time. She is currently writing for Netokracija, working with a great team to bring the best internet and tech related news to the Balkans.

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