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Think Your Facebook Account As Private As Your Settings? Think Again.

Just last month, Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg reportedly irked his neighbours with his version of ‘privacy settings’ (in true Facebook style) at his Hawaiian holiday property.

The 32-year-old erected a 1.8 metre tall wall barrier around his ocean retreat on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, and neighbours say that it is blocking the ocean view and breeze – and not to mention, is being an absolute eyesore.

While being the sixth richest person in the world (according a ranking by Forbes magazine) can in a jiffy buy one privacy, most of us are not privy to that kind of luxury.

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Image Credit: Flickr

While it is true that no one would look into the windows of our homes unless we reach Zuckerberg or Kardashian-clan status, our privacy online is equally as important as our offline privacy.

Digital Exhaust

Today, we live in a world where we produce “digital exhaust” every day.

These are data that you release whenever you interact with the Internet in any way – from choosing where to eat for lunch, to checking out the latest discount deals.

With our mobile phones, Internet use leaves a clear digital footprint of the places we have been online. Most people probably do not even realise how much data gets collected or are not even aware that their information is being collected, and it is a treasure trove of information for advertisers.

Just take Google for an instance, it scans what you write in Gmail to offer advertisers an opportunity to promote their products for your data. Even visiting an online news site might mean your information is sold even before your page loads.

Many Platforms Are Tracking Us

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Image Credit: Digital Style Digest

Facebook has revealed plans to tap GPS, beacons, WiFi, radio signals, and cell towers to track your in-store visits and purchases.

Even if you don’t buy something, Facebook will also now know you visited a store.

The media giant is setting up partnerships with point-of-sale systems like Square and Marketo that will prove who bought what after seeing Facebook’s ads. This data could get advertisers to spend a lot more on Facebook, since it will show exactly how many customers who saw an advertisement actually followed up with an in-store purchase.

They Know Exactly Where You Are

Instagram and Twitter users can easily be tracked based on where they took their photos, even if users do not explicitly share their location in the photos.

If users have location services turned on on their devices, people can use that information to find them. This means that almost anyone can view the exact location where the image was posted.

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Image Credit: Getty Images

If this alone does not already sound scary enough, the reason to be cautious is that most people typically upload a lot of images from the comfort of their home or places they frequent, like the office or school.

The Good

The use of our personal data that we unwittingly release online could go both ways.

Having data leak from our mobile phones, with or without our knowledge, can result in a more targeted marketing when we are buying products. A timely discount for that pair of pants you have been eyeing is always welcome.

The Bad

On the flip side of the coin, our data has been used to charge people different prices based on the their personal data. It has been used to show different search results online based on one’s political interest.

With technology that is tracking our every move via the Wi-Fi on our phones, it is not just our shopping movements that are tracked.

Information emitted from our phones can be used to monitor individuals at airports, throughout the city or a part of our lives that we simply wish to keep private. It has been used by governments to track potential criminal and terrorist suspects, and also those (like you and I) who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

The more we learn about how our data is used, the more we would need re-evaluate the cost of these supposedly free online services.

Featured Image Credit: Wordstream.com

 

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