Photograph by Carlos Muza
Tuesday was Data Privacy Day in many countries around the world, including Canada.
Data Privacy Day highlights the impact technology has on our privacy rights and the importance of valuing and protecting the personal information that is highly profitable to companies in the business of data harvesting.
Caitlin Lemiski, Director of Policy at the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC in Victoria says data harvesting is quite sophisticated and involves every possible thing a company can acquire about you.
Lemiski says “they want to know how old you are, they want to know your income, they want to know how likely you are to click on a link,” and a whole lot of other information about you.
Lemiski says they are trying to harvest every single data point they possibly can and then monetize that information.
She says there are “data brokers and companies all over the world working together to match data sets.”
The sophisticated data-analytics used today can be a valuable tool for political parties or special interest groups that want to target messages to receptive individuals.
Lemiski says they can also “use an individual’s profile to find a lookalike audience to find someone exactly like you in another riding and market the message the same way to that individual.”
She suggests you take a close look at the settings for all your social media accounts, and the settings on your smartphone and warns that default settings more often “favour the data collector.”
Another suggestion is to avoid taking a quiz on Facebook and to think twice before doing an online poll or survey. She says before doing a quiz, try to think “what might be the ulterior motive for harvesting that data about you.”
She says “be mindful about what you are doing online, what you’re putting online.”
Lemiski also says there are many non-profit and government agency websites that provide information on how to protect your personal information.