I’ve been exposed to some pretty shocking things about human behavior in my life. As a result, I’ve become pretty callous to most of the insanity I see every day in the world around me.
One of the things that never fails to blow my mind is how happy people are to trade their privacy for “free” stuff. Everyone wants free stuff. It’s human nature to want to minimize our costs.
We often don’t realize what we are trading for those free services. Companies don’t provide services for free out of the kindness of their heart. Someone has to be paying the bills!
If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product being sold.
You pay for Facebook and Google by allowing them to amass an array of data about you that would make an authoritarian government blush. You give away this data happily and freely, of your own accord, because you want those awesome services for “free”.
Forbes ran a story about how for the past four years, a University of Texas-Dallas psychology professor recorded every email, text message, image, and video sent or received by 175 Texas teenagers into a massive database.
The price? A free smartphone with an unlimited texting and data plan for each of the teenagers. The parents of these teenagers, with the teenagers themselves, happily signed away privacy for free stuff. They knew they were being monitored, but they didn’t care. Where is the ethical issue of the monitoring of those who haven’t consented to be a part of this study, but who have friends how have and their communications are forever stored?
The professor in charge of this program has now built a database of everything these kids have ever done on their phone for the past four years. They say they will anonymize all of it, but can you really trust them? Efforts in the past to anonymize private data always seems to fail miserably.
What about when it’s companies that track you? The US based retailer “Target” has does some serious data mining. They assign every customer an ID that is tied to their credit card, name, or email address and that ID is used to build a profile of everything you’ve bought. That’s on top of any demographic information they already have on you.
Target’s computers crawl through this data to decide what coupons to send you. Their statisticians were able to identify 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed them to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. They were even able to estimate a woman’s due date to within a small window, so coupons could be targeted to specific stages of the pregnancy.
Their model was so accurate, it sent coupons for baby products to a teenage girl. The father was furious and marched into the store to confront the manager. The manager apologized. Turns out the teenage girl was pregnant, and even though her father didn’t know about it, Target did.
True freedom has a price. If you don’t have a problem with large corporations, advertising agencies, and governments knowing everything there is about you, I encourage you to continue to keep your head firmly stuck in the sand.
If you feel in the pit of your stomach that something is very wrong with this, there is hope.
My goal is to help you live a more free life in the best ways I know how. So many people don’t take the proper steps to diversify their digital risk and implement basic security and privacy techniques into their everyday life. I don’t believe it’s for a lack of desire, I think it’s because of a lack of knowledge.
I intend to change that.
Senior Editor, CryptoFort.com