You may not know it, but online data mining moves at a constant and steady pace, collecting details about your personal life and habits that could have dire implications in the not-too-distant future.
These findings are documented in Digital Exposure, an article by Elizabeth Svoboda published in the November 2009 issue of Discover.
Svoboda bases the article around “how political campaigns hire consultants to gather data for targeted mailings,” but she also sheds light on the ramifications of our online actions.
Let’s start with the innocent posting of hometowns and birth dates in social media profiles. This data is the determining factor in compiling your social security number, and if that number acts as a password to bank statements, you provide thieves with instant access to your accounts.
Consider research into health ailments, whether your own or another person’s illness. Because your computer maintains a specific online identification, insurance companies may learn through the I.D. that you visit health-related sites and deny your pending policy.
The same type of denial is probable if YouTube videos or pictures on photo-sharing sites tag your participation at parties and gatherings that clients, service contractors and outsourcing firms deem as questionable.
Editorial comments appearing in newspapers are confirmed by a staffer before it’s published but not so when participating on the publication’s online forum. If your anonymous comment leads law enforcement to believe you have knowledge about a criminal act, the newspaper receives a subpoena, and your computer is soon revealed as the source.
It’s a smart move to review your online activities and remove sensitive records or unflattering remarks. However, Archive.org’s WayBack Machine houses past data, making a clean sweep of your history impossible.
As a small or solo business owner, it’s your responsibility to not only keep your personal and business information private but to also secure client information collected through online carts and membership programs. It’s a difficult task, but a dose of healthy paranoia is manageable as you proceed with caution.
1. Secure sensitive Emails. Free online encryption tools are available that allow you to connect with clients without Email account providers matching your message with ads.
2. Search with confidence. Review data that may be considered as questionable through browsing services that don’t require cookies to be enabled.
3. Snap with caution. There’s nothing wrong with having a great time at events, but realize that some photo takers are clicking for cash, which can wreak havoc on your livelihood.
Is data mining by corporate firms and institutions going too far, or is it your responsibility, as an Internet participant, to protect your data?
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About the Author: Shirley George Frazier is chief marketing officer at Solo Business Marketing, a professional speaker at worldwide business and marketing conferences, and author of Marketing Strategies for the Home-Based Business: Solutions You Can Use Today. Shirley twitters at @ShirleyFrazier and blogs at the Solo Business Marketing Blog.