Protecting Your Internet Privacy In The Digital Era
Tom Kerr writing on internet privacy…
If you’re like me, you love the opportunities for freedom, independence, and knowledge acquisition that the digital age offers.
But you also appreciate the priceless value of personal boundaries.
I’m sure you were shocked when you found out that the National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on us.
What you might not know is that private digital surveillance companies make $156 billion a year tracking us in other invasive ways.
That’s nearly four times the yearly budget for the Department of Homeland Security.
I’m going to tell you an effective way to curtail much of that intrusive activity…but first let me expose some of the nefarious ways these corporate snoops operate.
Data brokerage businesses gather, collate, and analyze intimately-detailed information about you, 24/7.
Then, without asking permission, they sell it to the highest bidder. They monitor your home address and your Facebook posts. They find out your birthday, salary, shopping habits, hobbies, political affiliations, and screen names. They harvest data from the internet, phone companies, and financial institutions.
They even purchase details about you from the DMV. They trade on statistics like your gender, race, relationship status, and whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, apply for a credit card, or shop for “adults only” products.
You name it…they probably know it.
The dominant industry leader is a company you’ve probably never heard of – the Acxiom Corporation.
While you may know nothing about them, they almost certainly have a detailed dossier on you. They operate 20,000 powerful computer servers in order to maintain profiles on approximately 95% of American households. Each profile contains around 1,500 distinct pieces of data.
Acxiom’s headquarters is in a small city you’ve also probably never heard of…Conway, Arkansas. Population 65,000.
Hey, that sounds like my kind of town…minus the gossipy presence of Big Brother.
Acxiom sells what it gathers to clients – including seven of the top 10 retail banks, eight of the top 10 telecom providers, and nine of the top 10 insurance providers. If you’re curious to see the data they have on you, go to the website AboutTheData.com.
That sounded like a good idea to me, until I discovered that to view your data profile you first have to provide Acxiom with the last four digits of your Social Security number.
The company also offers to mail your “U.S. Reference Information Report” to you. That’s a file containing information about you compiled over the years. But there’s a catch. To get your hands on it you must give them $5…plus your full Social Security number, address, email address, and phone number.
I’m not about to give them any of that. Especially when it’s just to see how much my privacy has already been invaded.
Instead I recommend that you go to Acxiom’s “opt-out” page where you can submit a request to have your mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses removed from Acxiom’s data products. I did it last week. It took less than five minutes and didn’t cost a cent.
That will make you a much less attractive target, since businesses that buy data from Acxiom won’t know how to contact you. That pretty much removes any incentive for them to pay for your profile…and for Acxiom to waste any more energy keeping tabs on you.
You’ll still get some junk mail and won’t escape complete detection by companies that want to stalk you. That just goes with the territory when you live in the digital age. But you will reclaim some genuine control over your privacy, and help protect yourself and your family from these creepy peeping Toms.
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