Hey! That’s Personal.

We have seen it all over the news lately: Data Breached! Data Hacked!, Data Stolen! Data Sold! Ok.. great, what the heck is that “Data” they are talking about, and how does it affect me?

To give you an idea, today we are going to talk about PII (Personally Identifiable Information), data about you.

Our friends over at the General Services Administration define it as information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, either alone or when combined with other personal or identifying information that is linked or linkable to a specific individual. 

So.. Social Media right?

Well.. yes and no.

What PII truly means is any type of data that gives away personal information, which can be:

  • Credit Card numbers
  • Home Address
  • Phone Number
  • Birthday
  • Parents Names
  • Pets Names
  • Kids Names
  • Email Address
  • Type of Car you Drive
  • Places you like to Hang Out
  • What you search for Online

The list goes on and on, but do you see how it is starting to get scary? When Facebook, Google, or any third-party company that buys or sells information about you, they are essentially selling you (in a digital sense).

What can they use this information for you ask?

When Black Hat Hackers (the bad guys) get a hold of information like this they can use it to steal your identity, open accounts in your name, make purchases or take out loans in your name, or sell the information to someone who will.

What a company generally uses it for is to build a profile about you for targeted advertising, feed it into AI algorithms to make predictions about where you will go, what you will buy next, who you will probably vote for, and what charities or types of business interest you. And more.

Martin (2018) writes: According to Facebook this data was provided to Cambridge Analytica by a Cambridge University researcher called Aleksandr Kogan, who started a firm called Global Science Research (or GSR). GSR created a personality quiz on Facebook called “thisisyourdigitallife” which was labelled as a research experiment to be used by scientists to build psychological profiles.

Reference: http://www.alphr.com/politics/1008854/cambridge-analytica-facebook-what-happened

This data went on to be used to help influence the 2016 US Elections.

I hope now you see how quickly your data is used, and sold to third-parties for the political and financial interests of others.

How can you protect yourself? Here are some helpful hints:

  1. Dial it back with Social Media usage.
  2. Check what that APP needs access to before you install it.
  3. Use a burner email when registering for sites you know you will never use regularly
  4. Use a VPN (I am personally a fan of Express VPN)
  5. Use in Private Browsing
  6. Use DuckDuckGo for your web searches (Amazing Search Engine that Promotes Privacy)
  7. Limit the information you put in Social Media profiles!
  8. Use the Maximum Privacy Settings
  9. Use Two-Factor Authentication
  10. Never store your Credit Cards in your Browser for Quicker Purchases!
  11. Verify and Read the Privacy Policies of any place you give your PII to. (e.g., Retail stores, schools, Car Dealerships, the local Bakery) Honestly, why does Panera Bread need to know my Birthday and Home Address for their store card?

The best thing you can do to protect your PII is remember this simple logic: The Internet is Forever!

Until next time… #dontcodealone