05 May 2018 17:36 IST

Why you should take data privacy seriously

Information collected about people can be used to influence their perceptions and opinions

In the previous article , we saw which behaviours can lead to data being freely collected about you online — it ranges from online laziness and the opening of new tabs instead of using the incognito mode, to the preference of remaining logged in. The habit of browsing in the same window only increases the chance of information cross-sharing. I’ve noticed that the fares for several flights are very different, based on whether you are browsing in a new tab while being logged in or whether you are browsing incognito.

However, that does not mean incognito makes you invisible and that you can do anything when using this mode. There are enough identifying details which can be used to trace anything back to your device. All you achieve when you use this mode is preventing the browsing information from being saved as cookies.

Being bored : Smartphones have completely taken over our lives. We turn to this device for almost all of our information, interactions and interests, which cover taking pictures, editing them, sharing, browsing and playing games online. Each time a user does any of these activities, they leave behind nuggets of information about themselves.

Cambridge Analytica had accessed information about users based on the preferences and profiles built from such usage. As per the claims being made, this was then used for targeted communication.

There are so many inane boredom-beating games on Facebook. Quizzes such as ‘What were you in previous birth?’, ‘Which famous personality are you’ and ‘How you will die and when?’ are immensely popular. However, before you can play, you are required to give access to certain parts of your data to the quiz developers, which you give without much thought. It is this data that is used to build profiles of people.

However, just because you don’t play any of these games doesn’t mean you’re safe. You leave behind precious trails of information even when you browse mindlessly. The videos you watch, the pictures you like, the products you linger over, the images you zoom into are all giving information about you and your preferences.

What’s the harm?

Many people have asked me, ‘What is the harm if they collect such information?’. At the very least, this data can be used to influence your purchase behaviour online, and maybe even the price of such purchases. Dynamic pricing is limited to airlines in India, but it is bound to come into play with regard to product purchases as well.

The larger danger is the influence of perception and opinions. When people get diverse points of views and objective information, they become well-informed and discerning. But such data, coupled with artificial intelligence, can be used to feed information selectively. This would limit the person’s perspectives and influence their decisions.

From a career and leadership perspective, this is the biggest danger anyone can face. Leaders are expected to be not only well informed but also have critical thinking capabilities. This means they should be able to process information in an objective and critical manner without being manipulated.

If you are being influenced because of the data you are freely giving away online, it will definitely limit your journey of being a leader.

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