5 Mind-Blowing Online Privacy Investigations
Everyone has a right to digital privacy. This seems both logical and fair.
You can shut the curtains any time and hide the parts of your life you don’t want to share. And that’s how internet privacy is supposed to work too. But does it, really?
Let’s take a look at some internet privacy facts. Five pieces of research conducted by famous news providers investigated the boundaries of our digital privacy. And you will be left speechless by what they learned about the use of personal data in today’s world.
Twelve Million Phones + One Dataset = Zero Privacy
Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel from the New York Times obtained a data file from a location data company. It included more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million US citizens. Basically, you could see the exact location of each smartphone and its movements over several months in 2016 and 2017.
Location data companies state such information is always anonymous, but Times’ journalists proved it’s not.
Just for the sake of a scientific experiment, Thompson and Warzel were able to identify the phones of military officials, law enforcement officers, and other people in positions of power. How? By matching their home and work addresses with the movement of green dots on a map. The investigation proved precise geolocations always give away the person’s identity, and that location data businesses know far too much about our lives.
Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night
A group of New York Times journalists investigated how businesses track mobile devices. According to the newspaper, 75 companies received user location data from apps. In other words, the story shows how if you enable location services to get traffic notifications, you risk having your data collected and sold.
The worst part is, anyone who has access to this information can easily identify the cellphone’s owner. Which these journalists showed by successfully following Lisa Margin, a 46-year-old math teacher.
Hey Online Tracking Company, Where’s All of My Data?
Privacy International’s Frederike Kaltheuner asked the advertising company Quantcast for all the data they had on her.
Over a single week, the company collected 5,300 rows and more than 46 columns worth of internet privacy data, including URLs, time stamps, cookies IDs, IP addresses, and more. And they accessed it all legally, by getting the user to click the I ACCEPT button on a consent form without considering the consequences.
You’ll Need a Football Field To Read the New GDPR Privacy Policies
Two years ago, your mailbox was filled with the updated privacy policies of digital services. Chances are you didn’t read any.
Luckily, Joanna Stern from the Wall Street Journal did. She discovered the new privacy policies were significantly longer than the old ones. In fact, if you printed out 35 GDPR policies from major digital services and apps, the amount of paper would span an entire football field.
The documents saw new pages added because of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These new standards enhance internet security and require privacy policies to be transparent about the kind of data a company collects. Also, now companies have to state the purposes behind data collection and the identities of any other companies with access to it.
How a Pizza Night Can Cost More in Data Than Dollars
A group of journalists from the New York Times conducted a cool experiment. They imagined two friends having a pizza-and-movie night. During the evening, the imaginary subjects used different technologies and digital services to entertain themselves on what would be a typical evening for many. For instance, they ordered pizza at Domino’s using Amazon Echo. They watched Apple TV together, then posted a selfie on Facebook - just like people normally do.
But each time these “friends” used some service or technology, they shared two types of data. One is the data provided by users, like an uploaded photo. And the other is the additional data collected by the service. For instance, with a single selfie Facebook gets the location of the photo, your time zone, IP address, type of device, battery level, connection speed, and so much more.
Altogether, the pair gave up 53 pieces of information. 72% of this was not provided directly by them. This means that most of the time, we are completely unaware of what happens to our personal data.
We hope these exposés make you think twice about your digital privacy and how your personal data is used. And if you want to know more about the best ways to protect your private information, you’re welcome to read Clario’s blog.
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