Do Internet Users Know How Much Information Is Being Stored And For What Purpose?
In western countries and many other countries around the world, it is virtually impossible to be disconnected from the online world. Whether it is for work, research, school, news updates, job searching, or staying connected-to name a few, it has become a part of our everyday life. This also means it is almost impossible to avoid having your data collected, stored, and used for marketing purposes. Many users of online services are unaware of the information that is being collected and stored about them as they scroll and click through internet services. Furthermore, those that are aware may not realize just how much information is actually being collected. It is not just the tracking of cookies that are a concern, which in some cases can be avoided, any site you sign up for ensures you agree to have your information stored and/or tracked. Internet users are typically signed up for numerous sites even several just of social media ones. In order to sign up for a site, information is required such as email, gender, postal code, financial information, age etc. Analytics are built into sites and applications in order to “make sense” of this information and make use of it. Sometimes this information is collected for use by the website’s company or it is sold for other marketing purposes.
One of the largest concerns of internet users are what exactly our information is being collected and used for. When you read through most site’s Terms and Conditions they will explain that information is being collected about you but will not state exactly what it is used for or whom it might be sold to. Terms and Conditions are rarely read before being accepted. Creators of internet sites are aware of this and cleverly have long, wordy, and easy to scroll through in order to accept functions to ensure that individuals signing up will agree to the un-optional terms. With all this information being stored and not knowing who is controlling, protecting, or selling it, individuals expose themselves to the potential of data breaches. In 2016, recorded data breaches in the United States were 1093 cases. This was an increase of 40% from 2015. Individuals who are signing up for sites and/or entering in financial information to make online purchases as well as all other information providing actions, often do so aimlessly. There is usually not much thought put into these actions because using online services has become a mundane part of our daily activities. Users of online sites have to be considering all the information they are providing, that it is being tracked, and what the repercussions of this information being accessed by a bad source could be.