Your data or theirs?

Is your digital identity yours? Or is it in the hands of whoever holds your data?

Despite what some people may think, your digital identity isn’t just solely your online presence or social media accounts. Digital identity has a few variations in its definitions from different sources but as the ISO simply puts it, identity is a “set of attributes related to an entity”. Everyone has a digital identity and your data is what forms it. Your data can range from a simple username and password to a comprehensive account of all your online activity and history, even your purchasing behaviour.

Have you ever signed up or logged into a website using your Google, Facebook or other social media accounts? It’s very handy as it takes out the hassle of setting up another account and having to remember the username and password you choose for it. From reading an online article to joining an online community, a majority of the websites out there will now either ask or require you to make an account for their site.

Screenshot of Medium’s sign-in page

But what does this mean for your data? Can Google, Facebook or whatever platform you sign in with see what articles you’re reading online? And vice-versa, does this mean that the site you used your social media account to sign into can gain access to your information and activity from that social network? There are many questions to be answered when it comes to your data and what it could or is being used for. Do you actually know who has access to your data? And what data exactly do they have access to?

Medium’s Privacy Policy clearly states that when you create your Medium account, and authenticate with a third-party service that they “may collect, store, and periodically update information associated with that third-party account, such as your lists of friends or followers.” They also say that they “won’t transfer information about you to third parties for the purpose of providing or facilitating third-party advertising to you.”

But what about others? Recently, Google was exposed for tracking your location even if you had turned off your location history in your account settings. This meant that advertisers were still able to target their ads towards you based on your location proximity while you were under the impression that your location data was not being tracked or shared especially. They used your data as if it was theirs.

So how can you manage your data? There are many digital tools available online that can help you keep your data a little more private. Two that I’d recommend are Tor which is one of the best known ways to browse the web anonymously, and Disconnect which is a handy tool for your web browser and mobile that helps you free yourself from unwanted tracking. It also allows you to see what other sites are trying to track you when visiting certain websites.

There is no fool-proof way of keeping all your data secure online from data brokers and the likes, but being mindful of your digital identity and who’s tracking your data can help you take the steps to manage it.

*All views and opinions expressed are my own and not that of any company.