Data is the new gold and businesses are trading in this digital commodity more than ever before. Data has become the most important thing that companies can collect and use. The Cambridge Analytica collection of data via Facebook has raised the issue. But still, many people don’t know how their data is collected or used. Whenever you go online via a site or an app and enter details that data can be potentially collected, analysed, shared, and potentially exploited.

Here we outline how your data is being used.

How is it collected?

Whenever you download a new app to your phone or sign up to a website, how many of us immediately accept the terms and conditions without reading them? Probably all of us! This, usually means that you have given away rights for your data to be used and potentially passed to other organisations. The same happens with ‘cookies’ on sites. They are irritating when they pop up and by allowing them, you permit the site to use them to tailor information to you, for example, advertisements.

So, then what?

Your data is valuable for businesses to understand your habits, likes, and dislikes. There is a whole other business to buy and sell your online information. Data that can be collected can range for your name, address, income, and general activity. This information is a marketeer’s dream, as they can then use that to target you very specifically.

Advertisers

They will buy it and study it to understand consumer behaviour more and to create very targeted adverts for specific demographics based on interests. Because they will understand your likes, for example, if you are a sports fan, a pet lover, a movie addict. They will use this to target specific products and services they know you will be interested in.

You may have noticed these targeted ads on your screen shortly after you have been searching or looking at products online.

Every type of company that has something to sell

Advertisers are the obvious choice to use your data. But every type of business that has something to sell or wants to improve a service could use data to refine products and get a better understanding of their consumer. Whether it be insurance companies, banks, car companies, or home security systems.  This could lead to suddenly receiving email marketing that you are sure you didn’t subscribe too, offers via text messages, and a whole world of ‘spam’ to try and attract you to a product.

Thieves

While some of the above may be a little ‘creepy’ it is all legal. But there is a darker side. While we are all very accustomed to entering information online, making a purchase, and forgetting about it, when we share our credit card information on a shopping site or share our name and address, phone number and email – that information may be stored forever. Most of the time, established websites won’t do anything with that information, but online businesses that have poor security can become the target of cyber-attacks, where your information could be stolen and get into the hands of people who could use it for malicious purposes

The lesson from all this: be careful what you share online!

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