Our interactions, relationships, frequented locations: these are all points of data that comprise a picture of who we are. Be it online with an email address or IP addresses or in the real world with written signatures and physical addresses, this information is exposed and will be used as a point of research.
A recent experience shone bright the glaring reality of this truth. In an attempt to familiarize ourselves with a neighboring community we requested to be a member of their Facebook group page.
The next day the group moderator called (found a phone number on profile page) stating that after researching through our profile we would be a good fit for the community.
This did not sit well with me. I know page moderators have that kind of power in their hands, but I was totally caught off guard by his openness about doing it. We were requesting to be a member of the community so we could do the researching and never expected to be the ones researched.
My naivete truly left me feeling exposed and vulnerable. My digital self was caught naked and afraid of just how far this moderator dug into our profile for what we considered to be a very minor and insignificant group page.
This infraction propelled me to get serious about my privacy settings and familiarize myself with what information is out there about me.
Rather than being naked and afraid I will face my fear of digital nakedness and venture on with fortitude in my exposure. I have been educating myself on the data that is freely available and scanning personal data for damaging details.
I realize data mining cannot be avoided and I now know it should not be ignored. It is an effective means to monitoring, mitigating, and remediating potential threats. Early detection of any threat means a fighting chance for the threatened.
Understanding the risks involved in our data mining contributions provides us with a knowledge of how the information is being collected and the sources of where the data is coming from. We must be purposeful and intentional in the data we are sharing.
Knowledgable of our data input makes us knowledgeable of our data output. It helps us minimize the naked and afraid scenario of a pacifist. I am aware we are beyond trying to avoid or do away with data mining.
From check-ins to check-outs, likes and dislikes, what I am doing doing and with whom I am doing it, down to the detail of how I am feeling at the moment, I continue providing the details the data mining industry thrives on. This is massive amounts of raw data on a daily basis to be analyzed, compiled and disseminated as a resource. A brilliant tangible rendering of just how exposed we are is best portrayed by the X.pose garment. We might as well be walking around naked!
Are you unconsciously exposing yourself and loved ones in the data you share?
The Change Up!
Let’s change up the data mining game and become informed, purposeful contributors to data mining. This means to be aware of your data contribution. Be aware of who, what, and how others are contributing to your data and having explicit knowledge of who, what, and how you are contributing to the data of others.
Diligient and systematic queries of yourself allow you to monitor what data is freely and readily available. The use of Google Alerts is a basic approach to staying informed. Setting up a few simple key words as a filter and you will receive an email with links to the sites fitting your parameters.
In pursuit of my own data contribution I consulted Intelius, an “information commerce company.” Yup, your information is their business and you get to pay them to find out just how much they are willing to let you know they know about you. Regardless, they were quite convincing with the details provided just on the free report and for the same price as my frothy double shot latte I could get a more detailed report.
I was compelled to forgo my frothy latte and pay the bounty for my detailed report. The details provided were nothing unexpected but a bit unnerving because of just how much detail was provided. Not only was the information explicitly about me but it also included my relationship to others and had a nifty social media ranking.
Social Media Check-Up
I realized in that report provided by Intelius just how exposed I am and that I am not the only one contributing to such details. Friends, family, coworkers, and others I interact with on social media sites make an impression on my character just as much as I make an impression on theirs.
My lack of security and privacy settings are vulnerabilities to their personal data as much as they are to my own. Social networks update their look as well as their security controls and privacy protocols just about as often as we update our status. Thus, audits of privacy protocols and accessing security controls should be second nature to users of social media. Engaged users of social media know that monitoring security and privacy settings is as vital to their use of social media products as a helmet is to a football player. It’s not an option.
We each have an idea of how much risk is acceptable. While I might be cautious about what image I portray online and what details I am comfortable sharing, I also need to make myself aware of what others are contributing to my persona as well. This is where privacy and security settings come in with concern to tags and shares. Limiting my posts to various audiences and reviewing tags before they get posted are my best defenses on making sure that I portray my best self. Moderating my profile and keeping a keen eye on what others are contributing to my persona reduces the risk of misinformation and misrepresentation for both myself and those I am connected to.
Everyone Is Vulnerable
Non-social media players need to be proactive in keeping up with what data is available as well. A person needs nothing more than your name to gain access to details. Of course the more data they know the more relevant the data output. Your name, the city you once or currently live in, your phone number, and an additional detail of an email address or relative refines the results to only the most relevant data.
Do your research. Research yourself using nothing more than Google with the before-mentioned details and see what comes up. Don’t forget to search images and videos as well.
Whether we ourselves are the curators of the data or others are doing it for us, data about us is being collected and made available to anybody. Knowing how to access and where to go for help in reviewing privacy statements and/or settings is an essential basic skill to mitigating our data contribution. As we discover the degree of our data nakedness in this virtual realm we are being proactive in rectifying this overexposure.
Currently, we are our biggest vulnerability when it comes to our data. By being informed and being intentional with the data we share we can become our greatest asset.
Copyright 2014 Gina Felter