Warm Up: Understand your Data Privacy risks
Our data is out there on the internet. Every day, companies collect personal details about us (both online and off), and we all share more than we realize through our devices, our social media accounts, and more.
And it’s fair to question, so what? What’s the big deal? Well, our data is bought and sold without our knowledge or consent, enabling powerful interests to shape the information we see, the prices we pay, and even the opportunities we get. The weaponization of our data – not just what data companies have about us, but how that data is used – has the potential to impact our security, financial well-being, and independence.
Let’s get specific about some of these harms. While the targeted ad that follows you from website to website is creepy and annoying, there can be other more invasive problems when our data is collected and used against us.
It costs you money: there are companies with business models built on scraping any information on you, building secret profiles of you, and squeezing every last penny out of you. For example, insurance technology companies feed data irrelevant to your driving ability, such as your cell phone location data or credit score, to opaque algorithms that decide how much you pay for your car insurance premium.
It enables discrimination: Clearview AI, a facial recognition technology company, has violated the privacy of millions of people by scraping billions of public photos from social media websites to train its technology without consent. Facial recognition technology has higher error rates for Black people and the unregulated use of this technology by law enforcement has led to several wrongful arrests.
CR believes consumers need far more control over who uses our data, and for what purpose. We’ve argued for a definition of “publicly available” that’s limited to only that which is made lawfully available from federal, state, or local government records. We believe privacy should be the standard, and so we’ve advocated for stronger laws, called out big tech companies, and built tools that you can use to reclaim our data privacy and reduce our digital footprint
Ok, now that your brain is warmed up, let’s do some work:
Workout: Reduce Your Online Tracking
Imagine you’re headed to the gym for leg day. We all know that working out our legs won’t solve all our body’s problems – the same is true with privacy: There is no single activity that will address everything about the weaponization of our data. Let’s start where we can, though: by reducing your online tracking. You can use a browser extension to make it harder for advertising networks and other companies to track you across multiple websites.
Catch a second wind? Here’s more you can do to continue your data workout!
- Build your Privacy Toolkit : Create a Customized Plan with Security Planner, and Delete your Data with Permission Slip
- Continue Reading about Privacy Harms: When we don’t have control over who is using our data, third parties can manipulate us – like Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 presidential election. When our data is used without our consent, it can lead to data sets being created that, in turn, actively hurt people – like how facial recognition technology has led to false arrests. And reducing online tracking isn’t a silver bullet for limiting the spread of our data: Details as personal as the medications we take can get sent to companies like Google and Facebook and our health apps (like Period Trackers) aren’t all treating our data safely. Finally, to add insult to injury, companies aren’t even using our data to make our lives better. As Julia Angwin puts it: Online Ads Are Serving Us Lousy, Overpriced Goods.