Dealing with data collection

This is part of the series on privacy in the digital world.

More often than not, the popular-culture idiom "what you don't know won't hurt you" still rings true with your real world adventures but the same idiom is debatable at best when it comes to your digital world dealings.

I use the word "debatable" because on one hand the internet-based services, aka the cloud services, have and continue to provide benefits to our everyday life. On the other hand the business processes in place, i.e. data collection and related processes, fuel privacy debates.

Data collection is the bedrock of the digital world economy, a core business intelligence that makes entities thrive and even profitable. Many entities collect data through the services they offer for "free." Yes, services that you use daily, like email and social media, are prime examples of free services offered by select entities in exchange for your data. Even when the type of data collected is restricted or regulated by law, technology helps create a unique consumer dossier for individuals, aka profile, by correlating the tsunami of data collected in the first place.

These profiles can be used by the data collecting entities themselves to sell their own products/services or sold to other entities who can use it for unsolicited-but-targeted advertisements. Included in these "other'' entities also are digital advertising networks that can propagate your profile exponentially to other entities. No wonder our email inboxes and text messages are full of junk/spam – aka unsolicited – comeons!

Data is collected in many ways and I wish understanding how collected data is used was trivial; unfortunately it isn't. It is challenging even for a self-proclaimed geek like myself to keep up with the details of who/how/when and the newer non-cookie techniques to track us. My recommendation is to be cognizant of data collection in general but simultaneously build good habits.

For example, the thesis of my last column was basically to slow down and take the opportunity to control what type of browser cookies are allowed to collect your data at the websites you've pulled up. You can do so by reviewing the website's cookie usage policy in the pop up window. You may be inclined to just hit the accept button, or click the "x" to close the pop up window, but you aren't doing yourself any favors rushing through.

Instead of hitting that [unconditionally] accept [every type of cookie] button, you may find that you dodged a bullet by not letting the website share your data with hundreds of digital advertising networks when you hit the preferences button instead and poke around.

Data collection, including your habitual/behavioral data – i.e. how you use a particular service while on a website – is not a bad thing. It can result in a more pleasurable website experience. However, not turning off unnecessary third party cookies that track your every move, when given the opportunity to review their cookie usage policy, will most probably lead to increased spam for you to deal with.

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation

Read More on The Digital World
Volume 14, Issue 12, Posted 10:00 AM, 06.21.2022