Keeping your Information Safe from Data Miners

Experts have estimated that as much as 5 terabytes of data on every person on the globe exist. If you don’t encrypt your device while browsing, it would be certain your information is part of the large mass of data held by firms to be sold or hacked by cybercriminals.

A lot of firms want to advertise goods and services to you. However, to target customers better, they need your personal information. It is because of this reason companies engage in data mining, a process that could lead to the exposure of sensitive data about you.

Data mining is the use of computers to examine several bytes of information for the purpose of recognizing patterns. It analyzes data such as travel patterns and purchase history to predict what you and a lot of other people are going to do. When looked closely upon, this type of data collection raises a lot of ethical questions.

Experts have estimated that as much as 5 terabytes of data on every person on the globe exist. If you don’t encrypt your device while browsing, it would be certain your information is part of the large mass of data held by firms to be sold or hacked by cybercriminals.

How Data Mining is Facilitated

In several nations across the world, data mining is legal and can be used by businesses. This data is then utilized to create profiles for several individuals without their knowledge. In essence, this data would be used to target you with products and services so these companies can make more money off you.

Through massive scrutiny by computer systems that mine data, predictions can be made about changes in the market. Information can get to data miners’ hands through mediums such as social media, applications, websites, and smartphones.

For instance, mined data might reveal a certain product is not selling well in one region but is in high demand in another region. This way, the producer gets to supply more of the product to the region with higher demand. Data mining has its good sides but like most tools, it is misused.

A lot of companies use data mining to get a hold of consumers’ personal interests. There are certain things you like to do on your phone which should be private. However, data miners breach this privacy all in a bid to make more money. It’s why you see online adverts for products or services you assumed you searched for privately.

Data Mining Varies from Data Breaches

A lot of people have the misconception that data mining is the same with data breaches. While both can in a way be intertwined, they’re actually different. Data mining refers to computer systems searching through large amounts of data to find trends. A data breach, on the other hand, occurs when large amounts of data are stolen or viewed by third parties.

The issue with data mining is that although it’s legal, several individuals have no idea they’re giving companies permission to snoop into their lives. They also don’t know the manner in which their data is being used. Besides, huge chunks of the information held by various businesses and data mining companies make them juicy targets for cybercriminals.

How Data Mining Works

Data mining is a very structured process because of the effects it can have on a company’s income. Therefore, the data and predictions made the data miner have to be accurate to an extent. Mined data can even be filtered down to your ZIP code to allow firms to target you better.

There are certain companies that mine data. These firms can get your data from voting records or even tax files. Data like this reveal your name, age, address, income and so on.

The process of data mining starts from collecting and recording of data. Any type of data you’ve put in on websites, social media and the likes would be recorded alongside that of several others. The information is then stored on the data miner’s servers or on cloud service.

After this, experts would come together to make a choice on how to organize the data to predict your behaviour. The data mining software then sorts your data based on the analysis of the information. Eventually, the data gets interpreted to the company so certain decisions can be made.

Data mining companies can go as far as buying information from websites or other firms. This way, they get to create their own profiles for you and other consumers. Data mining companies have as many as hundreds of millions of profiles on individuals. In fact, there could be as many as 100 data fields just for your profile.

A data-mining firm, Acxiom Corp. was found to contain as many as 750 data fields for a single profile. The company has close to three-quarters of a billion profiles.

Data Mining Threats to you as a Consumer

The issue with data mining is that the whole bulk of information stored in one location could easily be misused or stolen. In the event that this happens, there would be repercussions for customers. Data miners should use your information in such a way that consumers’ data would be secure and market trends still analyzed.

However, this is not the case. In the event there is a data breach, your information would be either out in the open or used by criminal organizations. A lot of data in a single location attracts hackers like ants to candy. In 2018, as many as 57 million persons had their records breached from a total of 1,000 breaches.

Experian, a credit bureau, has predicted increased levels of identity theft in the coming years.

How Businesses Use your Data

In the internet age, it might not be easy to keep your data away from data miners. This is because of the very things that make stuff like communication, purchases, and transportation convenient require your data. A device like your smartphone can start to log your location history. Because you want to enjoy services that require your location switched on, you allow your location to be tracked.

However, you need to understand this is practically trade-by-barter. Your information for their services. Every single time you purchase an item with your credit or debit card, you give these data mining companies a little bit of information about you.

Facebook earned as much as $40 billion in 2017. 89% of that money was gotten from advertising, which was so effective because of data gleaned from you and hundreds of millions of other individuals. Although Facebook claims personal information about you is anonymous, user data was sold to tech companies in 2018.

How your Smartphone Communicates with Data Miners

Researches were conducted to find out just how much information gets sent to data miners every day. One of the phones observed had about 5,400 hidden app trackers. A lot of applications on your smartphone use trackers to mine your data. In essence, as you’re launching a single app, you could be launching tens of trackers.

Fitness Tracker Used for Mining Data

Health apps such as fitness trackers may be against their own privacy policies to get your personal information. The worst part is that you don’t even have any idea what they’re doing.

Research conducted in 2019 by JAMA Network Open showed that 90% of depression and smoking termination apps send data to Facebook and Google. About 30% or less were found to warn users about the data mining act.

In fact, some health applications send data to Facebook so users can be served with targeted adverts. Information like user diet, heart rate, etc. was given to Facebook.

Stopping Data Miners from Getting your Information

It can prove quite difficult to keep all of your information from data miners. However, it would be beneficial if you become able to control the type of information they get from you. Below are some solid ways to prevent data miners from knowing all about you.

  1. Utilize a Virtual Private Network

One of the best ways to stop data miners from getting your information is to use a secure VPN. Normally, when you want to access the internet, you would need an IP address. This IP address contains private information about you such as your location. To be able to browse the internet anonymously, you would need an IP address-changing tool.

A Virtual Private Network, as the name suggests, is a tool that makes provision for users to send and receive internet traffic through a private network. VPNs facilitate the connection of the private network to a public one, making sure you can browse the internet. In essence, a VPN acts as a protective barrier between your device and the internet.

With a VPN, you can change your IP address by connecting to a server in any location of your choice. VPNs typically provide hundreds of locations you can connect to.

  1. Use Cash More Often

Every time you use your credit card for an online or in-store purchase, data miners grab the information to predict your future purchases. To stop them, you can start making use of cash for products you want to buy and the service you need.

  1. Tighten Browser Privacy

Your browsers can leak a lot of information about you. Through cookies, data miners can get a hold of your information, even if you don’t know it. You need to modify your browser settings to send a ‘Do Not Track’ request to websites and clear your browser history and cookies after your online sessions.

You can also decide to use secure browsers like Mozilla Firefox or Tor Browser. Tor Browser ensures the highest level of privacy by not saving your history and stopping websites from tracking you. It also prevents government agencies with their sophisticated tools from snooping on your online activity.

  1. Change App and Social Media Settings

Your mobile device may be sending a lot of information about you to data miners. For instance, some applications track your location in real-time. You can change app permissions to protect your data. You also need to delete apps you no longer use.

Refrain from posting private information such as your phone number on your social media profiles. Information like this is useful for identity thieves.

  1. Use Private Tools

Search engines such as Google record a lot of data about you such as your location, search history, purchase history and so on. You can switch to a search engine that never records your data.

For communication, you can use encrypted messaging apps. These apps use end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only you and the party you’re conversing with would be able to see your chats.

For your browser, you can install a tracker blocker extension or add-on. They stop websites from tracking you through a frequently updated list of data trackers across several websites.

  1. Stop Downloading Free Software

As juicy as using a service for free sounds, it could pose serious consequences for you. Apart from your data getting mined, unscrupulous elements could use free software to install adware or malware on your device. If your information is gotten by this kind of people, it would be sold on the dark web.

Your computer system could also be used to mine cryptocurrency thereby slowly destroying your device. Your online account information could also be stolen using malware.

Use paid software to get the best of results so you can sleep with a clear mind.

Conclusion

Would you like to have a bulk of sensitive information about you such as purchase history, search history, location, age, and so on being shared with strangers on the internet or malicious corporations? You hope a lot of the activity you perform online would never be known by relatives and friends. Why should strangers have such information about you?

Achieving anonymity while using the internet is hard but possible. When you’re anonymous, data miners would not be able to keep track of your online activity.

You can decide to use a VPN, strengthen your browser privacy, ensure your app and social media settings boost your privacy and use cash for transactions to keep your information from data miners.

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