Gone are the days, when we got comforted with ‘everything connected to the internet’ that gave us enough power to stay updated on what’s happening and kept connected with this world. One such power enablers is Social Media that gave us one-touch access to share personal memories, interests with friends and families across the world, a fact that should be agreed. Recently, Facebook hit the headlines, and the social media giant has been facing criticism on the grounds of data breach and user privacy concerns.
Going forward the Digital privacy or Digital footprint of an individual will be one to be the most concerning factors in this digitally connected world. So, I feel women should have sufficient awareness on how to handle this digital ecosystem as awareness is the key.
I will try to put forward a high-level overview of how our Digital footprint is created or used using a simple example. The so-called ‘Targeting’ has been in practice for some time, but in the current scenario of data breaches and surveillance, there are privacy concerns. As an end user, we never know who in the disguise of ‘partners’ has access to our digital data.
So, let me put forward the scenario in the form of an example.
Suppose one unfortunate day, you noticed some abnormal symptoms of a skin disorder and googled for the same. Knowing its scabies, you again googled for ‘Good Skin Doctors in your area’. Finally, you selected one doctor and booked an appointment. You had visited the doctor now and got the required medicines. You may also google to check about the medicines prescribed.
In case your email and SMS are also being snooped, it is very easy to track and target an ad related to you. Let us suppose this is your first search on your mobile device [Device 1]. Now, the algorithms (a software program) behind the engines assign a unique digital ID for you and let us name it ‘SHELIKES123’ for now.
Now, on your laptop [Device 2], you will use the same email account or WiFi at one time or the other and thus it is easy to identify it is the same digital ID which searched for a skin disease sometime back on mobile [Device 1]. Now, the algorithms assign your unique laptop ID [Device 2] against your digital ID ‘SHELIKES123’. This time you searched for a property in real estate segment or visited a webpage using search results. Now, this also will be assigned to your digital ID.
Remember, now the algorithm knows on what day you were sick and on what property you were interested. So, if the algorithm keeps on adding your everyday activity from various sources and tags it to ‘SHELIKES123’, your digital ID activity speaks better about you than anyone else. If, as a second person or as an advertiser someone knows this deep about you there is a cause for concern, and this is called ‘Digital Privacy’.
The next day, you may receive an Ad on Instagram about a Skin Specialist of a hifi property in the heart of the city. Now, any family member or a friend who sits next to you while browsing Instagram can figure you out based on the advertisement being showed up.
The simple infographic below represents how all activities can be tracked and assigned to a unique ID.
Ever wondered why services are free from certain providers? Well, there may be many reasons but just to reiterate ‘Your Usage Behaviour gives them Data to Mine’ and thats pretty much enough for Ad targeting.
Using Google’s services? Spare a minute to read what Google says.
Google stores all this information on it’s servers and use them to provide a unique targeted experience.
You can’t see a pixel tag on any webpage you visit, but it does a lot of things under the hood.
How Google uses a pixel tag for:
You already have an answer, and yes this is about your email inbox which you think is private and secure. So, be aware, use the internet wisely, act responsible and stay safe. Without awareness, we are indirectly helping corporates to build a unique digital footprint of our online activity and mine data to make a business of it. We look forward to coming up with more such stories.
The sole intention of this story is just to bring awareness about how your internet activity is being monitored without your knowledge and not to threaten or make users refrain from using various services. The above use cases and examples cited are just for understanding purpose and are not exhaustive or conclusive.
Lalana suvarna is a commerce professional, her interests include reading, eating and writing.