Because most people now spend an enormous amount of time online, businesses and organizations are eager to find ways to use that activity to their advantage. In many cases, that means tracking user habits, which they use to tailor and target advertisements. On social media sites and even some retail sites, user information is logged and tracked, which has led to increased concern about privacy. During Choose Privacy Week, the American Library Association is drawing attention to the issue and advocating for consumers to stand up for their privacy.
Much of the worry is tied to whether a company allows users to opt in or opt out of such information tracking. In many cases, users have no choice, and that can leave them in a vulnerable position. For those who take pains to limit the personal information they put on the Web, "data mining" (the collection of personal user data) can undo all their efforts. If identity thieves are able to hack into the systems of a data mining company, they would have easy access to an incredible amount of exploitable information.
So, what can the average person do to limit their exposure?
* Read user agreements. Those popups filled with legalese often contain information about how a website will use identifying data and other information. Simply scrolling through and clicking "accept" is a bad idea for those concerned about where their data is going.
* Think twice about customer rewards programs. While getting coupons and discounts is a great draw, consumers enrolled in rewards programs are giving up their purchase history (and sometimes credit card information) to a corporation or organization. If hacked, that information could be used by thieves to commit identity fraud.
* Minimalize social media. Lots of social media sites do data mining-Facebook is particularly noted for it, in privacy circles. Read all social media privacy policies carefully, and if there's something you find questionable, you might want to terminate your membership.