What does your digital identity say about you?
We rarely think about what we say and do on the internet, and we think even less about how that information is being used, but our digital identity has a huge impact on our life! Your social media accounts know more about you than your closest friends do.
Facebook knows who your friends are and how often you talk to them. It monitors every word, every sentence, and every punctuation mark. Gmail or Yahoo Mail see who you are sending messages to and what secrets you’ve shared in what you thought were private emails. Twitter knows your political affiliation and what school you went to, all things you don’t necessarily want everyone to know.
Your Amazon and Ebay accounts track you with cookies to know what kind of things you buy and when. Websites recognize you as a returning visitor by your unique URL that they’ve gleaned from you while you were browsing. If you have a mobile phone, GPS tracks your every move. Get familiar with your credit card because it’s certainly familiar with you, and your purchases can be tracked. You’d have to be completely off the grid before these things will not affect you.
All of these are different services though, right? In recent years, these services have started working together. Facebook links with your offline purchases via your name and date of birth, and any cards you’ve linked to your social media accounts have been collected in a data pool that spreads information across the internet. You are effectively being attacked on all sides without even knowing it. Your different identities have coalesced into a single digital identity. You can’t get rid of these services; they’re an essential part of your life now.
So, what exactly does your digital identity say about you? Everything about you is out in the open: your religious association, your sexuality, your likes and dislikes, your political views, etc. Social media knows so much about you that it’s able to tailor ads it displays based on your interests. It can make predictions about you and your personality based on what it’s learned.
Is there a way to avoid this kind of sharing? Yes, but it’s difficult. Little do we realize the power these sharing tools hold over us. Stores force you to have club cards with them, promising that you will save more money by having the card. Once we sign up, these stores use our data to sell to other companies and third party affiliates. This helps other companies to make products we will want to buy, and since they earn more than we save through this sales technique, we end up paying them without knowing. We don’t complain because we save a few pennies, but it’s at the expense of privacy.
Facebook made over $3 billion last year, with each user paying $2.60 without knowing it. Twitter does the same thing, as does Google, which makes six times what Facebook does. So the question is: can we pay that $2.60 so that Facebook and other social media don’t use our information? Do we have the right to ask how they use our data?
The simple solution? Don’t use these social media services and avoid the privacy nightmare.