It is scary to think about, but yes, there is more information about our personal selves available online than ever before. It is being shared, analyzed, and used; most without our knowledge or consent. By understanding our behaviors, purchasing habits, and how we think, companies are using it to target us. It is also helping governments keep track of threats, and gives them more of opportunity to control the masses.
Our online personalities are being studied, and new studies are now showing that your Twitter postings can detect if you’re a psychopath. And what about all the “free” apps out there? Even if they are free, you’re paying in another way by giving the developers what they’re really after, which is your personal data. “This appetite for personal data reflects a fundamental truth about Facebook and, by extension, the Internet economy as a whole: Facebook provides a free service that users pay for, in effect, by providing details about their lives, friendships, interests and activities. Facebook, in turn, uses that trove of information to attract advertisers, app makers and other business opportunities” (Julia Angwin). Google, for instance, is continuously tracking users.
Most everyone nowadays also carries “information-transmitting devices with them all the time” (Julia Angwin). We are living in a personal-data economy. It’s so easy to disregard the policy agreements that pop up online, and we’re getting into a habit of ignoring them. But how is that going to affect us in the future? Yes, we may understand the basic permissions we’re allowing at the moment, but do we really understand the future consequences? How are these companies going to use our personal data in the future? It’s so important to keep these questions in mind when online. It may also be a good idea to look into new programs, like PrivacyFix, that help users manage their online privacy.