You wanted to buy a new mobile phone, so you downloaded an online shopping application on your phone. You scrolled through the options and ordered a phone you thought would meet your requirements. The very next day, while scrolling through your social media account, you find a cataloged ad of the same site with pictures of the phone that you ordered among other options. How do you react? Doesn’t it leave you feeling like it’s unusual?

If this is a common incident in your daily life, it is time you understand that your data is not as protected as you think it is. Your searches are being monitored; your data is being collected, and then used by third parties to raise a customer in you.

The Risks of Living In A Digital World

It is common to come across platforms where you need to enter your key details before placing an order. For example, you may be scrolling through an online listing of a rental home. But since the listing was already occupied, you registered your email id on the website to get notifications of similar listings in the future. Now you get all sorts of emails informing you about fresh listings, from sources you didn’t even sign up at.

How do you think that happened? Well, that’s the power of big data.

Your Data, Their Data

Any individual who feeds a firm with his personal data does that with the assumption that his data will be in safe hands. It is then the responsibility of those at the receiving end to keep their client’s data protected. But this is far from what actually happens. Either the firms fail to keep the data secure or they end up selling/sharing their database with other firms for their mutual benefit. This is when your data becomes theirs. These firms care less about your discretion and would not think twice before selling your data.

Your Online Behavior Drives Businesses

Now, the question that stands out prominently when talking about user’s data is simple: What will firms do with all the data they are collecting? The reason behind data collection is simple- Businesses like e-commerce websites need to find their target audience. How will they know someone needs the products they are selling? Only if someone makes an online search.

The Use Of Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) has helped both sellers and buyers in meeting their respective demands. Anyone who is even a little bit aware of what’s new in the tech world must have come across the term artificial intelligence. AI simply means machines acting and reacting like humans. It works on algorithms that are developed based on piles of data, which in turn allows machines to think as a human would.

Thus, the personal data that we share on several websites for one purpose or the other, is in turn used to identify our behavior and choices. This data later helps online sellers to identify their prospective buyers and target them accordingly. Although this may not be referred to as a breach, it still is a case of using the client’s personal information for personal gains.

So, How To Keep Your Personal Data Safe?

How often do we think before entering and submitting our personal information on a website? Certainly not that frequently. We live in a digital world and sharing our personal information is unavoidable. But being careful while doing so is the least we could do. Here are some of the precautions that you could take in order to keep your personal data protected:

Ensure The Platform Is Trusted Enough
Do you go about sharing your personal information with everyone on the streets? Certainly, not. Same is the case with life online. Your information can reach anyone, without you knowing it. You need to make sure that the website you are on can be trusted with your personal details.

Use Strong Passwords
Your password is the first and in most cases the last barrier that hackers need to cross before seeking into your personal data. However, people have been taking passwords for granted for the longest time now. Week combinations, easily guessable passwords and repeating the same passcode on multiple platforms is a common occurrence.
Users need to use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols to make the password tough to crack. Use a different password for every account and refrain from saving your password on public computers.

Go For Multi-Factor Authentication
Using password only for security is now a primitive method for online security. Multi-Factor Authentication adds more than one layer of security to your accounts. Commonly, multi-factor authentication will include the three levels of security:

  1. Something that you know i.e. your password
  2. Something that you own i.e. your mobile phone or tablet, and
  3. Something that you are i.e. your fingerprints

With so many layers of protection, hackers have a difficult time gaining access to your critical data. Another highly successful method that serves as an added security level to your personal data is Data Encryption. The encrypted data can only be accessed by those who have the key to encryption and is practiced by a large number of firms these days.

Do Not Share Your IDs and Tickets Online
We often come across people who share their boarding passes on their social media pages before leaving for a journey. Others may post photos with a wad of cash just to show off. By doing so, we are giving an open invitation to miscreants into our life. Such information can serve as a bait and may act as a welcome card for unwanted incidents. Users need to identify the line that exists between things that need to be kept personal and what can go public.

Avoid Unsecured Wifis As Much As Possible
Public wifi, though sounds tempting, must be avoided as much as possible. Although rare, there are cases where hackers create fake wifi zones and before you know it, your id and password may be stolen. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid signing up with public wifi.

Digitalization is a reality now. Artificial intelligence is living and growing amongst us. No matter how hard you try, there is always something that’s running on big data, and you know it or not, your data will be a part of it. Thus, the best you can do is follow the safety guidelines, understand the online etiquette of maintaining privacy, and keep your personal data protected. After all, there is little difference between privacy and personalization.