How many of us really take the time to check what our privacy settings are when we log on to the vast number of websites battling for our attention? I suspect the majority just stumble along and don’t really understand what they’re signing up to.
I was in the above category – until I started to prepare this report. After talking to some of the experts and players regarding online privacy, a chill went down my spine. What were my own privacy settings? Could that kind of thing happen to me?
I took another look at the Google+ page that I blindly clicked on and ended up joining a few weeks back. I was astounded to see that my web history was being collated and stored. All of those sensitive things I was searching for, listed in front of my eyes – and potentially someone else’s eyes! I took the time to read Google’s privacy small print and decided to go back on things I had agreed to.
When I got a taxi recently I noticed that the driver wrote down all of the details of my credit card, including the three digits on the back. Was that normal? Should I be suspicious? In the middle of preparing a report on data protection, I thought I should heed my inner voice. I quickly took steps to put my mind at ease.
Then, this week, I rang a number to make an appointment, a place I had never visited before, and a place that should have had no reason to know anything about me. I was surprised that all of my personal information was already in front of the eyes of the person who answered my call, just by confirming my first and last names. With my new interest in privacy protection, I dug deeper and asked questions, to reassure myself that my privacy had not been compromised.
It’s sad to think that we have to be so suspicious now whenever we step out onto the information superhighway. But after hearing some of the horror stories of people who have been taken for a ride, I really feel that we have no other choice. This is afterall the digital age, where data is just as valuable as gold.
- Seamus Kearney