Pay with Data: Because Nothing is “Free” on the Internet

Too often we put ourselves at risk by sharing our personal data online. Nothing is free on the Internet – not even our social networks like WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok or Facebook. Once we “accept” the terms of use, we agree that these companies use and sell this data to other organizations, who often end up knowing more about us than we might think. If data were the new gold, Mark Zuckerberg would be Uncle Scrooge. In addition, it is likely that not one person or organization is behind the collection of data, but an entire country. Indeed, TikTok is owned by a Chinese state-owned company: the country knows everything about its users.

Therefore, it is necessary to be aware of the risks and learn about the means to protect yourself in order to maintain control over what is transmitted and, therefore, prevent data from getting lost in the meanders of the Internet.

The omniscient factor

Selling data usually results in ads in a relatively harmless way. A few years ago, while browsing the web, users encountered random ads galore. It was like getting a stack of flyers in your mailbox and that stack was the same for everyone. Today there is an omniscient postman who delivers exactly the right advertisement to your inbox that matches your request. This postman knows your interests, the people you communicate with, he knows where you’ve been, and even worse, he knows things about you that you don’t even know yourself. An incredible anecdote from the American supermarket Target is an impressive demonstration of this: the company sent discount coupons for child care equipment to a teenager living with his parents, although the latter did not (yet) know that they would become grandparents. . Annoying!

But it can also be much more destructive. In the United States, a few years ago, criminals stole the personal data of employees of a large media company. There didn’t seem to be any specific repercussions at the time, until the day many employees noticed instances of identity theft a few months after the incident.

For all of these reasons (and many more), we must put into practice the cybersecurity training we receive in the context of our professional lives and apply it to our personal online lives. After all, cybercriminals have no barrier in this private/professional life – data is data that has significant financial value.

The more we share…

… The more attractive the illegal data market becomes. Indeed, they are getting richer, which allows criminals to commit more and more frauds. This data often comes from seemingly free sources like social media apps. Every “Like” on Facebook, TikTok or Instagram is a new line in the big data personal ledger. And each additional line paints a clearer picture of the digital identity, which ultimately becomes a more valuable asset for cybercriminals.

Therefore, it is more than recommended to be careful with the personal information you share. Care should be taken to ensure that privacy settings are carefully updated and software should be updated as often as possible. Almost most users rush to read privacy notices and compliance forms when creating their accounts for online shopping, forums, loyalty cards, and the like. While these conditions seem endless and time is short for many, it is imperative to take the time to check (or not) the boxes that will prevent personal data from being transferred outside of the company in question. In addition, you should always be vigilant and attentive to phishing or social engineering attempts that may compromise the security of personal and professional data.

In case of violation, speed is important

Most people don’t know what can happen if their data is hacked or misused. You might think that only kids and their parents don’t know what to do, but sometimes companies don’t either. However, it is important to be prepared for this situation.

In recent years, governments around the world have taken some good steps in this regard and put privacy on the agenda – for a short while. In the same way that warning messages about the harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco are displayed on the products in question, all users of the Internet and social networks should also be aware of the harmful effects of these platforms and their misuse of data. Cybercriminals are building entire empires on the personal data they buy or misuse online. Awareness of our own use of data should be the first building block in the fight against their illegal activities.

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