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Transcript of Digital Footprints
How Did We Start Leaving Such Big Footprints?
Is “Monetized” the New “Free”?
Who Is Tracking Me,
What Problems Can Digital Footprints Cause?
Different Devices, Different Traces
What Dynamics are at Work in the World of Digital Footprints?
Ways to diminish your Digital Footprint
How Can I Manage my Digital Footprints?
Digital Footprints are the records and traces we leave behind as we use the internet.
Information others use to make money
Find out who you like
Where you go
Who you are having lunch with next Tuesday
Your Digital Footprint can influence your online reputation and even your credit rating. Digital Footprints are visible to:
Organizations with whom you may have no relationship
Whose interests conflict with yours
Over whom you often have no control
We are all aware that when we share information about ourselves on the internet we give up some control over our privacy.
Interaction on social networking sites, ex. Sharing something on Facebook, uploading pictures on Instagram, Tweeting your thoughts or location
Using on-line services such as e-mail, IM or Skype. ex. What you say or write is basically available forever
Entering information through surveys or on retail sites – personal or financial data
We do this through:
These are explicit acts of our own choosing. We know we are giving up some element of our privacy
Websites we review (IP address captured, web browser used, the last site you visited, etc.)
News stories we read
Digital Footprints should be a significant privacy concern for Internet users because they can be used to track user actions and are a basis for “profiling” by online service providers and others. Few users realize how extensive their digital footprints are and how commonly the resulting data is shared with 3rd parties
Light Footprints (such as IP address, web browser info, last website visited) can actually cause people some problems. Online commerce and social networking sites need to know that the person doing something now is the same person who did something previously. IP addresses only give the information on that computer, not who is using it at the time. Therefore ISP’s came up with an answer….the
A cookie is one way of tying multiple actions by a single user into one connected stream. It is an arbitrary string of letters and digits without any inherent meaning. The website sends this communication to our browser to help it remember the location visited. Example of a cookie is:
Cookies have positive benefits
Benefits of Cookies
They make the internet more usable
They make transactions more secure
They enable websites to function more cohesively. They add persistence and security to your web experience. That is why they are ubiquitous
Without them you might have to type in your PW and User Name over and over again as you read your webmail, browse an e-commerce site or participate in a social network
Your web browser stores the cookie when requested and every time you revisit the website the web browser sends the cookie back to the web server.
Most websites generally set a cookie in your browser the instant you first visit the site. The cookie is stored behind the scenes. You can click on that site months later and be taken back immediately to the exact same page. Most browsers contain thousands of cookies placed there by each site visited. Websites track you every time you visit. The ISP holds all the data often without the user knowing or seeing what is held. It’s like a “two way mirror”.
As each one of us uses the internet our wanderings through web sites, search engines, social networks and e-mail leave information about our professional and personal tasks, commercial activities and how much we like cats and Justin Bieber videos.
If an ISP holds your personal information (e-mail address, payment details, and purchase history) the cookie links everything you do with this information. The concept of linkability is a key one in the analysis of online privacy because linkability does more than anything else to keep personal data within a single context
Each individual footprint is small, but when linked they can form a surprisingly complete profile about us. When websites decide to share this information with each other, a profile can be built about you.
Websites you’ve visited
Products you’ve bought or searched for
Any other cooperating info you’ve provided – age, sex, health, marital status, financial information, employment.
The list is as long as any information you have shared on the internet
Companies use all this raw data to make inferences about your habits, preferences, values, aspirations even your intentions and future behavior
Most of the Internet is funded by marketing in some form
Publishers and Marketers exploit digital footprints to target their products to the most appropriate audience
Basic Economic Bargain of the Internet
Online Services are not truly free and never have been
Content seems free in the sense that we don’t directly pay for it (exceptions are newspapers, magazines, pay per view video streams and industry analyst reports)
For the most part there is no
cost to view data on a website, read a blog, watch a video, post a picture or join a social network
The word “Apparent” is significant – even if we’re not paying directly, we are paying indirectly
Someone has to fund the servers, data centers and networks that underpin online services
Originally subsidized through government research grants, the Internet is now subsidized through a powerful economic force – Marketing
Of the top 100 web sites (by traffic), only one is completely free of advertising. Care to guess which one?
If you are not paying for the product, you are the product. In some cases even if you are paying for the product, you are still the product.
If you don’t pay a subscription fee for a service or application, the service is funded by monetizing information about you, your social circle and your collective interests and preferences
Every time you look at a web page, someone has an interest In either showing you an advertisement or gathering information about you and your interests for someone else
The cost of delivering an ad on the Internet is very low as compared to other mediums such as billboards, newspapers, magazines, radio and TV
The trade of your eyeballs for their servers, network and content is the essential economic bargain of the Internet
Advertisers pay for most of the “free” content on the Internet and leave a healthy profit margin for someone – Google had a profit of almost $15 billion in 2013
From the perspective of the marketers, the Internet offers both challenges and opportunities
Cheap, direct access to receptive consumers
the Internet is so information-rich that it can be hard sorting receptive consumers from the rest. (Facebook selling spots on one of its pages could be tremendously valuable or practically worthless – it all depends at whose looking at the page and if they are in a mood to buy)
This gives advertisers a strong incentive to find out as much as they can about their audience. They need to identify the right demographic, the right language, the right product, the right time, etc.
There are powerful forces at work
Advertisers desire to customize ads to their audience
Publishers wish to charge the highest possible sum for showing someone an advertisement
Incentive to track the buyer and maximize commercial return
All of these factors create an overwhelming incentive to collect, mine, re-sell and monetize data – a process over which consumers have little or no influence
In the world of online advertising and tracking, three main players work together to track users to create composite profiles
companies that publish advertisements online, pairing ads with web page content, games and so on
companies market consumer products and services they want to sell to you
Data brokers who collect anonymous data (supposedly) from their partners and use it to target ads
Example of how it’s done
You create an account on a motor-sports enthusiast website and identify yourself as a 32 year old female living in Colorado
The site places a cookie in your browser and it places one for a 3rd party data aggregator whose data collection cookies are embedded in their site (for a fee)
The motor-sports site sends what it knows about you to the aggregator (female, 32 yrs old, Coloradoan interested In motor-sports)
The same aggregator may have cookies embedded in other sites you visit – maybe you are looking for a loan or baby food.
Aggregators gather all this data and put together a profile on you (age, income, shopping habits, sex, location, interests, etc.) They then offer advertisers access to your eyeballs for a fee, and all of a sudden you are bombarded with ads for baby car seats for sports cars or loans for room additions. They use your cookie(s) to target ads specifically back to you.
Axciom is the largest Data Aggregator in the world and it claims to have data on average over
1500 pieces of data on 200,000,000 people
In an era of Big Data Analytics, organizations (not just the government) are able to analyze huge amounts of data from our footprints and link it across multiple contexts
Advertisements popping up on a website for an object researched a few days ago is a sign that someone has been sharing our activities with an advertiser. A bit creepy but mostly acceptable
There is no universal agreement about the definition of privacy on the Internet
Other areas where individual interests are put at risk as a result of digital footprints
People feel free to express themselves openly only to the extent they can do it anonymously. What some say may expose themselves to danger if they can be identified
At this point in time, we have little option but to trust 3rd parties to respect our preferences regarding privacy
It takes very little to lift the veil of anonymity. Linkages between digital footprints, IP addresses, phone numbers, e-commerce and on line activities make it possible to ascribe anonymous actions to a real-world identity
Laptops and Desktop Computers tend to leave a very different footprint from Smartphones and Tablets
Smartphones leave a much more intrusive footprint
Standard web browser on a desktop or laptop computer is very different from the applications (apps) and smartphones and tablets use.
Connect directly to Internet services
Connect to other apps and other devices
They use specific interfaces (more generic in browsers)
Control over which information is sent to other services/devices rests in the hand of the app developer and is exposed to the end user only to the extent that the developer permits
Mobile devices, in particular also give users less ability to connect anonymously
Generally location aware
Services can “tag” your activities
to your location
Location services are either often enabled by default or requested by apps when you first install them. Simply turning on the phone gives the carrier permission to locate the phone to a certain degree of accuracy
Location data can be shared explicitly (app retrieves your location data and sends it to the ISP) or implicitly (pictures or video uploaded are tagged with location, date and time they were taken)
Smartphones are designed as personal devices (not shared between family and friends), Each has a unique serial # (IMEI – International Mobile Station Equipment Identity). This helps link your real identity with all of your internet activities. Very beneficial to the government and Law Enforcement agencies
What has been done about the potential for privacy abuse?
Smartphone vendors are aware about the potential for abuse and they generally implement controls over whether location data are shared
They usually try to block the use of device specific identifiers by applications
Some controls over sensitive information, however, are based on settings at the device level and others at the application level. These settings vary by platform
Once a user starts taking tagged pictures or gives permission to a newly installed application to see location information, the permission granted to the application is rarely revisited
Refresher – Individual Privacy can be affected by the actions of many other entities including:
Operating System Developer
Internet Service Provider
Online Service Provider (e.g. Retailer, Social Network)
Friend/Acquaintance or their app
Just in case you are interested…..as more and more user expectations are driven by the smartphone experience, the pressure is on for Operating Systems like Windows 8 to act more like a smartphone as opposed to a traditional desktop computer.
Internet users concerned about the digital footprints left by their smartphones need to take an active role in managing their privacy settings. Recognize the value of your personal information and carefully monitor those setting on a regular basis.
that govern the behavior of the Online World
Each country brings its own culture and norms to the Internet. What is acceptable in one nation may not be acceptable in another
It is in the interests of the service provider to encourage users to ignore the fact that everything they do on line is being inspected and monetized by a 3rd party. The Economic Dynamic gives the service provider a strong incentive to collect data and keep users
about that aspect of the service
Not too many other options available to switch to if you are unhappy with the privacy policies of your provider
Dynamic of Convenience
Most of us would rather use something which is convenient, but
privacy-eroding, as opposed to using a product that makes life less convenient for us. Our preference for the “convenient option” is also strengthened if we see no evidence that our privacy is being eroded.
Like many kinds of human behavior (smoking, eating fatty food, poor posture, etc.), if we can’t see an immediate harm from our actions, we tend to assume they aren’t harming us. The combination of convenience and lack of apparent harm lulls us into privacy-eroding habits
– Software, Browsers and Equipment that can protect your privacy to an extent
Disconnect (www.disconnect.me) – Open Source software program that puts you in control of your data. It’s a filter that stops over 2000 companies from tracking you and speeds up your search results. There can be as many as a dozen third-party
aggregators tracking your visit on any given website (they paid the site to track your search and measure your behavior). This information is then sold to data brokers
(www.torproject.org) a website browser that is designed to hide identities and allow individuals to exist online anonymously. Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against traffic analysis, confidential business activities, relationships, and state security.
AVG PrivacyFix (www.avg.com/us-en/privacyfix) a free program from the antivirus software company AVG Technologies. The program's dashboard gives users a snapshot of what information they're actually sharing. Facebook, Google and more than a thousand other companies collect data about you online. Until now there has been no easy way to understand and control data collection. AVG PrivacyFix checks your privacy exposure on Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, and with one click, takes you to settings where you can fix it. Block over 1,200 trackers from following your movements online. See which websites reserve the right to sell your personal data and easily request that they delete what they hold on you. Get alerted to privacy risks as you visit sites and know when policies change.
• Privowny (www.privowny.com ) a free privacy toolbar for Firefox and Chrome, can show users which companies have their credit card, phone number and email, and are sharing data about you.
• Abine Inc.'s DeleteMe software (www.abinedeleteme.com) can remove someone's public profile, contact and personal information from leading sites that gather data about people from around the Web
• Evidon's Ghostery (www.ghostery.com) and Mozilla's Lightbeam (www.mozilla.org/en-US/lightbeam) both free allow users to see which cookies are on their browser, delete them one by one and block future ones from being placed.
• Duck Duck Go (www.duckduckgo.com) is a search engine that doesn't collect any information on its users and blocks all ad trackers from the search page.
Encrypted and so-called ephemeral messaging texts that disappear seconds after you send them, have become explosively popular among teens, and have long been used by security professionals
- While most of the available privacy technologies are for desktop computers, some new offerings are designed for smartphones, because consumers are spending growing amounts of time on them—and they present such big risks. Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones are beaming people's location to any number of companies that track how they move, while smartphone apps collect reams of personal information.
The FreedomPop Privacy phone
(www.freedompop.com/theprivacyphone) encrypts a person's text messages and emails, and blocks companies from tracking Web browsing and searches. The Wi-Fi signal is also automatically turned off. FreedomPop can offer the phone at a cheap price because it uses retrofitted Samsung Galaxy SII devices.
Another smartphone with similar privacy features, SGP Technologies'
(www.blackphone.ch) , sells for $629. SGP is a joint venture of software firm Silent Circle and device maker Geeksphone.
Estimated number of times the online activity of an average internet user is tracked every day
Number of websites among the 2510 most popular in the US where Twitter can track the activity of visitors
Number of websites among the most popular in the US where Facebook can track the activity of visitors
Estimated annual value to Facebook of a very active US female user’s data ($22.09 for a male)
Estimated annual value to Facebook of a relatively inactive US female user’s data ($9.90 for a male)
Approximate number of adult consumers in the global database of Acxiom Corp...a leading data broker
Number of shopping tendencies Axciom says it can measure for nearly every US household
You are locked and loaded the moment you hit a website