Watch LIVE

Here are Some Lesser-Known Privacy Intrusions -- and What You Can Do About Them


You probably already know your movements in the digital world are monitored to an extent. If you just updated your Facebook status to reflect that you're engaged, you're probably going to see ads for wedding vendors on the social networking site now. Doing research on Google before buying a new TV? Chances are your ads on other, unrelated websites, will be for TVs.

(Related: Here's How You Can Browse the Web Without Being Tracked)

These are just a few examples, but PC World has pulled together five "privacy intrusions" that you might not know about yet.

(1) PC World writes that e-readers could be rather unassuming data collection devices. It concedes there is no evidence that what you read is being shared with others -- marketers or the government -- but the data it can collect is more extensive than you might think. It can track data like time spent reading, completion of a book or where you stopped, searches you made in the text and what you choose to read afterward. With this information, PC World notes the "bigger concern" is that e-books might become tailored too much for mainstream consumption, meaning it would "discourage creative risk-taking and diminish the variety of available content." Here's what it says you can do if this doesn't sit well with you:

If you're uncomfortable having your reading habits collected, your only option is to shut off your device's Internet connection whenever you're about to open an ebook.

(2) PC World also calls up retailers tracking purchases both on and offline. It uses Target as an example as it was featured for its targeted marketing in the New York Times earlier this year. The store assigns customers with a code that is able to link the purchase they make in the store itself (offline) to those made on the website (online). PC World notes that targeted advertising is not "the most offensive evil." Still, if it wigs you out, here's what you can do:

Installing a Do Not Track add-on for your Web browser will reduce your chances of being followed around the Web by marketers. This prevents many data collection firms, who provide users' browsing habits to retailers, from following you. My colleague Ian Paul has rounded up some third-party options, though many browsers now have a Do Not Track preference built in.

(3) Debt collectors used to be reliant upon snail mail, email and phone calls to collect dues, but PC World reports that even Facebook has become a medium to "stalk debtors." In a separate article, PC World explained that the social world had been used to identify family members and other information about the debtor in order to get in contact with them. It reports the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which defines debt collection interactions in the "physical world," becomes more murky when things go online. Here's what you can do:

The first priority is to adjust your Facebook privacy settings, so strangers can't contact you. Facebook also doesn't take kindly to debt collection on its network, and recommends that users report such behavior to the company, the Federal Trade Commission, and the user's state attorney general.

PC World's last two privacy intrusions are ones reported already at length by TheBlaze: potential government tracking and data collection by cellphone providers.

(4) PC World calls up speculation about the National Security Agency collecting information on Americans, which it has denied doing. Still, if you aren't convinced, the Electronic Freedom Frontier is calling upon citizens to write Congress members asking them to not renew the FISA Amendments Act, which allows for data collection on international communications.

(Related: SCOTUS to Hear Case Challenging NSA's Warrantless Wiretapping Program)

(5) Wireless carriers are at least a bit more transparent in their data collection and how it is used. Providers in many of their privacy policies write that they can provide your information to third-party advertisers. They also will provide relevant information to law enforcement when the appropriate legal channels are followed. As of right now, you can't prevent compliance with the law, but you can opt-out of targeted marketing if you visit your carrier's website, according to PC Word.

Read more details on PC World's five online privacy intrusions you may not know about here.

Most recent
All Articles