Tips for being a data privacy snob


What does it mean to be a data privacy snob? It means you're aware of the data you generate when you use technology — such as your location, contacts, and photos — and you're thoughtful about who and what has access to that data.

Use these tips to value your data as much as the people and companies who buy it.

Why it matters

Data privacy might seem like an abstract concept, but it couldn't be more personal. You generate a long trail of data every time you access the internet and other technology, and sometimes when you don't. Your home address, health records, and Social Security number are all pieces of data. This data tells the story of you.

That story is worth a lot of money to many different people, businesses, and organizations, but we often don't value our own data story as much as they do. We could all stand to be a little snobbier with who we share our data with, and what we expect in return. Fortunately, it is easy to start your journey toward becoming a data privacy snob.

There's an old Silicon Valley adage that if you're not paying for it, you aren't the customer — you're the product. In many cases, this proves true — and to be more accurate, your data is the product. Who's buying? Advertisers, mostly, but also others like software developers. According to recent estimates, the global data analytics market was worth over $270 billion in 2022 and will hit $650 billion by the end of the decade. You and your data make up a slice of this multibillion-dollar bonanza.

Here are some tips on how to value your data as much as a big tech company does.

Tip 1: Know the trade-offs between convenience and privacy

You can't control who has access to every scrap and byte of your data. Many services require some of your data to function. For example:

  • Credit card companies record your purchases.
  • An image-sharing site needs access to your photos.
  • A map app can't suggest directions if it doesn't know where you are (at least while you're using it).

Understand that there is a trade-off between convenience and privacy. To use all the features of your devices, apps, and software, you will often have to share more and more data. By understanding this balance, you can make more informed data decisions.

Tip 2: Cultivate a data privacy habit

Apps, websites, devices, and software will often seek out more data than you would think is necessary. Why does a solitaire app need to know your location? Why does a social media app need to know the phone numbers of everyone you know? Here is where you can really take charge of your data.

Fortunately, many web browsers, computers, and devices will ask you if you want to share certain types of data with a new app or website. Make a habit of paying attention to these requests and actually think about your answers. Here are common types of data you might be asked for:

  • Your location
  • Your contacts
  • Your photos and camera
  • Data about your behavior and use of a service

At this point, think about what you want to share.

  • On mobile devices, you can often decide if you want an app to only have access to this data while using it.
  • If an app or software program refuses to function unless you share certain data that you don't think it needs (like the solitaire app demanding your location), find a different app.
  • Generally, you might feel more secure erring on always limiting how much data you share when asked.

Tip 3: Check your settings

Even if an app or software program never asks you for data, you should assume it is still collecting it. Routinely check your privacy settings every month or so and make sure everything fits within your comfort level.

You can access app and software permissions through your device's general settings. Remember, apps will often ask for you to give them access to permissions at all times, but you usually only need to give them permissions for while you are using the app. Here are some default settings you should usually turn off, unless you need it for the app to function and you trust the app.

  • Camera: Off
  • Microphone: Off
  • Location: Off
  • Sync contacts: Off

Not sure where to find your privacy settings? Visit Manage Your Privacy Settings from the National Cybersecurity Alliance for information about finding and updating privacy settings on many popular devices and online services .

Tip 4: Delete apps you don't use

Every three months or so, go through your devices and think about each app you have downloaded — that is, do an app audit.

You might think the real estate on your phone is limitless, but an app audit isn't just about decluttering. Many apps will collect and share your device-use data even when you don't use them; you're basically giving away your data, and you don't even like the app! Why should that food delivery app you used once a year ago get access to all your precious data?

If you haven't used the app in months, delete it from your device. Don't be afraid to be ruthless. You can always download the app again!

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Article ID: 140536
Thu 1/19/23 3:16 PM
Wed 1/31/24 10:27 AM

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