Privacy Concerns Regarding The Collection and Use of Data About Individuals

And what you should look for in a privacy policy...

privacy concerns

It is estimated that the average American encounters around 1,500 privacy policies per year. Most people don’t read them, like at all.

We’re not like most people and would like to believe that when it comes to our privacy, we’re rather savvy. And while we don’t necessarily read all privacy policies, we do look for red flags that could be a dealbreaker for any service.

That’s what this article is all about – to show you those red flags you shouldn’t accept in any service. We’ll pose a few questions and explain why they matter. Let’s get started…

1. Will my data be shared with third parties?

This is arguably the most important aspect of any privacy policy – you don’t want to see your private data being shared with third parties. However, this happens on a regular basis — with advertisers looking for more precise user data so they could better target them with ads.

The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica scandal from 2014 is probably the best known example of third-party data collection and where it could lead. Because of the way Facebook apps work, Cambridge Analytica was able to harvest from about 87 million unknowing users. Luckily, the social media giant changed its practices after that and now – such an exploit is not possible.

2. Will I be notified of any changes to the privacy policy?

Internet companies are bought and sold on a daily basis and you gotta ask yourself – what happens if the service you’re using ends up being acquired by another company? What will happen to your data and will they let you know of any change in the privacy policy?

For instance, the new owners may decide to make money from users’ data and may not decide to tell you about that. Or something else could change that would have an affect on the privacy policy.

So what you should look for in a privacy policy is a sentence that says that you, as a user, will be notified of any changes in the privacy practices of the service provider.

3. What type of information gets collected?

Pretty much all websites on the Internet collect some information on the site visitors. Some of that collection is related to the analytics service they may be using but there are also other types of user data they want to collect.

The privacy policy should be clear about that – what kind of data the company providing the service collects and what it uses it for.

Without you even knowing it, a typical website will use an analytics service (like Google Analytics) to collect your IP address, location, web browser you’re using, default language, device type and so on. All these details are provided by your web browser, except if you’re using a VPN – which can trick the analytics software and present it with other data.

In addition, many websites use cookies so they can identify returning users. While this provides users with a better experience, it can also lead to better ad targeting – which can translate to you seeing more ads down the road.

4. Are there options?

Do you must agree with the privacy policy in order to use the website? Many websites will let you “get away” without that part but for some – you must agree with what they’re asking. Now, if you don’t like what you’re reading – are there other services you could use instead? Chances are there are – so you may want to use them instead of the one that has a spotty privacy policy.

Remember, it’s your data and your privacy, and there is no need to give it away that easily.

5. What extra steps does the company use to protect your data?

This is optional but could be important. What you want to see is that the company providing the service you want to use is doing something tangible in order to keep your data safe and secure.

Are they employing a third-party cybersecurity firm? Perhaps they’ve done some audit of their network or an entire operation? Those are all good signs.

Ultimately, however, you don’t want just to rely on any company to keep your data safe and secure. The general rule of thumb is that you should input as little data as possible and always use a VPN to hide your digital footsteps. That way – you’ll worry less about privacy and focus on other things in life.