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On Privacy — your data is priceless


We’re all data-millionaires and should start acting like one.

I like to talk a lot about security and privacy. It matters to me, and I place the same astronomical value on my personal data that Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook do. I think we all should feel the same way and be aware of how our data is used by the people who use it. And when those people blunder, because we all do from time to time, how they handle the issue(s) and what they do in the future is very important. This is why I’ll never use another Netgear router, or set up a Yahoo account.

Evernote had their own privacy mistake this week, and though the original idea of letting actual humans read your private data in any capacity was downright stupid, they decided to change course and do the right thing. I’m not a user of their services (I like simple notes and reminders versus the do-everything that is Evernote) but I would use them if I had a need because they handled things transparently. That’s also part of the reason I, and many others, use Google services.

Your data is part of the reason companies like Google or Microsoft are so successful and have billions of dollars.

Google harvests a scary amount of my (and your) personal data. They know where I am, they know what I buy, they know what bank I use and which airline I prefer. They know about my family — which schools the kids attend or where my spouse is employed. The know everything. And they aren’t alone. Look at the phone and/or computer you use, and see what things that connect to the internet are installed on it. If any of those companies are big enough and rich enough, they are taking the same types of data in one way or another. The amount of personal data and the kind of data Google takes — and Apple, and Microsoft and Facebook, and Amazon, and you get the picture here — makes how they handle it and the way they let you know the most important thing about them.

Everything is based on a barter system. I trade my data for a service or product. I look at what data a company wants, how they collect it and what they will do with it once they have it. Then I look at what they are offering. This way, I can decide if the trade is worth it to me. Being able to say “OK Google what’s my day like?” and getting a ton of pertinent information from my phone or a Google Home is worth letting a machine look at every word and number that I ever typed online, because I have a very clear and concise document that explains exactly how it’s collected, stored, and used. I trust that my data will be kept safe, and if something ever did happen things would be handled in a way I can approve of.

Make sure the things you get in return are as valuable as the data you pay for them with.

I trust Apple and Microsoft the same way. I do wish some of their privacy policies were a bit clearer and less vague, but they do a good job covering the things I’m looking for in general. But I don’t use Cortana or One Note, or Siri because that extra bit of my data they need is worth more to me than the duplication of services I get from Google Now and Assistant. Sorry, Microsoft and Apple, you don’t get to read my keystrokes and listen to my voice. But only because I don’t need what you’re offering. Millions of others do, and I’m glad you take care of their private information. On the flipside, I’ll never trust Facebook and think the rest of the world should feel the same way — they like to play fast and loose with their privacy policies and surely the things they have been caught doing are just the tip of an iceberg of bad practices. The sooner they go away the better the internet will be because of it.

You might feel differently about your private information and the companies that harvest it. I can’t say I blame you if you follow a tin-foil hat and scorched earth policy when it comes to being online because that’s the only way to stop the internet giants from taking what they want from you. I will say that folks who feel they have nothing to hide and don’t care about any of this need to rethink their position. I don’t have anything to hide either, but I don’t want someone from an internet services company to come into my house and rifle through my underwear drawer unless they have something to give me in return.

Google is worth billions of dollars, and the bulk of what made them all that money is our user data. We all need to realize how valuable our information is and make a conscious effort to spend it wisely.



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