You search for something on the web, use an app on your smartphone, record a show on your DVR, even make a trip to the grocery store and information about you is stored and most likely sold.
“There is a lot of information about us out there, and so people can dig in and extract information from previously unknown,” said Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham with the University of Texas at Dallas Cyber Security Research Center.
Take search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. It’s free to use, but everything you write, everything you click on is monitored, and the search engines could then sell that information to advertisers.
“So they look at the IP address, where it’s coming from and then of course from the IP address you might be able to also connect it to a person,” Thuraisingham told CW 33 News.
Social media websites like Facebook are the same way, with information you post on your profile turning into advertising specific to your interests.
Cable set top boxes and DVRs can record what you watch and when you watch it, although the cable companies say all that data remains anonymous.
And when it comes to smartphones, location based advertising is huge right now, so if advertisers know where you are, they can pinpoint ads for stores in your area.
“There are no laws, no policies that are preventing the service providers from selling the information to the various organizations,” said Thuraisingham.
Then there are loyalty cards, used at grocery and convenience stores.
“You get all the discounts, what your preferences are, and constantly information is being mined,” said Thuraisingham.
Laws have not caught up to the technology, and hopping off the grid is out of the question, so what should we do?
“The basic, simple, right now simple rule: Don’t give out more information than you need,” said Thuraisingham.
Out of all of this data mining and tracking, there are some benefits. It can make our lives easier by offering things we want in a convenient way. At the UTD Cyber Security Research Center, they are developing technology to be able to track terrorists through data mining, finding out where they are and what they are doing at any given moment.