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Parting with personal data

The plethora of freely downloadable apps accompanied by the ease and variety of customisable options contributed to the soaring popularity of smartphones.

The plethora of freely downloadable apps accompanied by the ease and variety of customisable options contributed to the soaring popularity of smartphones.   | Photo Credit: AP

With smart devices, we trade our privacy in myriad ways, without realising that we are giving away so much of our details at an uncalculated future cost

Every breath you take and every move you make

Every bond you break, every step you take, I'll be watching you

Every single day and every word you say

Every game you play, every night you stay, I'll be watching you

These were the lyrics of a possessive lover in the 1980s. Yet, whenever I tune in to this song these days, I feel as if the song-writer had inadvertently prophesised about the digital surveillance culture that is dominating our lives in the 21st century. Unbeknownst to us, commercial product and service giants are tracking and following our every online move. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? This, however, is the truth.

The plethora of freely downloadable apps accompanied by the ease and variety of customisable options contributed to the soaring popularity of smartphones. The apps are free, but then, are we cognisant of the trade-off?

Every day, we trade our privacy in myriad callous ways. Seldom do we realise that in a matter of few touches on the touch-screen, we are giving away so much of our personal data at an uncalculated future cost. How many of us actually read the “terms and conditions” before clicking on the “Accept” tab of an application? How do we proceed when probed, “Do you want the application to access your location?”

Like most modern, impatient consumers, if your answer is a “Yes”, be sure that from now on, whenever you are online, the local deals of your city (shopping, travel, etc) will follow you, whether you like it or not. These days, I am a little more alert when another usual question pops up: “Do you want the application to send you notifications?”

A few consumers may want to, but if you are like me, you would not wish to be a participant of the increasing number of behaviour data studies without your consent. Also, it is very unlikely that you would want to be distracted from your online activity by unnecessary notifications in the form of display pop-ups on your mobile or computer screen. Then, there are the online targeted advertisements vying for our attention and personal data. Most of the websites use cookies to analyse visitor traffic. Our shopping habits and travelling preferences are easily gauged using cookies. Marketers then decide which ads to show us online. For example, you viewed an item on an online marketplace. During your next online visit, the same marketplace will suggest other products that you may want to buy.

These days, I go to the privacy setting of my Web browser and delete all the cookies. I then check-mark on the option asking websites not to track me. As long as cyberspace continues to be a free-for-all with no strict regulations in place, one has to exercise caution in browsing the Web.

m.sridevi2@gmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 7:52:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/parting-with-personal-data/article31069474.ece

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