How much is our data worth on the Net: Big Brother is everywhere


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Text comes from: Mich kriegt ihr nicht! Schritte zur digitalen Selbstverteidigung (2013) by Steffan Heuer, published by Murmann Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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The issue of privacy becomes completely confusing, considering that most websites write in their privacy policy that they will never sell users' data or rent it out to third parties.

How much is our data worth on the Net: Big Brother is big-brother everywhere


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Steffan Heuer steffan-heuerSteffan Heuer is brand eins correspondent in California.

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What exactly do companies promise?

Interestingly, hardly any company promises that they will not buy or exchange data from third parties. This restriction usually only applies to “personal data” in the USA or “personal data” in the EU - the sensitive details such as full name, date of birth or address.

The restriction on not selling or renting user data, on the other hand, does not apply to the poorly defined anonymous data that websites collect and aggregate. They are supposedly anonymized and far from the individual user.

Put the puzzle together

But with the right algorithm, these two pieces of the puzzle can be rejoined in no time and a user can be identified retroactively.

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"When it comes to social networks, anonymity is not enough for data protection," is the main conclusion of a pioneering study on the practice of re-identification by Arvind Narayanan and Vitaly Shmatikov.

Companies can find out who you are

In other words, even if you think the anonymity of the crowd is protecting you, companies can find out who you are when they have only enough parts of the data puzzle.

Data cheating is even dependent on your consent. When you launch a new application, such as a game, it usually requires access to very private information such as birthdays, schools attended, your friends' list, and even Article in the news feed - all valuable tips for targeted advertising.

Really private use: Unaffordable?

This allows you to automatically track who is eating in which restaurants or watching movies. If a social network between 5 and 20 generates annual sales per customer, why does not it offer you Plan B for the same amount to choose a truly private service?

The cost would surely not be prohibitive. Facebook, for example, says per user accounts for about one dollar a year to keep its infrastructure running.

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Models for data protection

Or how about a multi-level model where privacy-conscious users can choose what they want to reveal about themselves in exchange for a set of discounts? Cable TV, iTunes and many other services prove that people are prepared to pay for access to content that matters to them.

Google Apps, the enterprise version of the productivity applications like Gmail and Google Drive, is by the way such an alternative. In contrast to the free consumption variant, the Business version does not have any ads based on scanning the content of each message in the inbox. This type of automated snooping would not tolerate any business clientele.

Designed to get us into the pan!

The reason why regular consumers fall victim to it is simple, says American data protection expert Christopher Soghoian: “Facebook was developed to violate your privacy at every turn.

There is no way to buy a Facebook or Google subscription that preserves privacy. If these companies advertised their new product as something that emphasizes data protection, they would have to admit that their regular product is no good. By default, these services are there from the factory to knock us down. ”

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