Reasons to care about your data

Who knew! God wants your mobile data too

Cartoon God

So long story short I stumbled across a great site for you to check out privacy ratings called PrivacyGrade.  I actually found this through reading an article by Kim Komando highlighting the cost to our privacy when we acquire free apps.  Of course some apps need our personal information such as google maps, but what about apps like the Despicable Me game or Fruit Ninja? Why on God’s earth do they need this information?  Speaking of God… more on that later.

We all know we don’t read the terms and conditions and unless you are on iOS you can’t set your own privacy settings on a case by case basis. This is where PrivacyGrade can help and it is run by a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University who have devised a simple grading system from A+ to D.  This grading model measures the gap between our expectations of privacy behavior vs the actual behavior.

For example when you download Google Maps you know they will need access to your location data, or Gmail will need access to your contacts to make sending emails easier, you know what to expect and therefor both these apps get an A.  “It does what it says on the tin” so to speak.

In terms of the low scorers the most surprising was the #1 Holy Bible app which scored a D, the lowest grade.  This app’s permissions require full access to your network, your user accounts, your phone status and identity, can read your contacts and track your approximate location.  Not only that but you also give permissions to third parties such as Flurry, Facebook, Tapjoy, Jsoup and Oauth!  Who would have thought catching up on ‘His Word’  would require so much of your passive data.

Also concerning is the related app Bible for Kids which requires the same permissions. This was graded C which I don’t understand as the details are pretty much the same and I would have thought that our expectations would be stronger around privacy considering the target audience.  Targeted advertising to your kids anyone?

If you can’t be bothered to read the T&C’s check out the Privacy Guide

 

 

 

Ello, Ello, Ello….

ello

 

So after quite a long wait I finally got my invite to Ello!

For those of you who haven’t heard of Ello it is the new social media platform which is committed to being ad free FOREVER.  This is truly exciting for a nerd like me who has a big interest in who owns/controls our personal information.  It has potential to offer a real alternative to other social platforms without the cost of  giving up our valuable information and pushing advertising right into our news feeds.

It does come with a learning curve so for any of you that are interested please be aware of the following

  • It is harder to use at first because it has unfamiliar terminology and navigation
  • You need an invite to become part of the network
  • It is ‘ad-free’ and promises to be forever
  • There are no ‘like’ buttons
  • You can upload photos but not videos (at present)
  • You don’t have to use your real name
  • You have two options for what comes into your news feed ‘noise’ or ‘friends’.  ‘Friends’ are people you have chosen to follow, just like Twitter and ‘noise’ are people you follow without alerting them to the fact you are following them
  • Your profile has limited components right now – a picture, a bio and your name
  • It is still in Beta so it is still growing and evolving – have patience
  • It is  transparent – it tells you what has been developed, what is coming and makes long-term commitments

I am probably a little starry-eyed right now and the proof will be in my network of friends and family being willing to go the extra mile and engage with Ello – currently they are most active on Facebook just like myself and why change?  For me it was their manifesto

Ello Manifesto

WOW 🙂

If any of you are interested in joining me on Ello, Let me know I am happy to send you an invite so that your wait doesn’t have to be as long as mine!

 

What would you do for a cookie?

blue-cookie-monster-girl-junel-photography-vintage-Favim.com-83019

 

It has been while since my last post so this story may feel a little old but a discussion last week made me reconsider the whys.

The story concerns Risa Puno giving away free (edible) cookies in return for personal and sensitive information at a Brooklyn Arts Festival.  380 New Yorkers were willing to give away their finger prints, partial social security numbers and have their photos taken without any explanation to what would happen with their information.  In fact if and when they did ask she would refer them to her terms of notice which was a page of small legalese giving her the right to share their information with third parties.

Isn’t this completely irrational?  OK the cookies looked pretty cool and probably tasted awesome but still it is completely illogical to give something so private away especially when it can be shared with anyone.  Do people lose all common sense and thought when it comes to a freebie?  The answer is obviously yes AND we all do it all the time and not just for a freebie but for convenience?  I don’t necessarily believe in mass irrational behavior though, having read Irving Goffman’s ‘Asylums’ he outlines how we take on roles to cope within our environment.  He describes these irrational rituals as institutionalization and quickly I began to see the rational within some of the odd habits you can see exhibited by patients within a medical institution.

On this basis I ask myself how we are conditioned or institutionalized to offer up some of our most personal information so easily and exhibit this irrational ritual nearly every day.

Last week at the TMRE conference I listened to Charles Duhigg talk about his book ‘The Power of Habit’.  I have read his book before but listening to him again reminded me of the cookie story.  To summarize, our habits are formed from cue’s and rewards.  Take the lab rat experiment conducted by Ann Graybiel. This is where a rat is placed in a T-shaped maze with the rat behind a barrier and chocolate at the end, when the barrier goes up there is a click and the rat finds the chocolate and then eats the chocolate.  The first time this happened it actually took him a long time to figure out where the chocolate was but as predicted each time he repeated the experiment he got faster and faster.  What became interesting were the measurements recorded of the rats brain activity during the experiments, at the beginning the brain activity showed high peaks right from the click of the barrier through to him eating the chocolate, but with each experiment the brain activity dropped between the click and the eating of the chocolate.  Over time the rat was literally able to follow the routine between the cue and reward without any brain activity – he had stopped thinking and acted on pure habit.

habit-loop

We do this all the time and I am sure you can remember a situation like arriving at work or home thinking ‘how did I get here’?- we literally switch off and go into a trance when something is routine enough, be it the gym, shopping or scarily the drive home.  Is this our institutionalization when it comes to giving our information away?  we are doing it every day, each time we go online, each time we purchase and each time we use our store cards, it has become so routine now that even cues and rewards aren’t necessary. This is such a bad habit that our lives can’t really function without doing it, we have agreed to these rituals to function effectively in our world.

Do you think it is rational or irrational to give your information away so freely?

 

 

 

 

Don’t get caught with your knickers down

For those of you who haven’t heard this story (and I can’t imagine how you would  have missed it), poor Jennifer Lawrence unfortunately was literally caught with her knickers down.  Her iCloud was hacked and some very naughty and very naked pictures went viral!  It wasn’t just Jennifer but over one hundred other celebrities; a bug was found in the security and all their personal information including videos and images were accessible.

It highlights why you should care about your personal information and take some control because in the race for convenience and ease of use we have forgotten about our privacy and making sure it is secure.

We can’t always avoid being cyberpunked but there are some basic questions you should be asking your cloud provider and I came across this helpful guest blog post on ComputerWeekly.com  by Mike McAlpen who is the Executive Director of Security and Compliance and Data Privacy at 8×8 Solutions.  In summary:-

5 Questions to ask your cloud provider

1 – Are they compliant with EU/EEA/US standards?

2 – Will they forward or share your information with third parties?

3 – Do they have the capability to encrypt sensitive data when it is being transferred across the Internet and importantly again when it is ‘at rest’?

4 – Does the provider allow you to access, edit or delete your information?

5 – Do they have Service Level Agreements within your contract?  As the article says, there is no point have a privacy contract with a supplier if there is no penalty when they fail to deliver!

If you have further checks for information security please add a comment.

The Wonderful Wizards of Advertising

Diet products and supplement advertising is really a sordid and manipulative industry.  I have fallen for it with the Wild Rose diet and I bought the Atkins book (he was a doctor wasn’t he?).  Yes they worked but because there wasn’t much that I wanted to eat from the permissible food list; hence I ate less.  But are they sustainable?  Hell no, I like my chocolate, cheese, bread, pasta…..

What does this have to do with us controlling our personal information?  The more companies know about you the more they can target you specifically through your current emotion or activity.  For example on Facebook you can put in your status how you are feeling (this is coded for easy analysis by the way), reading, eating, watching etc.  If you were to put in ‘feeling sad’ and ‘eating cake’ you are probably going to be targeted for the Garcinia Cambogia pill or chair gym – yep you can look fabulous without leaving your chair!  What we buy is an emotional thing, we are not really the rational beings we think we are when buying stuff, if it isn’t emotional that it is probably habit.

I was being completely irrational and very emotional when buying the Wild Rose and Atkins books.  I have never believed in diets, I don’t like diets and I always scoff at others who do them so what made me do this?  I am so bombarded by images in advertising that makes me feel bad but gives me hope, there is a wide range of feelings that weight loss advertising evokes in me.

1 – Fear, although not overweight I am a bit of an apple shape which apparently puts me at higher risk of heart disease!  I don’t want to get heart disease

2 –Insecurity.  Images of young, beautiful and happy girls with the perfect body!  Yep I want that!  I want to wear a bikini and run down the beach with confidence without feeling my belly rise and fall at the opposite time to the rest of my body

3 – Living the dream.  These ads make me feel like I can’t be truly happy until I get down to that perfect weight (for me that is 115lbs – ridiculous).  Anyone who doesn’t think they would be happier if they were thinner are in the minority.  For me it’s like buying the lottery ticket and imagining what I will do with the winnings.  With being thinner I imagine all the wonderful clothes I would wear and all the places I would wear them.  Super happy and super confident.

4 – Dazzled by science.  There is always a new study or a new specialist out there who wants to tell us a new quick fix to getting the perfect bod!  It must be true its science; these pills really will speed up my metabolism or absorb the fat so that it isn’t absorb into our bodies and I get to eat what I want.

5 – Trust– Well Doctor Oz said its true so it must be right?  Celebrities and celebrity doctors are in our homes through the TV, we think we know them and we think we can trust them.  We have either seen them work off their own weight and have found that miracle or they are doctors who we have already put on the pedal stool of honesty.  This was never more perfectly ripped to pieces than by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight.  I hope you watched the video not only because it is so hilarious but also because ‘Morning Joe’ so beautifully epitomizes how irrational we are.

 

 

 

Dear Cable Guy. Sorry it is you, not me

cable guy

 

We have finally rid ourselves of our cable network!  In Canada there is pretty much a choice of two service providers Bell and Rogers (courtesy of the medium’s regulator, the CRTC), and this frustrating minimal competitive landscape has hindered the overall service levels and of course the price of said services.

We pay a whopping $190 a month for cable TV, Phone and Internet, which is an apparent “good deal” after 2 years of haggling and spending copious amounts when we go over our data limit.  As a proud Brit I was pretty disappointed with the TV programming and interface in Canada.  The main hoity complaint from yours truly is the lack of highbrow shows that we get on the Beeb but a close second, third and fourth is the is the glitchy interactive display, ridiculous amounts of advertising and PRICE, did I mention price?  I was paying the equivalent of $90 a month with BT Vision in the UK and it was a much better experience user wise and I got unlimited internet usage. I love BT Vision.

So goodbye traditional cable with your endless adverts and “scheduled programming” and hello streaming and Netflix on demand, ridding myself of 18 minutes per hour of advertising time versus maybe 6 minutes an hour (on average) via streaming.

I am part of a growing crowd that are leaving traditional television to move to more affordable, better quality and more tailored viewing that comes with Netflix, Crackle, CouchTuner and Hulu to name a few. Ok there may be some limited advertising with the likes of Hulu and CouchTuner but it is still greatly reduced and we have freedom to watch what we want and when we want.

I am presenting a biased opinion, as I am a HUGE fan of Netflix and this is where I see real benefits to the collection of my personal data. Not only do they make good recommendations based on my previous viewing but they have also provided the most riveting shows recently like Derek, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Why so successful? They are looking at our viewing behaviours and making awesome choices through what we are watching. Take “House of Cards” for example, they found through our data that those of us who had watched the original BBC miniseries (also by the same name) were also likely to view movies with Kevin Spacey and/or directed by David Fincher. They combined the three of these and committed $100 million for two 13 episode seasons. Thank you again Netflix… genius. There is also another big advantage with this, they do not have to spend millions on advertising and promotion which we find rather intolerable anyway, they just influence us through suggested programs

“We don’t have to spend millions to get people to tune into this,” “Through our algorithms we can determine who might be interested in Kevin Spacey or political drama and say to them, ‘You might want to watch this.’” Steve Swasey, Netflix’s V.P. of corporate communications, told GigaOm last March.

 

She’s having a baby! Your local retailer probably knows before your friends do

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To all of you who think that you are not impacted or influenced or manipulated even, by corporates, ask the father of a Minneapolis girl who kept receiving pregnancy promotions from Target. It got to the point where he went into the store to complain to the manager explaining how unethical it was to promote pregnancy and baby products to a teenager. The manager apologized profusely and could clearly see that they had in fact been sending these promotions to the girl. What transpired next has become famous within the research world, when the store manager followed up with a courtesy call a couple of weeks later the father confessed that his daughter was actually pregnant. The store was absolutely spot on in their prediction and were hustling to be the go-to store for the soon-to-be family.

This is an oldie but goodie example that has done the rounds several times in the market research world, but for someone outside of the industry it is probably surprising.

Retailers are competing for your loyalty and in the arms race are recruiting data scientists to analyze your behavior and habits to predict and influence your future spend. Influence is the real challenge for retailers because our spending habits are ingrained into our psyche. It is likely that you’re subconsciously drawn to buy the same laundry detergent that your mother used when you were little for example. But there are periods where we are more likely to change our shopping habits and during pregnancy is one of them. Like most new parents, time and alertness is going to be tight as they adapt to wonders of child rearing. Decision making will hinge on convenience and preserving their most valued asset, time. Separate trips to the grocers, shopping malls, electronic stores, will most likely be bundled into one big box Department store, such as Target or Walmart. With birth records being public, aside from all the online scraping and text analytic algorithms new parents are targeted prey, usually bombarded just after the birth of their child,

How do they know when someone is pregnant? Let’s set the background

As a customer of a store you are given an ID linked to your credit card. This ID is used to uniquely identify you, your history and all future purchasing and habits.  Under this ID, linkages can be made to your personal information such as age, marital status and estimated salary

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as they can have access to direct or inferred information on the Credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit. “Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own. (In a statement, Target declined to identify what demographic information it collects or purchases.)” Charles Duhigg ‘How Companies Learn your Secrets’ 2012

This information is then analyzed by data scientists (the new sexy in market research) whose job is to translate your behavior into predictive models that inform the marketing depts.

Target is advanced in this particularly around expectant mums and figured out that there were 25 purchases when combined that could predict not only pregnancy but what trimester the mother was in and expected due date. These purchases were things like vitamins and supplements, hand sanitizer, unscented soaps and lotions etc… on their own these data points aren’t enough of an indicator but together they were extraordinarily powerful and telling.

We leave breadcrumbs of information everywhere for others to track us and predict where we are going, whether we want them to or not. This is a byproduct of the remarkable digital age among us. ‘We are not alone’ is less about extra-terrestrials and more about big brands following your every move and in zombie like fashion and in their own way, EAT YOUR BRAIN!!!  Ok, Ok exaggeration, but don’t become a passive zombie yourself, be aware, educate yourself and learn how you can take more control of what you put out there.

This article has referenced and extremely good article published in Forbes Magazine and written by Charles Duhigg.  I urge you to read this if you want to learn more

Reach Out and Touch Someone – Can advertising get a little more intimate without being creepy?

Following from my previous dismay at having so-called targeted advertising with the personal touch of adding my surname keep calmCosta to a terrible hoodie,  I have had another very dodgy attempt at getting my attention.  This time, same jumper but my first name!  Hideous.  We have been able to get tops with our names on them since the 80’s, really is the best that can be done with our personal information?

I really don’t mean to be negative about tailored advertising because I believe there are good opportunities to build relationships with us.  The problem is these examples where advertisers don’t yet know how to touch us as individual people rather than a group demographic.

I was recently in London and soon got back into the routine of reading the metro newspaper which is free for all commuters, and one of my favourite pieces in the paper are the regular ‘Rush Hour Crush’ and ‘Good Deed Feed’.  These are pages where commuters can talk to each other to either give a ‘thank you or a channel for someone to pluck up the courage to let another commuter know they have a mega crush on them.  People write the most touching and kind things to each other and all of us commuters as a community get to share a snippet of these  personal stories.  Truly I find this an uplifting start to the day and I look forward to reading them in the knowledge that my mood will be raised. Here are just a couple of examples

 “You’re loud mouthed, dark-haired and petite.  I heard you on the phone saying you would love a rush hour crush to be about Rush Houryou.  If you would only glance up from these pages and notice me I could show you that you already have one and maybe we could get to know each other away from the constraints of the commute.  You make my heart skip every time you get on from Surbiton to Waterloo”.

 

 

And on the ‘Good Deed Feed’

“Thank you to the drivers and guards who take the time to wave to my train obsessed two-year old as you go through Earlsfield station.  You make a little boy very happy”Good Deeds

 

 

This is how people connect with people and is a perfect example of a community who use personal information in a way to touch others and build relationships from afar.  Imagine a company who could harness this type of communication with us through better understanding (provided through our personal information and behaviour).  Not only would they connect with us on intimate human level but they would be building a story that others could be part of.  Surely there is a better way than just putting my name on a piece of clothing.

Do you think this is possible?  How do you think companies can connect with us in a more intimate or human way?

 

 

 

5 reasons to care about your personal information – Friday #5

photo 2

Trust – Ultimately it comes down to trust.  How do we trust these organisations when we don’t read the terms and conditions, don’t have the education to make good decisions or receive true value from the sharing of our data?

Then there is the black market for personal information. AT&T have just confirmed a data breach of its mobile phone users (the guilty parties being employees) and earlier this year eBay saw a data breach effecting 100 million customers.  Almost every day there are examples that are news worthy and demonstrate the lack of security.  There are also mistakes or negligence, a woman in Florida found out that her lawyers had tossed her files into a dumpster, un-shredded.  These files included medical notes, bank accounts and pay stubs.

I am a pragmatist and accept sharing some of my information in exchange for convenient shopping online, using social networks etc . But I also own my data and feel the equilibrium is restored if I work with an agency who can help me manage it.  To quote someone who commented on this blog I want to be ‘passive interested’ not ‘passive stupid

5 reasons to care about your personal information – Thursday #4

884245-1684x947-[DesktopNexus_com]“I often worry that my idea of personhood is nostalgic, irrational, inaccurate” Zadie Smith

 

 

Personhood– do we lose a bit of dignity when our thoughts, words, actions, behaviours, mistakes and hopes can be accessed by unknown entities and used to communicate with us? Does it make us a product and not a person? Orwell’s 1984 used to give us the shivers but now we barely bat an eye at being monitored through CCTV, mobile and the Web.  And while we now have some respite from being monitored offline in our homes even that is becoming an opportunity for data collection. Recently it was announced that Dropcam had been purchased by Google’s Nest subsidiary, Dropcam sells in-home video monitoring with cameras having capabilities for night-vision, motion and sound sensing.  Nest has now revealed that they will begin sharing data with Google despite promises previously that it would protect personal data.  What would Orwell have made of this?

Managing my personal data makes me more comfortable with my feelings of personhood because I have some control – it just gives me that feeling of ‘win-win’ with organisations that I choose to share it with.