Data’s Dangers


I have a lot of friends here who are studying engineering and computer stuff. That’s not me, but they way they talk about data and apps has started to make me think that I need to know more about how tech companies use my data. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how some companies have a ton of my information from all different apps. For instance, Google knows where I am because of Google Maps, and they also have all my emails (though they’re not reading those, right?). It’s a little unnerving. How safe is it to let these big companies hold onto all this information about me?

You're not alone in fearing the power of data in the hands of big companies. When asked about the sort of data collection that Google and Facebook make a habit of, 44% of Americans call it “an invasion of privacy.” And when it comes to companies losing track of that data, even more of us are concerned: after a data breach affected the credit reporting company Equifax, 69% of Americans reported feeling worried about the incident.

You're also right to note the particularly importance of data that spans multiple apps. There are good reasons for companies to collect cross-app data, the data experts at Liaison’s Big Data Integration center tell us: with information consolidated and brought together in one place, companies can better recognize big trends, tailor content to specific users, and figure out what is and is not working about what they offer customers. But having lots of data under one roof can also be a security risk, which is why companies like Google spend big bucks on security.

The security experts at Skyhigh make cloud access security brokers--the software programs that act as a buffer between users and cloud services, ensuring that the data in the cloud doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. They tell us that internet security is a hot topic around the industry, because more and more services are storing data in the cloud. Web security is no easy task: security pros have to fully understand the situation in order to identify every vulnerability and reinforce every weak point. The bad guys, on the other hand, just have to get lucky enough to find one trick that works.

That’s how you end up with big data leaks and security breaches like the one that recently affected Equifax. As a consumer, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to avoid all potential breaches. But if you react quickly with password changes and follow the advice experts give in the wake of the incident, you’ll most likely be just fine. While the decision whether or not to use apps from big data collectors is, to some degree, an ideological one, the experts say there’s no immediate reason to avoid convenient apps. Just be aware of security settings and stick to sharing only what you’re comfortable with.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and few minutes of cyber-incident to ruin it. ― Stephane Nappo

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