There’s a well-kept secret in the advertising world: Our data is for sale.

I’m a privacy fiend, not that I have anything to hide with my love of 80′s music videos and an addiction to the Consumerist. But, after speaking on air with Fox9 and writing article after article about privacy, I was inspired to take even greater measures with my online security.  

.: Selling Out For 5% :.

I know that with each website I visit, I leave a pattern for online retailers and robots to decode. However, this also plays out in very real daily activities. Ever use your Target card? My Target credit card gives me coupons based on what it thinks I might be interested in, but it doesn’t just stop there. MSNMoney questioned in 2012 if the 5% discount at the retailer was worth the privacy consumers gave away. 

“Target’s privacy policy says it does not share information “for our affiliates’ everyday business purposes — information about your creditworthiness.” In other words, while Target may share credit information with the credit-reporting agencies, it doesn’t share it directly with affiliates. And although it’s not stated in the privacy policy, credit card activity is reported to the credit-reporting agencies but debit card activity typically is not….Everything else is fair game.” 

The New York Times covered store credit cards and their tracking secrets by saying,

Don’t believe me? I’d like to show you that those of us who like to diet, have allergies and use cosmetics are being sold in bulk. Advertising and data mining has always been around, but the transperancy around the data practices are what has most concerned. ProPublica recently wrote, 

“Credit reporting giant Experian has a separate marketing services division, which sells lists of “names of expectant parents and families with newborns” that are “updated weekly.” The companies also collect data about your hobbies and many of the purchases you make. Want to buy a list of people who read romance novelsEpsilon can sell you that, as well as a list of people who donate to international aid charities.

.: One Tool To Rule Them All :.

This is why, over the past 2 years, I became a passionate advocate for anti-tracking online tools like Ghostery and DoNotTrackMe. I appreciate advertising, but I don’t appreciate not being able to, “opt-out.” Just recently, I stumbled upon the Google Chrome extension by PrivacyChoice, Inc., Privacy Fix almost as an accident and knew I had to give it a try. I run Chrome specifically for the ability to mask my online presence and have greater control of my security and privacy while online. 

“Privacyfix is where you can manage your privacy controls for Facebook, Google, the websites you visit and the companies that track you across the Web. Instantly see privacy risks and navigate instantly to where you can fix them. As you visit sites, get alerted to new privacy risks before you provide personal data, remove website cookies and request deletion of your personal data.” 

 I even appreciate the non-buzz worded paragraph that PrivacyChoice put together about their tool. After running a few checks on websites, I wasn’t astounded by what I found. Twitter passes with flying colors. If you look below, Twitter was given a green light for not tracking my information to sell.

 

 

In a story we all knew the ending to, Facebook falls flat on its face. Not only did they have multiple court cases cited, but they also were given a failing grade.

 

I clicked on the “Privacy Fix” tool after it was open and it immediately showed me what I could do to better secure my profile and protect myself. It even compares my risk to others for Facebook’s, “Graph Search” and tells me what I’m worth. Look at that, I’m $1.63. Amazing!

 

 

.: Bottom Line :.

I’m not of the belief that knowing too much is “scary” or, “stressful.” I’m of the mindset that the more empowered you are about the choices you have, the more educated your choices will be. Don’t NOT investigate how you want to handle your privacy online, simply because it seems daunting or scary. My phone number is on my contact page and I routinely receive calls about privacy questions and reviews of tools. Privacy Fix is something I highly recommend (and it’s free!) And no, I wasn’t paid, pitched or otherwise compensated to talk about the tool. I was just inspired, being all $1.63-worthy.