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The talk right now is about how Facebook is selling user data. This, of course, is troubling and worthy of the scandal it has become. But there’s a whole other element people are neglecting, and it could be even worse: Facebook is also buying user data.
AnchorFree’s CEO David Gorodyansky recently sat down to discuss online privacy amid the Facebook scandal with Bloomberg. You can watch the entire show in the video below.
“If you’re on another website, doing a search on Google or something, all of a sudden (that data) could be sold to Facebook,” Gorodyansky explained. “They add that to your profile, and collect more and more information that you never explicitly gave them.”
Your profile, then, could contain far more personal information than you might think (and way more than you may be comfortable with)—information that you never opted in for; information that is now being shared with advertisers and other third parties. As we’ve said numerous times on this blog, tech giants collect so much data that they likely know more about you than some of your closest friends.
“It’s really not just Facebook,” Gorodyansky told Bloomberg. “There are a number of corporations, governments, and of course hackers, that have a lot to gain from exploiting our data, and it’s really time for consumers to take control over their privacy and security.”
All of this comes at a time when online privacy, and the disturbing amount of data tech giants buy and sell, is at the forefront of user attention. Is it making a difference? Are people now taking their privacy more seriously and implementing steps to protect themselves?
For one, it appears Facebook is seeing a dip in engagement post-scandal. And we’ve seen a spike in Hotspot Shield downloads since events like Facebook’s scandal and the FCC’s scrapping of net neutrality laws. There’s no question, then, that people are starting to care about their online privacy and security in a way they didn’t a short while ago.
“What we’re seeing in the U.S., about two years ago only the technology geeks cared about (online privacy),” says Gorodyansky. “Today, it’s gotten really mainstream to a point that if you look at the Apple App Store and you look at the top 50 most popular apps…Hotspot Shield from AnchorFree is in the top 50…and it just signals that millions of U.S. consumers have found that security and privacy is important to them and it’s gone from something that was niche to something that’s really mainstream.”
It’s clear that we need better regulation to protect user data and that corporations should be held responsible for communicating to consumers how their data is being used and exactly what data they’re storing. But consumers must bear some of the responsibility.
For too long we’ve been lax about privacy policies, for example. Or willingly sharing our data whenever asked, or allowing apps to access our location when they don’t need it to function. We even share personal information on social media with no thought to who may be watching. And there are countless other situations in our daily lives that continuously expose our privacy.
As Gorodyansky says, it’s time to take privacy and security into our own hands. And as we’re now seeing, consumers are starting to take notice.