Today, it is not uncommon to learn about a company being sanctioned for collecting user data in the wrong way. Data privacy and security has become such a severe topic these days than even the governments are weighing in with policies (such as the GDPR).
Going through all the technical terms can get disturbing and confusing, though. That is why we have distilled all that information into this piece.
Besides discussing what customer data harvesting is, we also mention the ills and how to protect yourself.
What is Customer Data Harvesting?
As the name implies, this is how a company/ business gets data from its consumer base.
Customer data is usually obtained in a variety of two ways.
On the one hand, the company can ask – which can be via a sign-up process, surveys, interviews, etc. This model is not as standard as indirect tracking, though. This could be linked to the companies believing that consumers will ‘generate’ more accurate data when they are not conscious of it.
Flaws of Consumer Data Harvesting
If every company were transparent about the kind of data that they were collecting on their users, things would be more natural. However, the internet business model has made it possible for most brands to abuse the very fabric of privacy that we are now trying to claw back for ourselves.
A notable example would be that of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica row, which set the news bells tolling sometimes ago. In what seemed like a simple data collection exercise, we saw how people were manipulated to an election process for that year. This tells you how data, especially the ones obtained illegally, can be weaponized against you.
The same can be told of marketers who will aggregate specific data based on your internet activity and start suggesting products to you based on your profile. This puts you in a walled garden of the products you can see, rather than being able to see the wide variety of them out there.
That, and we have not talked about what could happen if your data got into the wrong hands.
What Can You Do?
If you have not already started considering privacy browsers, now is the time. The likes of Safari, Tor browser, Brave browser, and Chromium have been tweaked against cookie tracking, browser fingerprinting, etc.
A VPN download for all of your devices is another trusted way to keep the prying eyes of your ISP, the webmaster, your employer, school, etc., out of your business. These apps will also come in handy when you find yourself using a free/ public Wi-Fi network.
Ensure you look through the terms and conditions of any brand you are signing up with to know what kind of data they are collecting. In the same vein, try to avoid freebies from most brands that have a paid plan. This freemium package is usually a gateway to harvesting your data.
Lest we forget, it is recommended that you create a burner email address for new sign-ups to websites that you do not trust. That keeps them away from your primary email address.