Maximized Living Scam Risk Avoidance: Protecting your online privacy

Maximized Living Scam Risk Avoidance looks at ways to protect your privacy.  When Maximized Living Scam Risk Avoidance researched the issue we found that people are getting a wake up call about the amount of personal information that is stored in various computers and shared online without our knowledge.

In addition, Maximized Living Scam Risk Avoidance also learned that protecting your privacy is an important way to protect yourself against scam artists.

Anne Kates Smith, Senior Editor Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine recently reported on the online privacy issue.

Many millions of customers of some of the largest U.S. businesses were shocked to learn that a data breach at a large e-mail marketing firm had exposed their names and e-mail addresses. The attack made affected consumers vulnerable to spam-based scams known as phishing, in which online crooks use personalized e-mails to try and con you into sending money or divulging financial information.

The incident also pointed out just how much consumer’s personal information is whizzing around in cyberspace, totally beyond their control. The impact of the breach served to intensify an ongoing debate about how to balance Internet users’ privacy against the demands of a huge Internet economy with a voracious appetite for personal data.

The issue centers on targeted advertising also known as interactive or behavioral marketing. That is how you get ads for portrait studios when you type “photography” into search engines, coupons for Special K when you buy Cornflakes at the grocery — or even an electronic coupon on your smart phone as you are standing in line at a store. There are some benefits to such ads as they can help you find products or services that fit your needs or preferences.

But all that convenience comes at a price: snippets of data gathered on websites and social networks are collected, shared and aggregated into giant dossiers. Data-driven marketers and data brokers know where you’ve been, online and in the real world, and what your interests are — even if they can’t identify you by name. The information can predict how much someone is willing to spend making it possible to offer products at various prices, depending on buyers’ profiles. You may prefer ads that sync with your interests and feel that being able to surf ad-supported content free is worth the trade-off. Or you may find it creepy.

The problem is that most people are in simply unaware of how — and how much — personal data is being used or how often it’s shared with third parties since the data collection itself is invisible.

Not all companies are upfront and disclose their practices. When they do, privacy policies are often long and incomprehensible. And it is difficult to keep up with changes.

Federal regulators, Internet companies and advertisers themselves are starting to “get” that privacy is a big deal. There is a new bill in Congress which outlines rules for collecting consumer data, keeping it secure and sharing it. However, absent, at least from the first version of the bill: a Do Not Track tool, similar to the one proposed by the Federal Trade Commission for Internet browsers, which would ask for preferences about tracking and targeted ads to websites you visit. Mozilla’s Firefox and Microsoft’s Explorer already have their own versions, and Google’s Chrome will soon follow. In the meantime, online advertisers are starting to place icons on Web ads that indicate when Web surfers are being tracked and allow them to opt out.

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