There are so many privacy threats online. Every time you use the net, you put yourself at risk. One of these threats is data harvesting.
What, exactly, is data harvesting? Data harvesting is similar to data mining, however, it makes use of a process that pulls and studies user data to be used for advertising purposes.
Data harvesting puts your privacy on the line, which is why you should protect yourself against it. With that in mind, here’s what to know about data harvesting.
The Four Types Of Data Harvesting
There are different types of data harvesting that businesses will collect from their users. These include the following:
- Personal data: This involves information that identifies you, such as your Social Security number. It will also include non-personal information that can still be traced to you, such as your IP address and device IDs.
- Engagement data: This data type basically looks at how consumers interact with the business website, and includes monitoring social media pages, emails, mobile apps, and paid ads.
- Behavioral data: This is basically transactional data, such as your purchase history on a website, but it can also include qualitative data such as your computer mouse movement information.
- Attitudinal data: This type of data is made up of metrics to analyze and monitor what consumers feel, such as if they’re satisfied with the product or service.
How Does Your Data Get Collected?
There are many ways in which companies can collect your data. But, most companies will use a variety of different methods to get your data.
For example, they might ask customers to fill our surveys, they might track them, or find other ways of getting their data.
A particularly concerning way of collecting data is through the use of location-based advertising. This makes use of tracking technology such as your device’s IP address.
Once collected, the information is used to target your device with advertising thought to be relevant to you.
Why Is Data Harvesting So Dangerous?
Based on what we’ve touched on already, companies gather and store user data, such as their age, location, and other information.
But what you might not realize is that there are data harvesting companies that do this too. The information they get is used to produce profiles of potential customers.
These profiles are then sold to businesses, usually without the users’ consent. This is problematic for users because their data can be used for malicious purposes or it can be stolen by hackers.
Here’s How To Protect Yourself From Data Harvesting
You can take control of the situation and ensure that you protect yourself against data harvesting. Here are some things to do:
- Use a VPN. A VPN will help you to increase your privacy online because of how it ensures an encrypted connection between the device you’re using to browse the internet and the server. This means that you can’t be monitored and your private information won’t be exposed.
- Make use of temporary emails. A temporary email address can help you to reduce how much of your personal information you send out into the world. This is a good tip for when you want to try out a service, such as when it comes to free trials.
- Avoid using free online services. These usually come with the price of taking your data in exchange for using the service.
- Check your privacy settings. You might be surprised to find how many apps on your devices are gaining information about you, such as via your location or device microphone. Go through your privacy settings to see what apps are getting what information about you, and try to delete any apps you don’t use or need.
- Disable your location. To avoid being tracked by your location, you should disable the location on your devices.
- Always read terms and conditions. While it’s easy to lightly scroll through these or not even read them at all, you don’t want to agree to a company’s data usage policy without really knowing what it involves.
What Are The Privacy Laws In The U.S.?
In the U.S., there’s no one comprehensive federal law that regulates data privacy. There are actually different regulations at play.
The Federal Trade Commission Act owns broad jurisdiction over commercial entities to prevent unfairness.
However, it doesn’t explicitly regulate the information that needs to be included in the privacy policies of websites. It does, however, enforce privacy laws and takes action to protect consumers.
What complicates the privacy issue a bit is that data harvesting is completely legal, so you have to ensure that you protect yourself.
What’s The Difference Between Data Harvesting And Data Mining?
Data harvesting and data mining are two terms that are usually used interchangeably, but they do have some differences.
- Data mining converts the raw data of consumers into the analysis. By knowing how consumers are purchasing items and when can help companies to understand what they want. It will provide figures and facts to give companies greater insight into how they can tackle future launches of their products and services to make the most sales and gain customer satisfaction.
- Data harvesting, on the other hand, is sometimes referred to as data extraction or data scraping. It’s quite similar to the practice of data mining but it provides companies with data that can help them predict the behavior of their consumers. So, if you’re a company with a best-selling product in your town, you might want to reach larger audiences. To do this, you’d have to do research. If another website already has the information you want, you could make use of data harvesting solutions to collect that information, which is especially useful if the website has locked its data. That’s basically how data harvesting could come into play.
How To Boost Your Digital Privacy
Whether it’s data mining or data harvesting you’re worried about, it’s important to increase how much digital privacy you have.
This will safeguard you from your data being used without your consent and it will also prevent you from becoming a victim of hackers.
Use Two-Step Authentication As Much As Possible
You’re probably familiar with two-step authentication because it’s what banks use.
If not, it’s a system that lets you punch in a password, and then you’ll be sent a code, usually via your phone, that only you will have access to so that you can access the site you wish to visit but protect your information.
While two-step authentication won’t prevent hackers from logging into sites pretending to be you, it will block phishing emails while preventing you from data breaches.
Make Your Browsing Safer
A browser extension can block ads on websites so that they can’t collect your data. An example is uBlock Origin that not only blocks ads but also prevents malware.
If you use social media, you’ll know that annoying ads are very common. You should disable them on all social media.
You can also make use of Simple Opt Out, which gives you instructions on how to opt-out of data collection on big sites, such as Netflix.
Just be careful whenever you download such services for your device to reduce how much data is released about you.
Some are not safe, so it’s wise to always do your research before you install them on your device.
Can A VPN Harvest Your Data?
Earlier, we mentioned that one of the steps you should take to prevent data about yourself and your device from entering into the wrong hands is to download a VPN on your device, but are there risks involved?
Some VPNs can log your data and sell your data to third parties.
This is especially the case with free VPNs, which is why they should always be avoided, but it can also be the case with paid VPNs.
While many VPNs will claim not to track your data or store it, these claims are sometimes not true.
What VPNs Don’t Log Your Information?
Some of the best VPNs that have no-logging policies include ExpressVPN and CyberGhost.
What Companies Collect The Most Data From Consumers?
Some companies that collect the most data from people include Facebook, Instagram, and Tinder (via Clario).
Data harvesting is something you should seriously be aware of and it affects you whenever you use the internet.
In this article, we’ve looked at what you need to know about data harvesting and how to protect yourself against it, as well as how it varies from data mining.