How Is Big Data Affecting Our Privacy?- Covered By James Harrell
“You’re being tracked in places like department stores just by having your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on. You don’t even have to be connected to their network for access to your information to be granted. It is scary how much they know about you. It really is.” -James Harrell
At the 2018 Knoxville BSides conference, James Harrell from The IT Company took the stage to talk about "Big Data", and how scary it can be. BSides is a conference that was developed as a reject pool for those being denied opportunities to talk at conferences, such as Black Hat, due to the limited number of speaking spots. The topics and speakers at the BSides conference are high-quality and speak on a variety of important messages. James was on of 18 speakers to lead sessions at this year's conference.
So, what is Big Data? The short answer is that it’s a single database of information about us, compiled from data points found through our usage on the internet. There are many ways this information is gathered. They’ll track information being cookied on your phone and the information being cookied on your computer. They’ll track information loyalty programs (like at Kroger or different department stores) and use that information, paired with your GPS and MAC addresses of your phone, and aggregate it into that single user ID. They call it an Oracle ID Graph.
According to James, it is not exactly known who is at the root of Big Data. There are many companies that track in the same ways, but one company specifically, Oracle, is at the center of it. They have their finger in so many different pies, that they are able gain an alarming amount of data. Datalogix, an Oracle owned company, has data on 110 million out of the 117 million US households. That means there is a 94% chance they have something on you.
Other than just seeming creepy, why is the collection of big data concerning? What do they do with the information? Have you ever wondered why you receive ads that seem catered to you? You will notice this on places like Facebook, or YouTube. The reasoning is that companies have purchased information on you, to make their marketing stronger, and target ads to many different customer types.
You are probably wondering at this point; can you hide from Big Data? That bad news is, the answer is no! And everyone is a target. But before you run and throw your cellphones and computers into the river, take note and be vigilant about employing the following tips and tricks to better mask your information.
- Do not volunteer any information. Be careful about taking surveys online and what you sign up for.
- Do not use membership loyalty cards
- Disable WIFI and Bluetooth when in public.
- Install a Pi-hole, which is a DNS based ad blocker on your home network.
While taking these steps will not completely hide your information, it is a good start.