When you use the internet, you’re not simply entering a web address and seeing a website. You’re signing up for services, creating profiles, downloading apps, and doing ordinary things online that were unfathomable decades ago. With these modern advances and digital conveniences, however, comes a darker side: the mass collection and hoarding of personal, identifiable data by multi-billion-dollar businesses reliant on the internet.
Now, when you visit a site or open an app, it will display features and highlights unique to your specific taste and interests. This way, no one person has the same experience as anyone else, and they’re only getting information that pertains to them. Yet to achieve this personalized touch — and make billions of dollars in profit — sites, apps, and services vacuum up as much personal, identifiable data as they can.
Learning this might provoke outrage and the thought of legal action, but therein lies the problem: you gave companies permission to run wild with your personal data a long time ago.
What is personal data?
Personal data is exactly what it sounds like — data specific to you, personally. This can range from your tastes and habits to your social and professional connections. Everyone’s personal data is unique, and the data that companies collect come voluntarily (you typing something in as an “interest” on Facebook) or involuntarily (creepy tracking cookies on the internet).
Much of your personal data is highly sensitive. This includes everything from health records to your social security number, your fingerprints to your eyeballs (hello, face unlock!)and everything in between. This data has potential to cause you great harm if it falls into the wrong hands, and, with poor security measures in place, hackers and bad actors can effortlessly access this data and cause significant damage.
Some of your data is less sensitive, but still unique and could still be abused. Everything from social media activity to search history might seem random, but when aggregated together, they can paint a broader picture of who you are. By looking into this and other data, companies can guess your race, sexual preference, niche interests, and specific times when you’re feeling happy or sad with a high degree of accuracy. Since most data sources are connected, social networks like Facebook know when you’re sad based on posts you’re looking at while listening to a certain playlist on Spotify.
Who owns my data?
The companies whose sites, services, and apps you use own your data. In fact, you gave them ownership of your data years ago in a transaction that likely took a few seconds.
When you sign up for something on your phone or on the internet, you’re asked to read a Terms and Conditions or End User License Agreement. These agreements can be thousands of pages long, featuring legalese that only the savvyist lawyers understand. Sadly, 91% of Americans agree to these terms and conditions without reading a single word. Which is bad, because they spell out how a company will use your data, what data they’ll use, and what they can do with it to make loads of money. If you don’t agree, you simply can’t use the service.
In addition, companies have privacy policies that no one really reads. These policies spell out, again in complicated legalese, the many ways the company is legally required (or not) to respect your privacy in specific conditions. Though others have tried to simplify these privacy policies and terms and conditions, people simply use the service anyway.
Simply put, whenever you go online or use your phone, the personal data they gather on you is owned by a company because you quickly signed away the rights.
How can I take my data back?
Ozone is building the first platform that lets users truly own their data and take it back from the titans of tech. With our innovative platform and app, you can anonymize your data, choose who you share it with, and what you’re sharing — all while making money from your data that companies have been making for years.