For a long time now, I have followed a policy of restricting the amount of data I leave lying around on the Internet. I have no wish to be “profiled”, and sold off as part of an information package to some hopeful advertiser who thinks he can sell me something. Neither do I wish some unscrupulous person to make use of my personal data in any other way that could work to my detriment. If I am looking for information on the Internet, and am required to enter an email address to be able to get it, I junk that connection, and look for another one where I can get what I want anonymously.
Not that I could lose much if it did happen – I don’t have much, and I intend it to stay that way. For other people, however, there could be an awful lot to lose; not only money, but think of the pickle you could be in if somebody wants to represent themselves as being you, and to undertake something in your name that could really land you in big trouble.
If you think this sounds a little far-fetched, I suggest you think again.
There is an interesting article on Yahoo –
How to Prevent Identity Theft
that covers the following points:-
THE SCAM: Trolling social networking sites
THE SCAM: Smartphone “sniffer” apps
THE SCAM: Hacking via WiFi hot spots
and gives recommendations on how to avoid the pitfalls they present.
This however, seem to be only nibbling around the edges of the real problem, for other people have much greater access to your data than should normally be allowed, and they will supply it – for a price!
Trade in sensitive personal data uncovered by secret investigation
“The ease with which private investigators can access highly personal and sensitive information stored in secure government databases has been exposed by a report that will intensify calls to regulate the industry.
An investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme reveals how a London firm of private detectives sold personal data on individuals, including details of bank accounts, benefit claims and even a national insurance number.”
Now you should be sitting up and taking notice. This is serious stuff!
“Anderson said all relevant information was obtained legally and denies any allegation of wrongdoing.”
If what he says is true, it is patently obvious that the Data Protection Act is not doing the job we need it to do.
Even without deliberate spying, we are constantly being monitored to see what our surfing habits are like, from which a “profile” can be built in order to serve up targetted adverts or the like. The Guardian newspaper is running an action on this which may interest you:-
Tracking the trackers: first progress report
Perhaps you need even better protection? Then start lying about who you are!
In many cases you don’t actually need to be yourself to do what you want, although this would not apply if you a doing your income tax return over the Internet, of course. In that case, use a fictitious identity. If you really want to be paranoid about it, you can use a new fictitious Identity for everything you sign up for. It is only when you want to make payments over the Internet that this may not work so well, but perhaps that too could be arranged.
Its up to you entirely. In most cases, you can say that you are who you want to be, and nobody will ever know the difference. Obviously, choosing a name like Peter Pan 100151 would indicate that the name is an alias, but what the heck – if you can get what you need done, who is to say no?
Be aware. Data Protection is a battle.
Choose Your Weapons!