Most people are aware that companies collect personal information about consumers for business purposes, such as marketing. Data is collected by observing consumers, tracking credit card purchases, tracking purchases with rewards or loyalty cards, and monitoring everything that happens online.
I have never cared that data is being collected about me because I have “nothing to hide.” If a company or even the government wants to read my sorority philanthropy event emails or track my Urban Outfitters purchases, go ahead, there is nothing interesting there. But discussion in other classes has led me to rethink my position.
Data mining companies collect information that can drastically affect my life. For example, if they know every purchase your family makes at CVS, they can identify health issues that may prevent you from becoming insured. They can tailor advertisements based on racial profiles, which has some people yelling for discrimination laws. There is a famous example of data mining destroying privacy when Target sent home baby advertisements to a teenage girl, and her dad did not yet know she was pregnant. How would you feel if a department store informed your parents that you were having a child?
This blog post, http://consumerist.com/2013/09/04/data-broker-acxioms-new-site-allows-users-to-view-and-edit-the-marketing-info-its-collected/, is about the largest data mining company, Acxiom. Acxiom recently launched a website which allows you to see what they know about you. The only catch? You have to enter the last 4 digits of your social security number. Which they probably already have.
(this is my at least one additional blog post)