Many businesses are enjoying great success through online marketing, but did you know that this also brings with it a host of new problems?
The most prominent privacy issue that comes with online marketing is re-targeting. The practice of following a user on social media, in an effort to display ads that they might be interested in, resulted in a massive data breach that affected over 500 million Facebook users.
Here we’ll discuss the ways in which online marketing misuses and compromises your privacy, and the steps you can take to safeguard your personal data.
The Danger Of Re-Targeting
When you follow a brand or a product on social media, you’re typically presented with content that’s tied to an ad or a lead generator. If you look closely at the ads that you see, you’ll notice that they’re often very similar to the content that you’re originally following. This form of “re-targeting” occurs because the brand that you’re following decided to take advantage of the algorithm that powers these platforms and use your data to show you ads that they think you’ll be interested in.
To put it simply, if you follow a product on Facebook and like its pages, the company that makes that product will eventually show you an ad for it. Even if you unfollow the product after the initial campaign, you’ll still be affected by re-targeting because the company that owns the account will keep track of what you’ve liked and will show you ads that they think you’ll be interested in.
Why is this a problem? You might be wondering how much of your personal information these companies have access to. Well, it’s not a problem because of how much information these companies have access to – it’s a problem because of what these companies do with that information.
The practice of re-targeting is definitely not a new one. In fact, some companies have been doing it for years and used to call themselves “re-marketing agents.” However, with the recent implementation of AI-powered ads and increased data collection through social media, digital marketers have found a way to make this practice much more dangerous than before.
How To Avoid Re-Targeting
To avoid being affected by re-targeting, you need to do two things. First, you need to unfollow the product that you’re following on social media. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an ad for a product that you already use, but it’s good practice to unfollow any account that you know is collecting your data for re-marketing purposes. The second thing you need to do is clear your data from the social media platform.
If you have an Android Phone or Tablet, you can use a tool like the one from Ghostery to easily scan through your phone’s history for ads that you’ve clicked on, downloader tools that can scan your PC for similar software, and block cookies and trackers. You can also use AdGuard to do the same on Mac computers and iPads.
On social media, look out for products and brands that you already know and trust. If you see an ad for a product or brand that you use, click on it or take a screenshot of it and report it as suspicious. These are just a few ways that you can avoid being affected by re-targeting.
The Risk Of Data Collection
Even when you avoid being affected by re-targeting, you’re still at risk of having your personal data collected and used for marketing purposes. This happens when a business gathers data about your online behavior – such as the websites and apps that you visit, the products you purchase, and the people that you connect with – and uses that data to tailor ads to you. The issue with this type of data collection is that it can never be completely accurate, as it relies on algorithms and past behavior to predict your future behavior. This makes it very risky for your personal data.
There are a number of different data collection methods used by online marketers, and while some of them are completely legal, most of them are not. For instance, taking advantage of hidden “cookies” that you might not be aware of. Or creating a profile in order to get someone to follow you on social media, which is then used to target ads at you – this is known as “shadow promoting.” If you use a service like Google Analytics, you can find out more about the data collection methods that your website or blog is subject to, as well as learn more about how to avoid this type of tracking.
Another dangerous consequence of data collection through online marketing is a data breach. A data breach occurs when a business fails to adequately protect your personal data, resulting in the data being made available to unauthorized parties. In the case of the Facebook breach, hackers targeted vulnerable users by taking advantage of a security loophole in the platform and gaining access to their personal information.
In the wake of the Facebook data breach, many people are now more conscious of their privacy and are taking active measures to protect it. However, much like re-targeting, this type of data collection can still occur without your knowledge or consent, as there are currently no federal regulations that specifically address data breaches.
There are a number of different ways that your personal data can be stolen in a data breach, including through malware or phishing scams that seek to trick you into giving up your personal information, social engineers who sit in front of a computer 24/7 trying to log your details, or insiders who steal personal data for financial gain. In each case, your data can be used to take advantage of you.
If you’re aware that your data is at risk of being stolen, take the time to notify the appropriate parties (e.g., your bank, credit card companies, and social media platforms). And just to be on the safe side, you might also want to consider encrypting your data, using a VPN to keep your personal information secure when traveling, and changing your passwords often – especially the ones you use for social media accounts, email, and other online services.
How To Keep Your Data Private
Now that you’re aware of the several privacy-related issues that come with online marketing, it’s time to take action. If you really want to keep your data private, you need to be strategic about what you share and with whom.
For instance, if you have an Instagram account that you use solely for sharing photos of your children, you might want to consider keeping that information private. Although you have nothing to hide, you don’t need strangers seeing your kids’ photos on social media.
You can also try deleting your Instagram account, as many parents have found that this helps to protect their children’s privacy.
Similarly, if you’re a business owner and are posting about your products on social media, you might want to consider keeping that information private, as this is what buyers are most interested in, and it’s easy for a seller to take advantage of a buyer if they know what they’re looking for.
When it comes to your personal data, you need to protect it carefully and think of ways to avoid being affected by these cyber-security risks. After all, the last thing you want is for your personal information to be used against you without your knowledge or consent.
To stay safe on the internet, use a VPN to encrypt your data when you’re traveling and log off of social media when you’re not. Avoid giving out any personal information, and be careful about the kind of content that you share online. Only give out information that you feel confident enough will not be used against you or your family. Last but not least, stay vigilant about identity theft and monitor your financial accounts regularly. If you suspect that your personal data has been compromised, contact the appropriate authorities immediately.