Almost every time you visit a website or use a mobile app, someone is collecting data about you. However, across the globe there are few laws that govern how companies collect this data or what they can do with it.
Then on October 18th we will introduce an Internet Privacy Bill of Rights to highlight the issue of how companies collect, store, and use consumer data. We will encourage companies and individuals to sign this Internet Privacy Bill of Rights to show their support of responsible and accountable data collection procedures.
It Starts with Your Data
Your online activities get tracked by a company or organization every time you open a website or use a mobile app.
Some of this data helps you use the website by keeping track of your site preferences, login details, or shopping cart information.
However, some of the shared information benefits the company more than the user. Your personal details become valuable data that can be used for advertising and marketing purposes. For example:
- Companies target advertising through browser cookies that track the sites you visit and purchases you make.
- Quizzes and games on social media often require access to your contacts list.
- Downloading a free book or participating in a webinar may require you to provide your email address and demographic information.
- Pokemon Go and similar games collect your real-time GPS information and track every physical location you visit.
In more harmful cases, you might encounter fake websites masquerading as companies with which you do business. These fake entities’ sole purpose is to ‘phish’ for bank account information or passwords that can be sold or used for nefarious purposes.
How Your Data Gets Used
Ever wonder why, after you make a purchase on one website, you start seeing ads for that company everywhere you go? Websites share your purchase data so other sites can target you with ads. Your data might also be used by potential employers, car insurance companies, and credit card companies.
The risk to you as a consumer is that the data you freely provide to one company can be repackaged and sold to other companies. This information can be used in ways you never intended and can become public through accidental exposure and malicious hacks.
Spammers already pay top dollar for lists of current email addresses and many privacy advocates worry what might happen with the massive amounts of geo-location data some apps now collect.
Why Privacy is an Issue
You might consider it an invasion of privacy when companies take your information without your consent or without explaining explicitly how the information will be used. It becomes an even bigger concern if companies don’t transfer and store this data securely. Security breaches can lead to fraudulent purchases or even identity theft.
Hackers aren’t the only ones gaining access to the information shared with companies. As Edward Snowden demonstrated in 2013, the US government obtained millions of records from sources such as search engine companies and cell phone providers. While some information might be necessary for national security, it’s worth considering where governments should draw the line.
Isn’t My Data Protected?
In a word, no.
To protect consumers, the White House proposed a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights in 2015, limiting what information the National Security Agency (NSA) can access, but to date Congress has passed no laws that protect Americans against general data mining and misuse of personal information.
The Internet Privacy Bill of Rights
It’s time to take a stand against violations of our privacy. We need to call for data collection standards and best practices, and take back control of our information.
With Internet Privacy Week (Oct. 18th-24th) Namecheap will raise awareness of data collection and how personal information can be used against consumers. We will also expose the issues connected to unscrupulous data collection as we demonstrate that there’s a more responsible way for both companies and customers to operate.
How to Take Action
We encourage users to take a stand with us, and start the process of securing your information.
To accomplish this goal, we’re asking users like you to pledge to protect privacy by signing the Internet Privacy Bill of Rights, which we will unveil on Oct. 18th. Namecheap will donate money to EFF for each signature and share of the document, up to $25,000.
Follow Namecheap.com on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for our newsletter (in the sidebar, or below this post on mobile devices) to learn more about Internet Privacy Week and how together we can all hold companies accountable for Internet privacy.
Jackie Dana is the Senior Content Manager at Namecheap.com, and an advocate of internet privacy, civil liberties, and free speech around the world.