Taking Control of Your Personal Data

Taking Control of Your Personal Data
Taking Control of Your Personal Data
English | MP4 + PDF + Audio | AVC 960×540 | AAC 44KHz 2ch | 5h 16m | 3.62 GB

You hear the stories every day: Your household devices are spying on you. Your private social media data has been leaked to the world. Another big online company has had a data breach and your personal information has been exposed. An algorithm has decided what product you should buy. Every day, it seems your control slips away.

We have never before in human history been able to share so much about ourselves so quickly. Neither have we ever been so exposed to forces that want to take advantage of that capability. The 12 revealing lectures of Taking Control of Your Personal Data will open your eyes to the surprising extent of that exposure and will discuss your options for keeping your personal data as safe as possible. Your instructor, Professor Jennifer Golbeck of the College of Information Studies at University of Maryland, College Park, will show you what really goes on behind the scenes with the data you knowingly and unknowingly share all day long.

Can They Really Do That?

As Dr. Golbeck explains in intriguing detail, Europeans are protected by some of the most restrictive privacy laws in the world. In China, at the other extreme, personal data is regularly exploited on many levels. Right now, the United States finds itself somewhere in the middle.

While your private communication is protected, the Supreme Court has ruled that you give up that right to privacy when you involve a third party. For example, if you discuss the price of a home with your realtor by phone, that information is private. But if you message that same information to the same person via social media, all bets are off. No matter what your privacy settings are, once you’ve used the platform for that conversation, the company that runs that particular forum owns that information to analyze and use as it sees fit.

Some uses of your data constitute a crime, of course—scams, extortion, fraud, data theft—and the FBI receives more than 900 cybercrime reports each day. But you’ll be surprised to find out how much of your personal data is being manipulated in ways that are perfectly legal—data you never intended for another person to see, even data you didn’t even know was out there. Consider:

  • Manipulation of your Facebook world. Facebook wants you to have as many friends as possible, so it analyzes data you didn’t know existed to determine which “non-friends” might have attended the same event. Suddenly, you have a new friend suggestion!
  • Targeted television commercials. If you use the same provider for both internet and television services, your browser history is used to determine not only online ad placement, but also which TV commercials you see.
  • Broadcasts from your phone. If you have a smart phone, it’s busy collecting vast amounts of data about you and broadcasting it to a variety of receivers. In one experiment, a newspaper columnist working with a technology company discovered that over the course of just one week, 5,400 hidden apps and trackers received personal data from his phone.

Companies strive to keep your data private when market forces demand it, but, generally, the law does not require it. And even if you do read and sign every privacy policy that comes across your desk or apps, hackers are working hard to stay one step ahead. So, whether legally or illegally, your most private data is likely to be used by unexpected parties, in unexpected ways, at some point in time.

It’s Scandalous

In this course, you’ll go behind the scenes to understand exactly what went wrong in some well-known cases of data misuse to learn how you can better protect your own data. You will take a closer look at cases like:

  • Cambridge Analytica asked Facebook users to install an app for academic research. The app took all the individual’s data and all friends’ data, stored it, and then handed it over to political strategists who analyzed it to develop profiles for political messaging on Facebook and other platforms.
  • Google Buzz was intended to be a Facebook competitor. Wanting to populate its network as quickly as possible, the service automatically gave each user friends—based on how often the two individuals had previously emailed each other. The results were devastating for those who would never have granted social media access to these “friends,” e.g., ex-spouses, therapy clients, lawyers, and others.
  • Ashley Madison was, and is, a dating website for adulterers. Among its many ethical problems was the fact that when customers paid to have their data deleted, the company never removed it. When the site was hacked in 2015, all user data was downloaded to the dark web. What was never meant to be public was suddenly accessible to anyone—with dire consequences.

But an even more significant concern than the data itself is how many companies rely on the manipulation of that data to make decisions that affect people’s lives. Software formulas called algorithms are developed to analyze vast amounts of data and to learn from that data using artificial intelligence. Algorithms are capable of making great generalizations and conclusions based on those enormous datasets. But when decision makers use those conclusions to judge one individual, the results can be disastrous. Suppose the data is inherently biased because the data from one whole group of people wasn’t considered. Or maybe the individuals who wrote the algorithms simply made a mistake, and the algorithm could never learn the true relationships between various pieces of data.

Consider the case of one superb teacher who was told she would be fired after years of dedication, high scores, and stellar reviews. “Why?” she asked incredulously. “Because the algorithm says so.” The algorithm had ranked her in the bottom five percent of teachers—all of whom would be fired. This school fired one of its top teachers based on data it could neither understand nor defend. Many decisions concerning employment, mortgage lending, and more are now made that same way.

How to Protect Yourself

This course doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all solution because no such solution exists. But this course will help you:

  • Determine your personal privacy profile. Where do you fit in the spectrum of valuing your privacy vs. convenience? How do facial recognition software and genetic profiling affect your privacy decisions?
  • Decide whether or not to try the dark web and its Tor browser. How important are speed and accessibility to you?
  • Understand the current U.S. laws and proposed state laws regarding privacy. Are you willing to look into privacy advocacy groups?

Privacy issues are not going away; the technology that collects, analyzes, and derives insights from our data continues to grow at break-neck speed. Not all results are nefarious, of course. Fields as diverse as medicine, policing, and astronomy have benefited from the development of deep data and its algorithms.

As a society, we have not yet figured out how to apply appropriate ethics, values, and protections in parts of this domain. As individuals, we need exactly the type of information and direction provided by Taking Control of Your Personal Data.

Table of Contents

01 How Your Data Tells Secrets
02 The Mechanics of Data Harvesting
03 Privacy Preferences: It’s All about You
04 The Upside of Personal Data Use
05 Online Tracking: Yes, You’re Being Followed
06 Nowhere to Hide? Privacy under Surveillance
07 Consent: The Heart of Privacy Control
08 Data Scandals and the Lessons They Teach
09 The Dark Web: Where Privacy Rules
10 Algorithmic Bias: When AI Gets It Wrong
11 Privacy on the Global Stage
12 Navigating the Future of Personal Data
Course Guidebook.pdf