Hello, friends! Today, we will continue our exploration of the various risks associated with the collection of personal information. We have already discussed the risks of facial recognition, data enrichment, and personal training account scams.
In this article, our focus will be on one of the most frequently collected types of data: geolocation. Additionally, we will explore how Incogni can assist you in removing this information if it has already been compromised.
How does it happen exactly?
Geolocation refers to the ability to determine your precise location based on factors such as latitude, longitude, altitude, and more. In the past, this primarily involved “fixed” points like your home or workplace. However, with the proliferation of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, GPS satellites, and connected watches, the scope of geolocation has significantly expanded. Nowadays, these devices, each with a unique identifier, track your movements both outdoors and indoors.
Geolocation doesn’t just track your physical movements; it can also track the time you spend at various locations, your favorite stores encounters with other individuals, how much time you spend away from home, and where you go to purchase items like medicines. This information is directly stored on your device but can also be accessed through various means:
- Many applications (SDKs) installed on your device can collect and store this information.
- Servers of advertisement networks displayed on websites you visit can gather your geolocation data.
- Wi-Fi points and cell phone towers that you come across can triangulate your location.
- Specific equipment like beacons, which are sometimes present in public or commercial buildings, can capture your geolocation data.
Let’s consider advertising as a concrete example. When you access a website or a mobile game from your apartment, the ad server may collect information about your device type and your most accurate location possible in order to determine which ads to display to you. Google, for instance, provides a page that explains how they utilize your geolocation data. The more diverse and extensive the information collected from various sources, the more comprehensive the profile that can be built about you.
As you can imagine, geolocation data is highly valuable for many companies. It enables them to better understand their customers, create targeted advertising campaigns, deliver promotions based on proximity to a store, optimize the location of physical stores, establish partnerships aligned with their audience’s interests, and much more. In the coming years, these possibilities are likely to become an integral part of our daily lives.
Data brokers are actively seeking to obtain geolocation data, whether legally or otherwise, as it allows them to enhance their databases and offer more comprehensive profiles and behavioral insights to advertisers, insurance companies, and other entities. By linking a person’s movements to their personal information such as name, email, and physical address (which are already extensively collected), it becomes possible to create an almost complete chronicle of an individual’s life. When combined with facial recognition technology, the concept of surveillance goes far beyond what was once considered as mere speculation about “Big Brother.
It is worth noting that while there are tools available to anonymize or blur geolocation data, the collection and potential misuse of this information remain concerns that need to be addressed to protect individual privacy.
How to limit the collection?
As mentioned earlier, there are indeed ways to limit the constant sharing of our geolocation data, and it’s fortunate that we have these options available. Disabling geolocation by default can have a minimal impact, primarily conserving battery life. However, to achieve stronger privacy measures, it’s necessary to take further steps.
You can start by using a privacy-focused browser such as Brave or Firefox. Additionally, browsing in private mode and utilizing cookie/ad blockers or regularly clearing your cache and deleting cookies can enhance your privacy. Adding a VPN (Virtual Private Network) like Surfshark and employing anti-tracking extensions such as uBlock or Ghostery are also effective measures. It’s up to you to decide how to customize your privacy protection based on your desired level of security, individual needs, and browsing habits.
It’s crucial to exercise caution and be mindful of your actions. Even if you take measures to protect your privacy, it’s essential to be cautious about sharing your location on social media, such as tagging your photos with geolocation data. Additionally, remember to deactivate geolocation/GPS by default and carefully manage access permissions for each application. It’s better to authorize location access on a case-by-case basis when necessary, rather than leaving the floodgates open at all times.
Indeed, a service like Incogni can be valuable in monitoring and managing the information that is collected about you. Incogni offers the capability to analyze numerous databases (currently nearly 200 and growing) and communicate with data brokers who may not respect your privacy. It enables you to request the deletion of your information from these sources, allowing you to have control over your data based on your personal sensitivity and preferences. It’s not an “all or nothing” approach, as you have the flexibility to select which data you consider sensitive and wish to have removed.
Once you initiate the process, Incogni keeps you informed about its progress, eliminating the need for you to worry about it constantly. You can easily track the number of instances where your information was found, the status of contacting database administrators, and the data that has been successfully deleted, all through the user interface. Additionally, Incogni periodically checks to ensure that you haven’t been added to any databases again, providing ongoing protection for your privacy.