Part 1 – Integrity and cyber security
This is the first part in a series of articles on the subject of cyber security. The purpose of the series is firstly; to explain the basics of how and why data is generated, stored and used. Secondly; to explain how you, as a user, can control the data that you generate and thereby protect yourself from the risks that come with it.
As a human being, everything we do communicates something. The way you move, where you move, the things you do in your spare time. Communication in verbal or written form, to family members, friends or business associates. The words you use when you communicate and the tone of voice that you do it in. How you navigate the internet. Even when you work, just like I am doing right at this moment. Because if you really think about it, me writing this article tells you quite a lot about me as an individual, apart from the facts stated in the text. It speaks to my perspective on the world, what I find interesting and important.
Everything we do communicates something about ourselves, and it can also be studied and used by others in different ways and for different reasons.
When I buy something online, that says something about me as a person. If you gain access to my complete purchase history you suddenly have a pretty good picture of who I am as a person.
What kind of food do I like? What kind of stores do I buy it from? Do I buy books or subscribe to newsletters? Which books or newsletters are these? And so forth.
If you in addition to my payment history also gain access to all the other information that I generate online, the picture of me as a person suddenly grows scaringly accurate.
My activity on Facebook shows you who my friends are, what events I attend and what kind of content I spread. That goes for Instagram as well. Spotify knows what kind of music gets my heart pumping, and Netflix what shows and movies I like to watch. The media that I consume speaks to what kind of a perspective I have on the world. It is a mirroring of my psyche. What dreams I have, which kind of emotional states I enjoy and what kind of a story I find interesting. Twitter makes my political and ideological views visible. Studying my PornHub search history tells you a lot about my sexual preferences.
Everything you do online generates data. Data about what, when and how it was done. This information can also be linked to you as a person due to certain technical aspects of the internet. Usually, online services store the data that is generated for future reference. Sometimes with the purpose of optimizing your experience. Other times with more sinister purposes. Commercially speaking, data can be used to study what people buy, how, when and why they do it. Companies do this in order to optimize their products, services and the marketing that sells them.
In fact, there are certain kinds of companies that make vast amounts of money on collecting, compiling, analyzing and selling this type of data to third parties. Another use of consumer data is government surveillance.