Data is the currency of today’s corporations. With it, businesses profit off of our use of their apps and services. That free app you’ve been using? It’s not free, instead using your data as a way to profit.
There’s a myriad of ways companies gather our data through these apps, services, and websites, but one of the most prevalent of these ways is known as data harvesting.
So what exactly is data harvesting? What can we do to avoid it? These are the questions I’ve pondered over for a while now, and after finding the answer, I want to share my findings with you.
Explaining Customer Data Harvesting
Before we discuss the ways in which we can avoid data harvesting, we need to talk about what it is. Confusion when discussing data harvesting is normal since it sounds similar to data mining.
And while data harvesting does share similarities with data mining, they’re very different. For the sake of time, allow me to do a quick breakdown.
- Data mining involves corporations and websites gathering, organizing, and putting together data through computer science that allows for them to view trends for customers.
- Data harvesting = involves the gathering and storing of data from various websites.
As you can see, the main difference between the two is that harvesting doesn’t necessarily mean companies are using it to target you with ads or trends. Instead, data is just stored, either to be sold or eventually sued in some form or another.
5 Tips to Avoid Customer Data Harvesting
Now that we know the differences between data harvesting and data mining, we can discuss the ways we can protect ourselves from the practice. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to not have all of my data stored by a random company.
1. Stay Away From Free Services
I want to start this off with a disclaimer: some free services are essential. I have to use multiple free services for work, such as Skype, Discord, and various other services.
However, if you have the ability to, stay away from free services, especially sketchy ones. Free services tend to store your data and sell it, making a profit in the process.
2. Tighten Up Your Privacy Settings
Taking a look at your browser’s privacy settings is something you should get into the habit of doing, especially after major updates.
Some settings—such as cookies—make it easier for websites to collect data on you, so if you have any interest in fighting against data harvesting, adjust and/or disable these settings.
3. Don’t Give Out Too Much Personal Information
Social media gives us a platform to voice our opinions and connect with others. And while I highly recommend using social media to keep in touch with others, I recommend restraining how much information you give out about yourself.
Social media is a goldmine to companies. People are willing to share their real names, hobbies, interests, career, and many other things. This information is extremely valuable, and companies always use social media to find data.
There’s no telling what data companies have on you, and there’s no way to tell how they’re getting it. Because of this, it’s important to take preemptive action to protect your data. One way of doing so is to use a VPN.
A VPN encrypts all your online activities, keeping it away from ISPs who are spying and selling your data to advertising companies.
5. Stay Away From Sketchy Sites
Lastly, I recommend you do the obvious: stay away from sketchy websites. I’m sure it doesn’t need to be said, but if you come across any sketchy websites that asks you to create an account or any sort of information, look the other way.
This is a good way for strangers to get your data, and I’d be shocked if companies weren’t going over these sites as well.