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Public transit and 5 more surprising places your data is collected

Public transit and 5 more surprising places your data is collected
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We all know Google and Facebook follow us around the Internet. We all know that marketers do it too. Sometimes it's OK - you'll see relevant ads based on your shopping experiences and things like that. But more often than not, this type of tracking becomes invasive.

With that being said, you won't believe some of the new ways these companies and marketers are following you. From selling your data to snooping in on your conversations in public places here's my shocking list of places you might not have known were tracking you:

1. Public transit. New Jersey public transit has admitted that it is recording your conversations with surveillance cameras. These stay on file for at least a month and can and will be easily shared with law enforcement officials.

2. Your cable box. Official complaints have come in about the data that major companies like Comcast and Cox collect on you. The following is taken without consent and is sold to advertisers:

  • Your personal viewing habits
  • What hardware you're using
  • The details of your cable contract
  • How much data is used

3. Your eReader is doing the same. It's collecting your reading habits, if you finish the book or not, how much time you spend reading and so on. This information is, arguably, used by the writers to cater to their audience's tastes, but it's also a marketing tool used to sell you more.

4. Billboards. A recent report from the New York Times reveals that advertisers can now have their billboards analyze traffic patterns and mobile phone behaviors. With this information they are able to determine the age and gender of the people viewing the billboard.

5. Rogue apps. InMobi, a mobile advertising company in Singapore was busted by the FTC for collection and tracking of location data without permission. Even if people using apps that contained InMobi software opted out of sharing location information, InMobi took it anyway. The company now has to pay out $950,000 in penalties and must implement a new privacy policy.

6. Facebook. This one should seem obvious, but what's scary is that it's getting more invasive every day. There's now a Location Awareness Program that lets Facebook follow your location when you're shopping. It then sells that data - what store you entered, how long you stayed - to retailers who will then serve you better ads, or eventually be able to alert you to special sales and the like.

How to stop it

In some cases, like with InMobi, there's nothing you can do to stop it completely. But there are steps you can take to make things a little bit better. Here are a few quick rules of thumb:

  • Don't connect to public Wi-Fi. If you have to connect to public Wi-Fi, don't do anything sensitive, like your banking or any online shopping
  • Disable any and all blue tooth connections
  • Disable location services
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