How Do You Protect Your Data Against Personalization?

As this author admits, “data is widely regarded as the key to unlocking better user experiences”. Personalization, by which media platforms deliver unique and more relevant content via ‘recommendations’ to their users, has become the biggest threat to privacy.

Everyone who uses Netflix or Hulu has found a TV show or a movie recommended to them by the platform’s algorithm that perfectly matches their taste. Spotify and Deezer deliver weekly playlists of new music recommendations to every user based on their listening history. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. serve you personalized ads tailored to your interests as reflected in your usage of those platforms. This same goes for every other media streaming or social media platform.

What most people haven’t stopped to consider is what amount of their (personal) data these media platforms must have collected to make such highly personalized recommendations. Of greater importance is the fear of nefarious people getting a hold of this data and turning innocent users into victims of crimes.

Media platforms may not be as secure as you think

The spate of cyber-attacks and data breaches that these big companies have fallen victim to do not help matters at all. Just recently, Twitter suffered a breach that provided access to the verified accounts of prominent users including Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kanye West, etc. In the series of brazen attacks, Twitter had reported that the attackers used social engineering to launch spear-phishing attacks at some of their employees.

Late last year, just after it was launched, Disney+ suffered a data breach that allowed attackers to steal the information of thousands of accounts and put them up for sale on the dark web. Apparently, more than one in 10 streaming platform users have had their account information hacked.

Apparently, attackers will not stop attacking, and while they may not target individual users, they can easily target the media platforms to gain access to several personal records. There are two necessary security steps that the consumer must take: the first is to protect their accounts from direct attacks (via password security, personal VPNs, multi-factor authentication etc.) and to limit the amount and the use of personal data that they (inadvertently or otherwise) grant these media platforms.

Protecting your data and privacy

In recent years, one of the most important regulations regarding the media’s use of the personal data of consumers is the GDPR, which has forced platforms that collect personal data of their users towards the ethical use of such data, full disclosure of data use, and greater cybersecurity for consumer data protection.

The GDPR is heavily pro-consumer. It grants that users must explicitly consent to or at least be informed of the following by data-collecting companies:

  • Automated individual decision-making (making a decision solely by automated means without any human involvement); and
  • Profiling (automated processing of personal data to evaluate certain things about an individual). Profiling can be part of an automated decision-making process.

To protect your data from media platforms, you must first determine the level of risk involved in your use, and that begins by finding out types of (personal) data these media companies collect through their users and how they use the data.

Based on the provisions of the GDPR, media platforms now have options for users to download their entire data from when they started using the platform. This grants users knowledge of how much the platform knows about them.

If you are uncomfortable with your data being collected, you can also choose to close your account and delete your data from the platform’s database forever. However, if you don’t want to take such a drastic step, you can instead toggle data collection and use options available on the platform.

For instance, deleting your viewing history on Netflix or YouTube prevents the respective platform from showing you personalized recommendations. Likewise, social media platforms have multiple options regarding data control.

It is important to explore these options on each platform in order to determine what personal data the platform can collect about you and how it can use it.

Experienced Digital Marketer and PR Specialist, Joseph Chukwube is the Founder of Digitage, a professional digital marketing agency. He's enthusiastic about all things business and technology and he shares informative blog posts about cybersecurity, e-commerce and lifestyle. He's a published writer on Search Engine Watch, ReadWrite, The HuffingtonPost and more.

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