Taking Control of Your Personal Data
Jennifer Golbeck is a Professor in the College of Information Studies and Director of the Social Intelligence Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park. She received an AB in Economics and an SB and SM in Computer Science at the University of Chicago, as well as a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. Professor Golbeck began studying social media from the moment it emerged on the web, and she is one of the world’s foremost experts in the field. Her research has influenced industry, government, and the military. She is a pioneer in the field of social data analytics and discovering people’s hidden attributes from their online behavior, and she is a leader in creating human-friendly security and privacy systems.
Professor Golbeck is the author of several print and online publications, including the books Analyzing the Social Web, Online Harassment, Introduction to Social Media Investigation: A Hands-on Approach, and Computing with Social Trust. She is a frequent contributor on NPR. Her TED Talk on what social media “likes” can reveal was featured in TED’s 2014 Year in Ideas.
01: How Your Data Tells Secrets
You probably know that anything you post on the internet is fair game; it can be used by advertisers, political parties, and others to target you with messages. Learn what else they use—from scratches on your camera lens in your pictures to a “like” from a friend-of-a-friend—to learn about you in unexpected detail and to predict your future behavior with surprising accuracy.
02: The Mechanics of Data Harvesting
No matter how careful you are about your online presence, information can be uncovered about you from data you didn’t even know was being collected. One Washington Post reporter discovered that within one week, 5,400 hidden apps and trackers had received data from his phone! Learn some steps you can take to limit access to your personal information.
03: Privacy Preferences: It’s All about You
How much do you care about your privacy? How concerned are you that specific individuals or groups could access your data? Examine why you must honestly identify your privacy profile before determining how to protect your online presence. Then, you can explore the privacy options that best meet your needs, knowing that it’s always a tradeoff between privacy and convenience.
04: The Upside of Personal Data Use
We tend to be comfortable with the internet “knowing” about us when we understand how it acquired our data and how it’s being used. While ads geared to our purchase history might be annoying, we don’t find them nefarious. But you’ll be shocked to learn just how valuable those “recommender” algorithms are to the companies that own them.
05: Online Tracking: Yes, You’re Being Followed
You don’t have to post information about yourself on a social media site to leave a trail of personal information; you’re unwittingly doing that every single time you visit a website—any website. Your IP address, cookies, browser fingerprinting, and more, create and track an electronic trail of your activities. Explore how you can block these trackers and hide your web activity to protect your privacy.
06: Nowhere to Hide? Privacy under Surveillance
When you accepted that car-tracking device from your auto insurance company, you chose to exchange some privacy for potential discounts. But you’ll be surprised to learn about the many other choices you make that you did not know could invade privacy—from using a medical device in your own bedroom to visiting the directory kiosk in a shopping mall, and much more.
07: Consent: The Heart of Privacy Control
When was the last time you thoroughly read and understood the privacy policies of your social media platforms? If you’re like most people, the answer is “never.” But how can you control your personal information if you don’t understand what you’re consenting to? Explore the myriad ways in which a lack of transparency has created societal harm in the past—and potential solutions.
08: Data Scandals and the Lessons They Teach
The website has assured you that your data is secure, so what can go wrong? Learn what the Cambridge Analytica, Google Buzz, and Ashley Madison scandals, among others, have taught us about data security. These debacles resulted in more than just personal inconvenience. Although we can never know the full extent of their effects, we do know lives were at stake.
09: The Dark Web: Where Privacy Rules
Is there any way to keep your comings and goings on the internet completely private? The answer might be the ominous-sounding dark web—not accessible from regular web browsers and not indexed by search engines. Explore the dark web and its Tor browser. Learn exactly how they protect your privacy and why you might, or might not, want to go that route.
10: Algorithmic Bias: When AI Gets It Wrong
Algorithms are built to learn from the vast amount of data collected about us for a variety of purposes, including significant decisions addressing employment, mortgage lending, and more. Discover how both the data and the algorithms can include accidental bias. Learn how this bias can impact people’s lives, and what steps can be taken to address the issue.
11: Privacy on the Global Stage
Europeans legally own all data about themselves, and companies must comply with their wishes. In the United States, two-party communications are protected, but third-party communications (e.g., on Facebook) are not. In China, with an intrusive government, citizens have no expectations of privacy. Explore how these different privacy paradigms affect daily life—from bank loans to dating.
12: Navigating the Future of Personal Data
Examine the case of DNA and the fascinating effects of its changing access, use, and expected privacy—from interesting personal information to help in crime fighting to discrimination. With technology changing so quickly, can any real privacy assurances ever be made? Explore the California Consumer Privacy Act and the ways in which that law could affect all of us, in any U.S. state.