How Much Online Privacy do we Really Have? And For How Long?

How Much Online Privacy do we Really Have? And For How Long?
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Editor’s Note: Russ Warner is CEO of ContentWatch, maker of the top-rated desktop and mobile web filter Net Nanny. He is used as an expert source in the national press on a regular basis and speaks regularly on the topic of Internet Safety.

The Future

It’s 2016. Your company posts a job opening for a Chief Marketing Officer position. After gathering resumes for this critical hire, the VP of Human Resources inputs candidates’ names into the “Candidate Predictability” web portal. This is an online service providing real-time reports that predict the outcome of hiring an employee (or accepting a student applicant or extending a line of credit or insuring a driver, etc.).

Candidate Predictability is a unique cloud-based service that quickly analyzes over 250,000 data sources including social and business networking sites, blogs, news services, information networks, government websites, and banking and credit card data, both domestic and international.

Within seconds, the report you chose on the candidates predicts with a high degree of accuracy the outcome of hiring a specific person. It includes predictions based on a variety of data, including medical, social, and historical employment records. The VP of HR only has to make a few calls to schedule interviews with three finalists – to ensure personalities are in line with corporate culture.

The challenges of the past related to hiring are mostly resolved with this tool. You breathe a sigh of relief knowing you are about to make the best decision, based on highly complex data models. And these models are very accurate.

How Does it Work?

How does Candidate Predictability manage this slight of hand? It’s quite simple. It’s a tool that analyzes past behavior, medical information, spending patterns, and information posted online in social media sites.

By analyzing multi-thousands of details about a person, the model determines the costs associated and return on investment for a specific person. The data model has been created by the best minds, including mathematical, psychological, statistical, medical, and social. It’s been shown that we basically repeat our behaviors and we (and our family members) disclose or consume far too much information online. And the organizations whose web sites we visit or with whom we bank or do business are selling our data and patterns to each other.

Think about it, how much information have you already publicly posted online…Linkedin, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Mint, search engines, blogs, emails, or by visiting web sites, banking sites, by using a shopping cart, and even apps that you use?

Have you ever mentioned your political views? Musical interests? Spoken of chronic health issues? Sleeping habits? Long weekends in Vegas? Drinks, foods, or pills you like? Where you vacation? Your car? Your house, neighborhood, or city? Your spouse, date or partner? Your high school or college? Sports teams of interest? Employers and employment details? Projects? Media you stream or rent? Speeding tickets? Dangerous activities like helicopter skiing or sky diving? Web sites you love? Ever used an app to track your diet or weight?

And what about all public or governmental records about you?

You get the picture. The Candidate Predictability model reviews how you behave, write, work, rest, eat, drink, love, medicate and recreate.

What Does This Mean?

Now, to be truthful, Candidate Predictability doesn’t really exist yet. But this idea is not implausible. There are data-mining companies used to track visitors’ online activities to better advertise. Police departments and repo companies use license plate scanners to photograph cars and their occupants. Locations and times are noted.

Google already has amazing search technology, but it is even more interesting to know that Google and the CIA have invested in a Swedish company called Recorded Future. This is a real company that creates predictions based on public information. The company’s mantra listed on their site: “We identify the events being discussed: past, present, and future.”

I’m not suggesting we can predict or escape the future, but we can be smarter now about the type and amount of information we post online, at home and a work. Employers can prevent some of the pitfalls by installing content filtering or other data security solutions to monitor Internet or data usage. It’s a start.

Note: This story is “mostly” fictitious. Any correlation to real events or people is coincidental.