Your Data Exhaust May Precede You

shutterstock_244598923Data Exhaust and You!

You are what you excrete.

This may be an unpalatable thought, but it’s as true in what we eat as in what we consume on the internet.

What we spew out from our internet interactions is fodder for the Social Media apps, tools, and websites we use to attempt to tailor experiences just for us. Or, at least that’s what they would like you to believe. There is some truth to this, but the reality is that we are giving up a lot of our data about our personal and professional lives very freely. When you click OK on that long bit of legalese you chose to opt-in to those terms of use.

When was the last time you read a TOU Agreement?
Where TOU = Terms of Use
If you are like most people … you never have. And, in a sense, the Social Media apps and other sites you interact with are counting on that.

Generally we just click through the TOU on Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Disney, and other businesses or apps where we choose to interact. Of course, these businesses expect that and as a result they might be taking more away that you would have ever guessed.

If you want to peruse a few of them take a look at the links below. Be warned, what you read may surprise you. What you agreed to may shock you. And, it should.

I’m not posting these to cause a panic or to point the finger at any of these companies. They also need to protect themselves, but they take some liberties that might be more than you expected.

Just Be Aware. When you opt-in you are agreeing to leave behind some pieces of you and your experiences. Those Pieces of You are used to evaluate your activities and to make inferences about you and your preferences.

What are you leaving behind?

Every interaction on the internet has some sort of tracer. Yes, there are options for in-private and incognito browser experiences. But, guess what? Your internet history is still going through an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and that ISP still knows what’s going through their pipes.

You may be thinking … Uh Oh! As you try to ignore that feeling of fear that just crossed your mind from your most recent internet search.

Just realize that EVERYTHING is tracking in some way, shape or form.

And deal with it.

What are you leaving behind … And leading with?

When you search you leave cookies and other traces of your search experience.

The content you leave behind helps paint a picture of WHAT you like, WHAT you share and also WHEN you like and share information. This is not all doom and gloom. It’s just that the data you share and leave behind paints a picture of you.

One way you can deal with it is just to be aware. Being aware that what you leave behind can impact your ability to be hired and may even provide information that leads to being fired.

Note: Your data from email and other content may be protected by a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or other means of encryption. So, your corporate data is likely a bit more secure than your every day, run of the mill internet search with the browser of your choice.

What does this mean for your career?

  • Getting a Job – As you are interviewing for jobs, whether it’s your first job or 20th job people will peruse your social media feeds and there are apps available to do this and combine results with other information they find online.
  • Sharing Information – What you share likely says a lot more about you than you might think. Generally, I’d say this is a good thing and an OK thing to know. However, if you are only sharing pictures of a specific cause or your favorite pet just realize that’s what people will see. If you are cool with that … great.
  • Keeping Confidences – There is nothing secret on the internet. If you broke a confidence people will figure it out. Pro Tip: Keep Confidences!

What you post precedes you. Be aware that your content – whether well intentioned or completely misguided will be stuck with your name like a wad of chewing gum to the bottom of a shoe.

Note: There are some rules and regulations being proposed to that will allow / force vendors to create a “Forget Me” option for content that has been stored about you. Keep in mind … there is NO DELETE KEY on the internet. As we’ve see with the recent hack at Ashley Madison.

Beacons and The Opt-in Economy

Some of this will change in the future. As I have written about before there are changes coming with the Rise of Beacons and The Opt-in Economy. Where you will choose to leave beacons behind (kind of like a more modern version of a cookie) and you will interact with beacons in businesses. Where, for example, a Target store will have beacons that can be actively listening for a signal you choose to emit. That beacon will, with your permission, provide information that you choose to receive.

This is what I call The Opt-In Economy. Where the individual will have a lot more control over what information they share, when they share it, who they share it with, and for how long it can be shared.

Until then … be aware that what you search for, what you click on and what you share is being tracked, monitored, sliced & diced to try and gain some insight into you … the user.

This not all bad. It’s just something everyone should be aware of and realize what some of the implications might be. If you plan on working, dating and going out in public now or in the future … being aware of your digital exhaust is important.

The reality is we all leave digital exhaust. Just be wise in what you leave behind. Because in many cases it will define you.