Data mining is the process by which computers discover patterns in datasets in order to extract knowledge. In this context, it might be better to think of it in terms of analytics; it can be used to predict behaviours, make decisions and reach new understandings.
Privacy issues arise before the actual mining process takes place, as datasets are prepared – the threat to privacy arises as data are aggregated, potentially making identification of individuals possible. Even ‘anonymized’ datasets can be used to identify individuals.
How much do you reveal when you browse the internet? As the video indicates, it might be more than you think. Data mining involves compiling your personal information into larger consumer categories and deriving patterns that can be used to encourage sales and increase profits for large corporations like Starbucks and Nike. Do you feel comfortable about your online habits being tracked and analyzed?
The information that is gathered about you through data mining is arguably used to improve your overall browsing experience, but it’s important to know how your behaviour is being tracked. To discover what Google knows about you, check out this webpage. And while you’re there, consider if opt-outing from their personalized advertisements is right for you. To opt-out from Google Analytics tracking your data on external websites, you can download this add-on.
If you feel really uncomfortable with data mining, you can also use the anonymous browsing feature from within your Internet browser to conceal your identity. Your Internet Service Provider will still know the sites you visited, but this information will not be sold to advertisers.
But perhaps most concerning for students is the tracking of online behaviour through University course resources like Connect. Students are often unaware that their instructors can view analytics about their use of these websites. Did you know that your professor had statistics about how many modules you actually opened and how long you spent reading the comments in the discussion group when grading your last online course?
- Speaking Openly
- Can There Ever Really Be Privacy in the Cloud? | Mashable.com
- Online Privacy, Online Publicity: Youth do more to protect their reputation than their information | MediaSmarts (2011)
- On Facebook, Deciding Who Knows You’re a Dog | NY Times (2014)
- Think Before You Share – A Guide for Teens | Mediasmarts.ca (2013)
- Why You Should Think Twice Before Shaming Anyone on Social Media | Wired.com (2013)
- Should Reddit be Blamed for the Spreading of a Smear? | NY Times (2013)
- How Protecting Your Privacy Could Make You the Bad Guy | Wired.com (2013)
- Attention, Shoppers: Store Is Tracking Your Cell | NY Times (2013)
- BC Privacy Act
- How Data Mining is Changing Political Campaigns | CBC News (2015)
- Data Mining | CBC Player (2016)
- Data Mining| Huffington Post
- Hasan Cavusoglu on the “Internet of Things” and the high stakes of digital security | UBC Sauder School of Business (2016)
The Digital Tattoo Project encourages critical discussion on topics surrounding digital citizenship and online identity. There are no correct answers and every person will view these topics from a different perspective. Be sure to complete the previous sections before answering the questions.
- What do you think should be done to protect our privacy?
- Are you aware when data on your behaviour is being collected, or why and how it’ll be used?
- Do you know who has access to this information, or how secure it is?