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Privacy Issues

With all of these people out there looking around, it’s probably not surprising that your personal privacy is at risk. Advertisers and marketing people are always trying to gather more data so they can target their marketing to your tastes and introduce you to products that fit your lifestyle. (Of course, this is their picture of your tastes and lifestyle, based on snippets of information. Regardless of how good they are, they’ll get some things wrong, and you’ll be staring at advertisements that mean nothing to you.) But what can be worse are the people who collect your data to sell or who gather information about you that can be used in more harmful ways. For example, what if someone monitored the Web sites you visit and found you taking an interest in cancer information. They might report this to your insurance company, who might raise your rates or drop your coverage for fear of having to pay for cancer treatment. This example is completely fabricated, but it could happen. There are many additional reasons for protecting this information, and, as they say, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

One example that actually occurs and often goes unknown for a long time is identity theft. If someone gets your Social Security number or taxpayer ID, they can get state identification as you in another state. With that, they can get credit cards, apartments, whatever—all in your name. They can request additional data about you by using this identification, and use that data to take out loans, buy cars, rent hotels, or travel. There is no real limit to what they can do, because to the rest of the world, they are you. As long as they stop using your identification and move on before you catch them, they can get away with this type of thing for a long time. People have had credit ratings ruined, houses foreclosed on, and incredible hassles from cases of identity theft, and this is only getting easier as more people use computers and have that data exposed online.


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