There’s a race to get your personal data and it has nothing to do with terrorists, identity theft or spying. It has to do with social media corporations and their profits.
Social media outlets like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare, etc. base their corporate value and user products on how well they know their users (that’s you). They want to know what sites you visit, what you buy online and what you search for. That way they can serve you up with better targeted ads (show you things you are more likely to buy), and give you more targeted search results (trim your Google search results).
These privacy concerns prompted some Congressional investigations, but no legislation has been generated as of yet. Except for very limited areas (medical history is one) these companies are basically on the honor system when it comes to what they collect.
How to Protect Yourself
One of the most basic steps to protecting yourself from this type of data collection is to logout of these services once you’re done using them. If you’re logged out, your data becomes anonymous, and not tied to your account directly.
If you’re like me, you login as you go along and you may not remember what you’ve logged into. In many cases your browser will keep you logged in for weeks. For this there’s a fix: Clear your Browser Cache.
Clearing your browser cache makes your browser forget everything its done online like where you went, where you’re logged in and it will delete all your cookies so you can’t be tracked, at least temporarily.
There is a downside for some of us…
For those of us that can’t go without their Facebook fix, this may be impractical.
Before you clear your cache, think of your browsing habits. Are you used to just posting on Facebook and Google+ all day? Do you depend on your browser history to remember where you were recently, rather than bookmarks? Clearing your cache will change how you do things. All your history and logins will be gone. You’ll have to remember your passwords so you can login when you want to post, and bookmark places you might want to go back to.
This simplicity is what Google and Facebook are depending on. They want you to take the easy way out and stay logged in so they can track what you do on a long term basis.
So the choice is yours. While logging out and clearing your cache periodically won’t protect you from everything, it can keep Google and Facebook from tailoring what you see dependant on your browsing history. It will also keep you from unwittingly helping them sell ads based on your surfing habits.