What is Considered Private Information on the Internet?
Internet privacy involves how your personally identifiable information (“PII”) is handled by online companies, including how the companies acquire, store, sell, display, disclose, and otherwise use your PII.
PII refers to any information that can be used to identify you, such as age, physical address, name, birthdate, social security number, etc. Other forms of PII may also include non-specific identifiers such as GPS tracking data used by apps and software to track your behavior while visiting websites.
How is my Information being gathered by companies on the Internet?
Your PII is being gathered from the internet in various ways. For example, when you make an online purchase, many companies are storing your information from the online forms used to make the purchase. Same thing when you book a service using the internet. The companies then use your PII to target you with additional advertisements on similar products or services, and/or sell your PII to other companies.
In addition, there are companies that track which websites you visit and then use the information to send you advertisements based on your web browsing history. Similarly, companies are using your online presence to observe your behavior, such as browsing logs, search queries, and contents of social media profiles. Companies also “scrape” the internet to gather information about you, such as your photos for facial recognition. This data gathering, however, creates significant privacy concerns. Fortunately, as stated below, several laws provide you with remedies if a company misuses your PII.
What can I do if a company sold my private information without my consent or failed to keep my private information secure?
Several laws provide you with a right to privacy and control over your PII. For example, in order to provide you with greater privacy protections, among other things, most large organizations are required to:
- Inform you about when and how your data is collected and give you the right to access, correct, and delete information;
- Implement and maintain reasonable data security measures;
- Publish privacy policies and follow those policies;
- Obtain your consent prior to collecting, processing, using, sharing, or disclosing your PII; and
- Timely notify you of a data breach affecting your PII.
Similarly, organizations are not allowed to obtain or use your biometric information, such as your faceprint (from a photograph) or your fingerprint, without your express consent.
If you feel an organization has mishandled your PII in any way, you may be able to hold the company accountable for damages and penalties.