full transcript
"From the Ted Talk by Madhumita Murgia: How data brokers sell your identity"

Unscramble the Blue Letters

I'm a 26-year-old British Asian woman working in media and living in a South West postcode in lndoon. I have previously lived at two addresses in ssseux, and two others in North East London. While growing up, my filamy lived in a detehcad house in Kent and took holidays to India every year. They mostly did their shopping online at Ocado, gave money to charities and read the Financial Times. Now, I live in a recently converted flat with a private landlord, and I have a heasumote. I'm interested in mioves and sttparus, and I have taken five holidays in the past 12 months, mostly to visit firedns abroad. I'm about to buy flights within 14 days. My annual salary is between 30,000 and 40,000 pounds a year. I don't own a TV or watch any sehdeucld ponrmimgarg, but I do enjoy on-demand services such as Netflix or Now TV. Last week, I pssead through Upper Street in North London on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. I cook a little, but I tend to eat out or get takeaways often. My favourite cuisines are Thai and Mexican food. I don't own any furniture, and I don't have any children. On wheignktes, I tend to sepnd the evngneis with my university friends having dinner. I usually buy my gorierces at Sainsbury's but only because it's on my way home. I don't care for cars or own one. I don't like any form of housework, and I have a cleaner who lets herself in while I'm at work. On Fridays, you'll find me at the pub after work. At home, I'm far more likely to be biroswng restaurant reviews rather than managing my finances or looking at property prices online. I like the idea of living abroad someday. I peferr to work as a team than on my own. I'm ambitious, and it's important to me that my many tnkhis I'm doing well. I'm rarely swayed by others' views. This motley set of characteristics, attitudes, thoughts, and desires come very close to defining me as a person. It is also a precise and accurate description of what a group of companies I had never herad of, personal data trackers, had learned about me. My journey to uvoncer what data companies knew began in 2014, when I became curious about the murky world of data brokers, a multi-billion-pound industry of companies that collect, pagkcae, and sell dleeiatd profiles of individuals based on their online and offline behaviours. I decided to wtrie about it for Wired Magazine. What I found out shocked me, and reinforced my anxieties about a profit-led system deegnsid to log behaviours every time we interact with the connected world. I already knew about my daily records being collected by services such as Google Maps, screah, foeaobck, or contactless credit card transactions. But you combine that with public information such as land registry, council tax, or voter records, along with my shopping habits and real-time health and location iofmantiron, and these bngein data sets begin to reveal a lot, such as whether you're optimistic, political, ambitious, or a risk-taker. Even as you're listening to me, you may be sedentary, but your smartphone can reveal your exact location, and even your pruoste. Your life is being converted into such a data package to be sold on. Ultimately, you are the product. onselbsity, we're all protected by data ptrioeotcn laws. In the UK, the law states that any paoersnl data set has to be stripped of identifiers such as your name or your National Insurance number. Personal data is considered anything that can be traced directly back to you. without the need for additional information. This doesn't mean it can't be sold on. It only means that they need your permission. Simple elxempas of personal data include your full credit card number, your bank statement, or a criminal record. However, I discovered that online anonymity is a complete myth. Particulars such as your postcode, your date of birth, and your gender can be traded freely and without your permission because they're not considered personal but pseudonymous. In other words, they can't be traced back to you without the need for additional information. So why does it matter if a bnuch of companies you've never heard of know your age or your postcode, you may think. Well, it matters quite a lot. About a dcdaee ago, Latanya Sweeney, a professor of privacy at Harvard University proved that about 87% of US citizens could be uniquely identified by just three facts about them: their zip code, their date of birth, and their gender. In the UK, where we have far fewer ctizneis srveiecd by much longer ptoecdoss, that probability is far higher. Professor Sweeney proved this in a rather cheeky way when William Weld, a former governor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the US ddeecid to suporpt the commercial release of 135,000 state employee health records along with their families, including his own. These rcoreds did not contain a name or a social security number, but did contain hundreds of fields of sensitive medical information including drugs prescribed, hospitalisations, and procedures prermefod on these eompeyles. For $20, Professor Sweeney purchased the voter records for Cambridge, Massachusetts, containing the nemas, zip ceods, daets of birth, and gender for every voter in the area, and then cross-referenced this with their hleath records. Within minutes, she had pinpointed Governor Welds' own health records. Only six people in Cambridge shared his date of btrih. Three of them were men. And he was the only one linvig in his zip code. Professor seweeny sent the gernoovr his health records in the post. (Laughter) Every day, we hear about new examples of companies dggiing ever deeepr into our personal lives. In the November US presidential election, a little-known British cmpoany known as Cambridge Analytica was tasked with winning the election for a certain candidate: danold Trump, using data atcalniys. The company employed cikooes oinlne to tacrk people around the web, logging every website visited, every search term typed, and every video watched. They also created a vairl Facebook quiz to dig into people's personalities, which was taken by over six million plpeoe. In total, they meangad to amass data on 220 million voting Americans with an average of about 5,000 pieces of data on each person. They then used this data to understand people's inner feelings and then targeted adverts to them on Facebook. Researchers have celald them a propaganda machine. It's not just large ciempnoas digging into your life; it's free apps and small startups as well. I realised on my phnoe that every time I logged fitness data into the app Endomondo, it was sharing my details including my location and gender with third-party advertisers. WebMD, a symptom cehrekcs app, was sharing even more sensitive information including the symptoms, procedures, and drugs viewed by users within its app with its third parties. Fitbit was sharing data with Yahoo. A pregnancy tracking app was selling on information about its users' ovulation cycles and fertility cycles with people or advertisers like InMobi. As long as my phone is turned on, my location can be tracked, not just by the obvious apps like Google Maps, but a whole host of unrelated siceervs from Uber to twtetir, Photos, Snapchat, TripAdvisor, and others. You're not even safe in your own home. In 2015, Samsung was found to be recording people in the homes in which their TVs had been sold using their voice recognition systems. They have now adapted this so they only record when the vcioe roinoteicgn is activated. But the ceprey fotcar remains. Even services like Google and Facebook, tstured and used by bonliils around the world, have been accused of crossing the line. A few weeks ago, my husband and I were driving home from work and discussing where we should have dinner. I suggested a restaurant that I knew was somewhere on our way back and then opened up Google Maps to plot it. Turns out it was already marked on the map with a little bubble. That sinking feeling of being watched is not unique to me. There have been several anecdotal reports of people being shown arvetds based on things and crvoanoetinss they were having in real life, prioptnmg concerns that Facebook and Google are eavesdropping on people via their personal devices. To pceie together what all these companies knew about me, I sopke to a data profiler called Eyeota. Eyeota uses cookies to assign me to thousands of different categories, including my job, how many children I have, and whether I'm likely to buy Star Wars milbrmaoeia. (Laughter) They don't know my name, but they know more about me than my neighbours do. Eyeota also buys information from third parties such as the credit rating agency Experian, which amasses a massive database of 15 different demographic types and 66 lyeelitsfs, all based on people's post codes. Because Eyeota buys this information, it knows that I'm more likely to take taxis home rather than night buses late at nhigt and that I'm very, very unlikely to ever be found in a DIY store. (Laughter) It can then sell this information on to the highest bidder. Sometimes, lgrae data sets can be useful for the public good, for example for the use of health researchers or city and urabn planners. But most of this information being ccleoeltd is stuniased by advertisers and traded commercially. In fact, eMarketer has pceredtid that the online arsinteivdg industry, which is beasd almost completely on data targeting and tracking, will hit an all-time high of 77 billion dorlals this year. If you think you don't care about being unmasked, you may want to reconsider. Personalised browser ads may be harmless, but ceonnintcg disparate aspects of your life to predict your fturue behaviour could lead to unexpected consequences. For ictnnase, decisions on whether your child gets to go to a certain university or what price you pay for your home or car insurance premiums could be made based on data given to third parties that you never intended to, such as your own lifestyle habits or family members' aimnetls. In 2014, Ross Anderson, a pseosorfr of Privacy and sritcuey at Cambridge University found that the NHS had been sharing its hospitals' database, which included details of hospitalisations for every citizen in Britain with the Institute and Faculty of aitucaers, a body that was rsceireahng how likely people are to develop chronic illnesses at certain ages. Of course, this resulted in an isancere in health insurance pemimrus. As the amount of data that is collected increases elaxnpotelniy, it becomes much easier to iidetfny you. For example, your Fitbit measures our heart rate or your gait patterns and these can be used to estimate things like your height, your weight, or even your gender. These are details that are very hard to miimc or change. The data is no longer about you. It is you. Companies are also starting to perdcit future behaviours - for example, whether you're a trustworthy driver, a good employee, or a good credit risk, based on things like your siocal media activity, your health and fitness, or your home energy use. The more the companies know about you - where you live, how many children you have, what your medical ailments are, what you buy - your aityomnny becomes irrelevant. What's more, you lose your right to free choice, as companies make decisions on your behalf without your knowledge. Along my jouerny of discovery, my first reaction was shcok. I immediately wrote to my local cocniul and asked them to make my veotr records private. I made up a fake email address, and I setatrd registering with a fake age and geendr. I turned off targeted advertising, and I aeksd Facebook to send me all the information that they held on me, including things I had deleted, and spent hours pirnog over it obsessively. But after a few wekes I realised this was a pointless exercise. I couldn't be a digtail hermit. It wasn't realistic for me to stop using social mdeia, search and navigation apps, and my ihopne, all a part of mdoern life that I cherished and needed. Instead, I realised that the knowledge itself was empowering. Knowing all the different ways in which my data was being shared and collected made me more responsible about where I put it. For example, I seoptpd signing up to supposedly free services, for example, a VIP card at my local hairdresser or a discount coupon at your supermarket. Whenever I download an app, I make sure to check my sgttines to see what permissions it has. Anything that seems unnecessary like ascces to my location, I turn off. Ultimately, there is hope. As more of us begin to realise the extent of our data footprint, we will start to demand custody and control of this data. Some critics have even suggested that people be paid for their data in order to give them more control. This means it will become too expensive for companies, governments, and non-profits to recklessly mine and hold our data, and sell it on imlnaicsditeinry But until the data economy matures, and power moves back from the corporation to the individual, I have lost more than my anonymity. I have given up my right to self-determination and free choice. All I have left is my name. Thank you. (Applause)

Open Cloze

I'm a 26-year-old British Asian woman working in media and living in a South West postcode in ______. I have previously lived at two addresses in ______, and two others in North East London. While growing up, my ______ lived in a ________ house in Kent and took holidays to India every year. They mostly did their shopping online at Ocado, gave money to charities and read the Financial Times. Now, I live in a recently converted flat with a private landlord, and I have a _________. I'm interested in ______ and ________, and I have taken five holidays in the past 12 months, mostly to visit _______ abroad. I'm about to buy flights within 14 days. My annual salary is between 30,000 and 40,000 pounds a year. I don't own a TV or watch any _________ ___________, but I do enjoy on-demand services such as Netflix or Now TV. Last week, I ______ through Upper Street in North London on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. I cook a little, but I tend to eat out or get takeaways often. My favourite cuisines are Thai and Mexican food. I don't own any furniture, and I don't have any children. On __________, I tend to _____ the ________ with my university friends having dinner. I usually buy my _________ at Sainsbury's but only because it's on my way home. I don't care for cars or own one. I don't like any form of housework, and I have a cleaner who lets herself in while I'm at work. On Fridays, you'll find me at the pub after work. At home, I'm far more likely to be ________ restaurant reviews rather than managing my finances or looking at property prices online. I like the idea of living abroad someday. I ______ to work as a team than on my own. I'm ambitious, and it's important to me that my many ______ I'm doing well. I'm rarely swayed by others' views. This motley set of characteristics, attitudes, thoughts, and desires come very close to defining me as a person. It is also a precise and accurate description of what a group of companies I had never _____ of, personal data trackers, had learned about me. My journey to _______ what data companies knew began in 2014, when I became curious about the murky world of data brokers, a multi-billion-pound industry of companies that collect, _______, and sell ________ profiles of individuals based on their online and offline behaviours. I decided to _____ about it for Wired Magazine. What I found out shocked me, and reinforced my anxieties about a profit-led system ________ to log behaviours every time we interact with the connected world. I already knew about my daily records being collected by services such as Google Maps, ______, ________, or contactless credit card transactions. But you combine that with public information such as land registry, council tax, or voter records, along with my shopping habits and real-time health and location ___________, and these ______ data sets begin to reveal a lot, such as whether you're optimistic, political, ambitious, or a risk-taker. Even as you're listening to me, you may be sedentary, but your smartphone can reveal your exact location, and even your _______. Your life is being converted into such a data package to be sold on. Ultimately, you are the product. __________, we're all protected by data __________ laws. In the UK, the law states that any ________ data set has to be stripped of identifiers such as your name or your National Insurance number. Personal data is considered anything that can be traced directly back to you. without the need for additional information. This doesn't mean it can't be sold on. It only means that they need your permission. Simple ________ of personal data include your full credit card number, your bank statement, or a criminal record. However, I discovered that online anonymity is a complete myth. Particulars such as your postcode, your date of birth, and your gender can be traded freely and without your permission because they're not considered personal but pseudonymous. In other words, they can't be traced back to you without the need for additional information. So why does it matter if a _____ of companies you've never heard of know your age or your postcode, you may think. Well, it matters quite a lot. About a ______ ago, Latanya Sweeney, a professor of privacy at Harvard University proved that about 87% of US citizens could be uniquely identified by just three facts about them: their zip code, their date of birth, and their gender. In the UK, where we have far fewer ________ ________ by much longer _________, that probability is far higher. Professor Sweeney proved this in a rather cheeky way when William Weld, a former governor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the US _______ to _______ the commercial release of 135,000 state employee health records along with their families, including his own. These _______ did not contain a name or a social security number, but did contain hundreds of fields of sensitive medical information including drugs prescribed, hospitalisations, and procedures _________ on these _________. For $20, Professor Sweeney purchased the voter records for Cambridge, Massachusetts, containing the _____, zip _____, _____ of birth, and gender for every voter in the area, and then cross-referenced this with their ______ records. Within minutes, she had pinpointed Governor Welds' own health records. Only six people in Cambridge shared his date of _____. Three of them were men. And he was the only one ______ in his zip code. Professor _______ sent the ________ his health records in the post. (Laughter) Every day, we hear about new examples of companies _______ ever ______ into our personal lives. In the November US presidential election, a little-known British _______ known as Cambridge Analytica was tasked with winning the election for a certain candidate: ______ Trump, using data _________. The company employed _______ ______ to _____ people around the web, logging every website visited, every search term typed, and every video watched. They also created a _____ Facebook quiz to dig into people's personalities, which was taken by over six million ______. In total, they _______ to amass data on 220 million voting Americans with an average of about 5,000 pieces of data on each person. They then used this data to understand people's inner feelings and then targeted adverts to them on Facebook. Researchers have ______ them a propaganda machine. It's not just large _________ digging into your life; it's free apps and small startups as well. I realised on my _____ that every time I logged fitness data into the app Endomondo, it was sharing my details including my location and gender with third-party advertisers. WebMD, a symptom ________ app, was sharing even more sensitive information including the symptoms, procedures, and drugs viewed by users within its app with its third parties. Fitbit was sharing data with Yahoo. A pregnancy tracking app was selling on information about its users' ovulation cycles and fertility cycles with people or advertisers like InMobi. As long as my phone is turned on, my location can be tracked, not just by the obvious apps like Google Maps, but a whole host of unrelated ________ from Uber to _______, Photos, Snapchat, TripAdvisor, and others. You're not even safe in your own home. In 2015, Samsung was found to be recording people in the homes in which their TVs had been sold using their voice recognition systems. They have now adapted this so they only record when the _____ ___________ is activated. But the ______ ______ remains. Even services like Google and Facebook, _______ and used by ________ around the world, have been accused of crossing the line. A few weeks ago, my husband and I were driving home from work and discussing where we should have dinner. I suggested a restaurant that I knew was somewhere on our way back and then opened up Google Maps to plot it. Turns out it was already marked on the map with a little bubble. That sinking feeling of being watched is not unique to me. There have been several anecdotal reports of people being shown _______ based on things and _____________ they were having in real life, _________ concerns that Facebook and Google are eavesdropping on people via their personal devices. To _____ together what all these companies knew about me, I _____ to a data profiler called Eyeota. Eyeota uses cookies to assign me to thousands of different categories, including my job, how many children I have, and whether I'm likely to buy Star Wars ___________. (Laughter) They don't know my name, but they know more about me than my neighbours do. Eyeota also buys information from third parties such as the credit rating agency Experian, which amasses a massive database of 15 different demographic types and 66 __________, all based on people's post codes. Because Eyeota buys this information, it knows that I'm more likely to take taxis home rather than night buses late at _____ and that I'm very, very unlikely to ever be found in a DIY store. (Laughter) It can then sell this information on to the highest bidder. Sometimes, _____ data sets can be useful for the public good, for example for the use of health researchers or city and _____ planners. But most of this information being _________ is _________ by advertisers and traded commercially. In fact, eMarketer has _________ that the online ___________ industry, which is _____ almost completely on data targeting and tracking, will hit an all-time high of 77 billion _______ this year. If you think you don't care about being unmasked, you may want to reconsider. Personalised browser ads may be harmless, but __________ disparate aspects of your life to predict your ______ behaviour could lead to unexpected consequences. For ________, decisions on whether your child gets to go to a certain university or what price you pay for your home or car insurance premiums could be made based on data given to third parties that you never intended to, such as your own lifestyle habits or family members' ________. In 2014, Ross Anderson, a _________ of Privacy and ________ at Cambridge University found that the NHS had been sharing its hospitals' database, which included details of hospitalisations for every citizen in Britain with the Institute and Faculty of _________, a body that was ___________ how likely people are to develop chronic illnesses at certain ages. Of course, this resulted in an ________ in health insurance ________. As the amount of data that is collected increases _____________, it becomes much easier to ________ you. For example, your Fitbit measures our heart rate or your gait patterns and these can be used to estimate things like your height, your weight, or even your gender. These are details that are very hard to _____ or change. The data is no longer about you. It is you. Companies are also starting to _______ future behaviours - for example, whether you're a trustworthy driver, a good employee, or a good credit risk, based on things like your ______ media activity, your health and fitness, or your home energy use. The more the companies know about you - where you live, how many children you have, what your medical ailments are, what you buy - your _________ becomes irrelevant. What's more, you lose your right to free choice, as companies make decisions on your behalf without your knowledge. Along my _______ of discovery, my first reaction was _____. I immediately wrote to my local _______ and asked them to make my _____ records private. I made up a fake email address, and I _______ registering with a fake age and ______. I turned off targeted advertising, and I _____ Facebook to send me all the information that they held on me, including things I had deleted, and spent hours ______ over it obsessively. But after a few _____ I realised this was a pointless exercise. I couldn't be a _______ hermit. It wasn't realistic for me to stop using social _____, search and navigation apps, and my ______, all a part of ______ life that I cherished and needed. Instead, I realised that the knowledge itself was empowering. Knowing all the different ways in which my data was being shared and collected made me more responsible about where I put it. For example, I _______ signing up to supposedly free services, for example, a VIP card at my local hairdresser or a discount coupon at your supermarket. Whenever I download an app, I make sure to check my ________ to see what permissions it has. Anything that seems unnecessary like ______ to my location, I turn off. Ultimately, there is hope. As more of us begin to realise the extent of our data footprint, we will start to demand custody and control of this data. Some critics have even suggested that people be paid for their data in order to give them more control. This means it will become too expensive for companies, governments, and non-profits to recklessly mine and hold our data, and sell it on ________________ But until the data economy matures, and power moves back from the corporation to the individual, I have lost more than my anonymity. I have given up my right to self-determination and free choice. All I have left is my name. Thank you. (Applause)

Solution

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  38. donald
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  120. professor
  121. postcodes
  122. mimic
  123. spend

Original Text

I'm a 26-year-old British Asian woman working in media and living in a South West postcode in London. I have previously lived at two addresses in Sussex, and two others in North East London. While growing up, my family lived in a detached house in Kent and took holidays to India every year. They mostly did their shopping online at Ocado, gave money to charities and read the Financial Times. Now, I live in a recently converted flat with a private landlord, and I have a housemate. I'm interested in movies and startups, and I have taken five holidays in the past 12 months, mostly to visit friends abroad. I'm about to buy flights within 14 days. My annual salary is between 30,000 and 40,000 pounds a year. I don't own a TV or watch any scheduled programming, but I do enjoy on-demand services such as Netflix or Now TV. Last week, I passed through Upper Street in North London on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. I cook a little, but I tend to eat out or get takeaways often. My favourite cuisines are Thai and Mexican food. I don't own any furniture, and I don't have any children. On weeknights, I tend to spend the evenings with my university friends having dinner. I usually buy my groceries at Sainsbury's but only because it's on my way home. I don't care for cars or own one. I don't like any form of housework, and I have a cleaner who lets herself in while I'm at work. On Fridays, you'll find me at the pub after work. At home, I'm far more likely to be browsing restaurant reviews rather than managing my finances or looking at property prices online. I like the idea of living abroad someday. I prefer to work as a team than on my own. I'm ambitious, and it's important to me that my many thinks I'm doing well. I'm rarely swayed by others' views. This motley set of characteristics, attitudes, thoughts, and desires come very close to defining me as a person. It is also a precise and accurate description of what a group of companies I had never heard of, personal data trackers, had learned about me. My journey to uncover what data companies knew began in 2014, when I became curious about the murky world of data brokers, a multi-billion-pound industry of companies that collect, package, and sell detailed profiles of individuals based on their online and offline behaviours. I decided to write about it for Wired Magazine. What I found out shocked me, and reinforced my anxieties about a profit-led system designed to log behaviours every time we interact with the connected world. I already knew about my daily records being collected by services such as Google Maps, Search, Facebook, or contactless credit card transactions. But you combine that with public information such as land registry, council tax, or voter records, along with my shopping habits and real-time health and location information, and these benign data sets begin to reveal a lot, such as whether you're optimistic, political, ambitious, or a risk-taker. Even as you're listening to me, you may be sedentary, but your smartphone can reveal your exact location, and even your posture. Your life is being converted into such a data package to be sold on. Ultimately, you are the product. Ostensibly, we're all protected by data protection laws. In the UK, the law states that any personal data set has to be stripped of identifiers such as your name or your National Insurance number. Personal data is considered anything that can be traced directly back to you. without the need for additional information. This doesn't mean it can't be sold on. It only means that they need your permission. Simple examples of personal data include your full credit card number, your bank statement, or a criminal record. However, I discovered that online anonymity is a complete myth. Particulars such as your postcode, your date of birth, and your gender can be traded freely and without your permission because they're not considered personal but pseudonymous. In other words, they can't be traced back to you without the need for additional information. So why does it matter if a bunch of companies you've never heard of know your age or your postcode, you may think. Well, it matters quite a lot. About a decade ago, Latanya Sweeney, a professor of privacy at Harvard University proved that about 87% of US citizens could be uniquely identified by just three facts about them: their zip code, their date of birth, and their gender. In the UK, where we have far fewer citizens serviced by much longer postcodes, that probability is far higher. Professor Sweeney proved this in a rather cheeky way when William Weld, a former governor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the US decided to support the commercial release of 135,000 state employee health records along with their families, including his own. These records did not contain a name or a social security number, but did contain hundreds of fields of sensitive medical information including drugs prescribed, hospitalisations, and procedures performed on these employees. For $20, Professor Sweeney purchased the voter records for Cambridge, Massachusetts, containing the names, zip codes, dates of birth, and gender for every voter in the area, and then cross-referenced this with their health records. Within minutes, she had pinpointed Governor Welds' own health records. Only six people in Cambridge shared his date of birth. Three of them were men. And he was the only one living in his zip code. Professor Sweeney sent the governor his health records in the post. (Laughter) Every day, we hear about new examples of companies digging ever deeper into our personal lives. In the November US presidential election, a little-known British company known as Cambridge Analytica was tasked with winning the election for a certain candidate: Donald Trump, using data analytics. The company employed cookies online to track people around the web, logging every website visited, every search term typed, and every video watched. They also created a viral Facebook quiz to dig into people's personalities, which was taken by over six million people. In total, they managed to amass data on 220 million voting Americans with an average of about 5,000 pieces of data on each person. They then used this data to understand people's inner feelings and then targeted adverts to them on Facebook. Researchers have called them a propaganda machine. It's not just large companies digging into your life; it's free apps and small startups as well. I realised on my phone that every time I logged fitness data into the app Endomondo, it was sharing my details including my location and gender with third-party advertisers. WebMD, a symptom checkers app, was sharing even more sensitive information including the symptoms, procedures, and drugs viewed by users within its app with its third parties. Fitbit was sharing data with Yahoo. A pregnancy tracking app was selling on information about its users' ovulation cycles and fertility cycles with people or advertisers like InMobi. As long as my phone is turned on, my location can be tracked, not just by the obvious apps like Google Maps, but a whole host of unrelated services from Uber to Twitter, Photos, Snapchat, TripAdvisor, and others. You're not even safe in your own home. In 2015, Samsung was found to be recording people in the homes in which their TVs had been sold using their voice recognition systems. They have now adapted this so they only record when the voice recognition is activated. But the creepy factor remains. Even services like Google and Facebook, trusted and used by billions around the world, have been accused of crossing the line. A few weeks ago, my husband and I were driving home from work and discussing where we should have dinner. I suggested a restaurant that I knew was somewhere on our way back and then opened up Google Maps to plot it. Turns out it was already marked on the map with a little bubble. That sinking feeling of being watched is not unique to me. There have been several anecdotal reports of people being shown adverts based on things and conversations they were having in real life, prompting concerns that Facebook and Google are eavesdropping on people via their personal devices. To piece together what all these companies knew about me, I spoke to a data profiler called Eyeota. Eyeota uses cookies to assign me to thousands of different categories, including my job, how many children I have, and whether I'm likely to buy Star Wars memorabilia. (Laughter) They don't know my name, but they know more about me than my neighbours do. Eyeota also buys information from third parties such as the credit rating agency Experian, which amasses a massive database of 15 different demographic types and 66 lifestyles, all based on people's post codes. Because Eyeota buys this information, it knows that I'm more likely to take taxis home rather than night buses late at night and that I'm very, very unlikely to ever be found in a DIY store. (Laughter) It can then sell this information on to the highest bidder. Sometimes, large data sets can be useful for the public good, for example for the use of health researchers or city and urban planners. But most of this information being collected is sustained by advertisers and traded commercially. In fact, eMarketer has predicted that the online advertising industry, which is based almost completely on data targeting and tracking, will hit an all-time high of 77 billion dollars this year. If you think you don't care about being unmasked, you may want to reconsider. Personalised browser ads may be harmless, but connecting disparate aspects of your life to predict your future behaviour could lead to unexpected consequences. For instance, decisions on whether your child gets to go to a certain university or what price you pay for your home or car insurance premiums could be made based on data given to third parties that you never intended to, such as your own lifestyle habits or family members' ailments. In 2014, Ross Anderson, a professor of Privacy and Security at Cambridge University found that the NHS had been sharing its hospitals' database, which included details of hospitalisations for every citizen in Britain with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, a body that was researching how likely people are to develop chronic illnesses at certain ages. Of course, this resulted in an increase in health insurance premiums. As the amount of data that is collected increases exponentially, it becomes much easier to identify you. For example, your Fitbit measures our heart rate or your gait patterns and these can be used to estimate things like your height, your weight, or even your gender. These are details that are very hard to mimic or change. The data is no longer about you. It is you. Companies are also starting to predict future behaviours - for example, whether you're a trustworthy driver, a good employee, or a good credit risk, based on things like your social media activity, your health and fitness, or your home energy use. The more the companies know about you - where you live, how many children you have, what your medical ailments are, what you buy - your anonymity becomes irrelevant. What's more, you lose your right to free choice, as companies make decisions on your behalf without your knowledge. Along my journey of discovery, my first reaction was shock. I immediately wrote to my local council and asked them to make my voter records private. I made up a fake email address, and I started registering with a fake age and gender. I turned off targeted advertising, and I asked Facebook to send me all the information that they held on me, including things I had deleted, and spent hours poring over it obsessively. But after a few weeks I realised this was a pointless exercise. I couldn't be a digital hermit. It wasn't realistic for me to stop using social media, search and navigation apps, and my iPhone, all a part of modern life that I cherished and needed. Instead, I realised that the knowledge itself was empowering. Knowing all the different ways in which my data was being shared and collected made me more responsible about where I put it. For example, I stopped signing up to supposedly free services, for example, a VIP card at my local hairdresser or a discount coupon at your supermarket. Whenever I download an app, I make sure to check my settings to see what permissions it has. Anything that seems unnecessary like access to my location, I turn off. Ultimately, there is hope. As more of us begin to realise the extent of our data footprint, we will start to demand custody and control of this data. Some critics have even suggested that people be paid for their data in order to give them more control. This means it will become too expensive for companies, governments, and non-profits to recklessly mine and hold our data, and sell it on indiscriminately But until the data economy matures, and power moves back from the corporation to the individual, I have lost more than my anonymity. I have given up my right to self-determination and free choice. All I have left is my name. Thank you. (Applause)

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
personal data 4
health records 4
voter records 3
professor sweeney 3
google maps 3

Important Words

  1. access
  2. accurate
  3. accused
  4. activated
  5. activity
  6. actuaries
  7. adapted
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