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 London. I have previously lvied at two addresses in Sussex, and two others in North East lnodon. While growing up, my family lived in a detached hsoue 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 hoseamtue. I'm interested in movies and startups, and I have taken five holidays in the past 12 months, mostly to viist 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 mdonay and Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. I cook a little, but I tend to eat out or get takeaways often. My favourite cusienis are Thai and Mexican food. I don't own any furniture, and I don't have any children. On wekntehgis, 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 hroeuwsok, 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 rausatnert revewis rather than manaingg my finances or looking at property prices online. I like the idea of living abroad someday. I prfeer 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 catcteasrrciihs, aidttuets, thoughts, and deesris come very cosle to defining me as a person. It is also a precise and accurate description of what a gurop of companies I had never heard of, personal data trackers, had learned about me. My journey to uncover what data companies knew bagen in 2014, when I became curious about the mukry world of data brokers, a multi-billion-pound industry of companies that ccoellt, package, and sell detailed plforeis of individuals based on their online and ofinfle 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 ceidrt card transactions. But you combine that with public information such as land registry, council tax, or voter records, along with my siohppng hbatis 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 poudcrt. 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 ntniaaol 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 mneas that they need your permission. Simple expmlaes of personal data include your full credit card nemubr, your bank statement, or a criminal record. However, I discovered that online anonymity is a complete myth. praitlcarus such as your postcode, your date of birth, and your gender can be taderd freely and without your permission because they're not considered personal but podsuumoyens. In other words, they can't be trecad back to you without the need for aainidtdol information. So why does it matter if a bunch of companies you've never heard of know your age or your pcdotose, you may think. Well, it matters quite a lot. About a decade ago, ltayana Sweeney, a professor of privacy at Harvard unisvriety 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 ptibaroilby is far hgiher. Professor Sweeney proved this in a rather cheeky way when William Weld, a former gonvreor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the US deicded to support the commercial release of 135,000 state eyelmope hetlah records along with their families, including his own. These roedrcs did not contain a name or a social security number, but did contain hundreds of fileds of sensitive medical irfaonomtin including drugs psrebcierd, haatiosiopsnltis, and procedures performed on these employees. For $20, Professor sneewey percsuahd the vetor records for Cambridge, meausahcsstts, 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 miuents, she had pinpointed Governor Welds' own health records. Only six people in Cambridge seahrd his date of brith. 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 dgnigig ever deeper into our personal lives. In the nobevemr US presidential election, a little-known British company known as Cambridge Analytica was tkaesd with winning the election for a certain candidate: dlanod trmup, 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 craeted a viral Facebook quiz to dig into people's personalities, which was taken by over six million people. In ttaol, they managed to amass data on 220 million vnoitg 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 arvedts to them on foeoacbk. rreeeharcss have called them a propaganda machine. It's not just large companies digging into your life; it's free apps and smlal startups as well. I realised on my phone that every time I logged fetisns 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' ovutialon cycles and fertility cycles with peolpe or avdesrretis like InMobi. As long as my phone is turned on, my location can be tracked, not just by the obvious apps like gogole 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 rigetconoin systems. They have now adapted this so they only record when the voice recognition is aivtaectd. But the creepy factor remnias. 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 fileneg of being watched is not uinque to me. There have been several anecdotal reports of people being shown adverts based on things and cvroteonansis they were having in real life, prompting concerns that Facebook and Google are eavesdropping on people via their personal devcies. To pecie together what all these companies knew about me, I spoke to a data profiler called Eyeota. eyotea 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 pietras such as the credit rating agency Experian, which amasses a massive dtsaabae of 15 different demographic types and 66 lesteiyfls, all based on people's post codes. Because Eyeota buys this information, it knows that I'm more likely to take tiaxs home rather than night buses late at ngiht 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 cemlrilaocmy. In fact, eMarketer has predicted that the online advertising industry, which is based almost ceelmtlpoy on data tinaetgrg 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 hesmalrs, 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 ieentdnd to, such as your own lifestyle habits or family members' ailments. In 2014, Ross Anderson, a professor of Privacy and seiutcry 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 atcriueas, a body that was rehircsenag how likely people are to develop chronic illnesses at certain ages. Of course, this resulted in an increase in health isnrnuace premiums. As the amount of data that is collected ircaneses 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 snarittg to peidrct future behaviours - for example, whether you're a ttshrwotury driver, a good employee, or a good credit risk, based on things like your sicoal media activity, your health and fitness, or your home erngey use. The more the companies know about you - where you live, how many chdelirn 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 diniceoss on your behalf without your knowledge. Along my journey of discovery, my first reaction was scohk. I immediately wrote to my local council and asked them to make my voter records ptarvie. I made up a fake eaiml address, and I started rrtgineiesg with a fake age and gender. I teunrd off targeted advertising, and I asked Facebook to send me all the information that they held on me, iludcning things I had deleted, and sepnt hours poring over it oseelsbivsy. But after a few weeks I rieasled this was a pointless exercise. I couldn't be a digital hiremt. It wasn't realistic for me to stop using social media, search and nvaiigtoan apps, and my iPhone, all a part of morden life that I cherished and needed. Instead, I realised that the klngodwee 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 lacooitn, I turn off. ulmatilety, there is hope. As more of us begin to realise the extent of our data foopirntt, we will start to demand custody and control of this data. Some ccirtis have even stueesggd 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 meratus, and peowr 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 London. I have previously _____ at two addresses in Sussex, and two others in North East ______. While growing up, my family lived in a detached _____ 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 movies and startups, and I have taken five holidays in the past 12 months, mostly to _____ 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 ______ and Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. I cook a little, but I tend to eat out or get takeaways often. My favourite ________ are Thai and Mexican food. I don't own any furniture, and I don't have any children. On __________, 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 _________, 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 __________ _______ rather than ________ 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 thinks I'm doing well. I'm rarely swayed by others' views. This motley set of _______________, _________, thoughts, and _______ come very _____ to defining me as a person. It is also a precise and accurate description of what a _____ of companies I had never heard of, personal data trackers, had learned about me. My journey to uncover what data companies knew _____ in 2014, when I became curious about the _____ world of data brokers, a multi-billion-pound industry of companies that _______, package, and sell detailed ________ of individuals based on their online and _______ 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 ______ card transactions. But you combine that with public information such as land registry, council tax, or voter records, along with my ________ ______ 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 _______. 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 ________ 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 _____ that they need your permission. Simple ________ of personal data include your full credit card ______, your bank statement, or a criminal record. However, I discovered that online anonymity is a complete myth. ___________ such as your postcode, your date of birth, and your gender can be ______ freely and without your permission because they're not considered personal but ____________. In other words, they can't be ______ back to you without the need for __________ information. So why does it matter if a bunch of companies you've never heard of know your age or your ________, you may think. Well, it matters quite a lot. About a decade ago, _______ Sweeney, a professor of privacy at Harvard __________ 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 ___________ is far ______. Professor Sweeney proved this in a rather cheeky way when William Weld, a former ________ of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the US _______ to support the commercial release of 135,000 state ________ ______ records along with their families, including his own. These _______ did not contain a name or a social security number, but did contain hundreds of ______ of sensitive medical ___________ including drugs __________, ________________, and procedures performed on these employees. For $20, Professor _______ _________ the _____ records for Cambridge, _____________, 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 _______, she had pinpointed Governor Welds' own health records. Only six people in Cambridge ______ his date of _____. 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 _______ ever deeper into our personal lives. In the ________ US presidential election, a little-known British company known as Cambridge Analytica was ______ with winning the election for a certain candidate: ______ _____, 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 _______ a viral Facebook quiz to dig into people's personalities, which was taken by over six million people. In _____, they managed to amass data on 220 million ______ 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 _______ to them on ________. ___________ have called them a propaganda machine. It's not just large companies digging into your life; it's free apps and _____ startups as well. I realised on my phone that every time I logged _______ 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' _________ cycles and fertility cycles with ______ or ___________ like InMobi. As long as my phone is turned on, my location can be tracked, not just by the obvious apps like ______ 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 ___________ systems. They have now adapted this so they only record when the voice recognition is _________. But the creepy factor _______. 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 _______ of being watched is not ______ to me. There have been several anecdotal reports of people being shown adverts based on things and _____________ they were having in real life, prompting concerns that Facebook and Google are eavesdropping on people via their personal _______. To _____ together what all these companies knew about me, I spoke to a data profiler called 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 _______ such as the credit rating agency Experian, which amasses a massive ________ 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 _____ 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, 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 ____________. In fact, eMarketer has predicted that the online advertising industry, which is based almost __________ on data _________ 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 ________, 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 ________ to, such as your own lifestyle habits or family members' ailments. In 2014, Ross Anderson, a professor 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 increase in health _________ premiums. As the amount of data that is collected _________ 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 ________ to _______ future behaviours - for example, whether you're a ___________ driver, a good employee, or a good credit risk, based on things like your ______ media activity, your health and fitness, or your home ______ use. The more the companies know about you - where you live, how many ________ 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 _________ on your behalf without your knowledge. Along my journey of discovery, my first reaction was _____. I immediately wrote to my local council and asked them to make my voter records _______. I made up a fake _____ address, and I started ___________ with a fake age and gender. I ______ off targeted advertising, and I asked Facebook to send me all the information that they held on me, _________ things I had deleted, and _____ hours poring over it ___________. But after a few weeks I ________ this was a pointless exercise. I couldn't be a digital ______. It wasn't realistic for me to stop using social media, search and __________ apps, and my iPhone, all a part of ______ life that I cherished and needed. Instead, I realised that the _________ 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 ________, I turn off. __________, there is hope. As more of us begin to realise the extent of our data _________, we will start to demand custody and control of this data. Some _______ have even _________ 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 _______, and _____ 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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  3. knowledge
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  33. sweeney
  34. small
  35. collect
  36. commercially
  37. higher
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  40. traded
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  42. cuisines
  43. starting
  44. latanya
  45. trustworthy
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  47. health
  48. voting
  49. spent
  50. particulars
  51. location
  52. lifestyles
  53. feeling
  54. postcode
  55. housework
  56. additional
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  58. night
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  60. prefer
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  64. lived
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  67. eyeota
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  76. means
  77. actuaries
  78. minutes
  79. targeting
  80. donald
  81. turned
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  83. traced
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  87. hermit
  88. purchased
  89. advertisers
  90. google
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  92. ovulation
  93. critics
  94. adverts
  95. devices
  96. taxis
  97. researching
  98. completely
  99. university
  100. decided
  101. hospitalisations
  102. energy
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  104. insurance
  105. people
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  107. desires
  108. shopping
  109. credit
  110. unique
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  114. birth
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  116. obsessively
  117. children
  118. increases
  119. habits
  120. profiles
  121. housemate
  122. records
  123. prescribed
  124. pseudonymous
  125. massachusetts

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)

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
personal data 4
health records 4
professor sweeney 3
companies knew 2
credit card 2
data sets 2
additional information 2
information including 2
voter records 2
companies digging 2
voice recognition 2
insurance premiums 2

Important Words

  1. access
  2. accurate
  3. accused
  4. activated
  5. activity
  6. actuaries
  7. adapted
  8. additional
  9. address
  10. addresses
  11. ads
  12. advertisers
  13. advertising
  14. adverts
  15. age
  16. agency
  17. ages
  18. ailments
  19. amass
  20. amasses
  21. ambitious
  22. americans
  23. amount
  24. analytica
  25. analytics
  26. anderson
  27. anecdotal
  28. annual
  29. anonymity
  30. anxieties
  31. app
  32. applause
  33. apps
  34. area
  35. asian
  36. asked
  37. aspects
  38. assign
  39. attitudes
  40. average
  41. bank
  42. based
  43. began
  44. behalf
  45. behaviour
  46. behaviours
  47. benign
  48. bidder
  49. billion
  50. billions
  51. birth
  52. body
  53. britain
  54. british
  55. brokers
  56. browser
  57. browsing
  58. bubble
  59. bunch
  60. buses
  61. buy
  62. buys
  63. called
  64. cambridge
  65. car
  66. card
  67. care
  68. cars
  69. categories
  70. change
  71. characteristics
  72. charities
  73. check
  74. checkers
  75. cheeky
  76. cherished
  77. child
  78. children
  79. choice
  80. chronic
  81. citizen
  82. citizens
  83. city
  84. cleaner
  85. close
  86. code
  87. codes
  88. collect
  89. collected
  90. combine
  91. commercial
  92. commercially
  93. companies
  94. company
  95. complete
  96. completely
  97. concerns
  98. connected
  99. connecting
  100. consequences
  101. considered
  102. contactless
  103. control
  104. conversations
  105. converted
  106. cook
  107. cookies
  108. corporation
  109. council
  110. coupon
  111. created
  112. credit
  113. creepy
  114. criminal
  115. critics
  116. crossing
  117. cuisines
  118. curious
  119. custody
  120. cycles
  121. daily
  122. data
  123. database
  124. date
  125. dates
  126. day
  127. days
  128. decade
  129. decided
  130. decisions
  131. deeper
  132. defining
  133. deleted
  134. demand
  135. demographic
  136. description
  137. designed
  138. desires
  139. detached
  140. detailed
  141. details
  142. develop
  143. devices
  144. dig
  145. digging
  146. digital
  147. dinner
  148. discount
  149. discovered
  150. discovery
  151. discussing
  152. disparate
  153. diy
  154. dollars
  155. donald
  156. download
  157. driver
  158. driving
  159. drugs
  160. easier
  161. east
  162. eat
  163. eavesdropping
  164. economy
  165. election
  166. email
  167. emarketer
  168. employed
  169. employee
  170. employees
  171. empowering
  172. endomondo
  173. energy
  174. enjoy
  175. estimate
  176. evenings
  177. exact
  178. examples
  179. exercise
  180. expensive
  181. experian
  182. exponentially
  183. extent
  184. eyeota
  185. facebook
  186. fact
  187. factor
  188. facts
  189. faculty
  190. fake
  191. families
  192. family
  193. favourite
  194. feeling
  195. feelings
  196. fertility
  197. fields
  198. finances
  199. financial
  200. find
  201. fitbit
  202. fitness
  203. flat
  204. flights
  205. food
  206. footprint
  207. form
  208. free
  209. freely
  210. fridays
  211. friends
  212. full
  213. furniture
  214. future
  215. gait
  216. gave
  217. gender
  218. give
  219. good
  220. google
  221. governments
  222. governor
  223. groceries
  224. group
  225. growing
  226. habits
  227. hairdresser
  228. hard
  229. harmless
  230. harvard
  231. health
  232. hear
  233. heard
  234. heart
  235. height
  236. held
  237. hermit
  238. high
  239. higher
  240. highest
  241. hit
  242. hold
  243. holidays
  244. home
  245. homes
  246. hope
  247. hospitalisations
  248. host
  249. hours
  250. house
  251. housemate
  252. housework
  253. hundreds
  254. husband
  255. idea
  256. identified
  257. identifiers
  258. identify
  259. illnesses
  260. immediately
  261. important
  262. include
  263. included
  264. including
  265. increase
  266. increases
  267. india
  268. indiscriminately
  269. individual
  270. individuals
  271. industry
  272. information
  273. inmobi
  274. instance
  275. institute
  276. insurance
  277. intended
  278. interact
  279. interested
  280. iphone
  281. irrelevant
  282. job
  283. journey
  284. kent
  285. knew
  286. knowing
  287. knowledge
  288. land
  289. landlord
  290. large
  291. latanya
  292. late
  293. laughter
  294. law
  295. laws
  296. lead
  297. learned
  298. left
  299. lets
  300. life
  301. lifestyle
  302. lifestyles
  303. line
  304. listening
  305. live
  306. lived
  307. lives
  308. living
  309. local
  310. location
  311. log
  312. logged
  313. logging
  314. london
  315. long
  316. longer
  317. lose
  318. lost
  319. lot
  320. machine
  321. magazine
  322. managed
  323. managing
  324. map
  325. maps
  326. marked
  327. massachusetts
  328. massive
  329. matter
  330. matters
  331. matures
  332. means
  333. measures
  334. media
  335. medical
  336. memorabilia
  337. men
  338. mexican
  339. million
  340. mimic
  341. minutes
  342. modern
  343. monday
  344. money
  345. months
  346. motley
  347. moves
  348. movies
  349. murky
  350. myth
  351. names
  352. national
  353. navigation
  354. needed
  355. neighbours
  356. netflix
  357. nhs
  358. night
  359. north
  360. november
  361. number
  362. obsessively
  363. obvious
  364. ocado
  365. offline
  366. online
  367. opened
  368. optimistic
  369. order
  370. ostensibly
  371. ovulation
  372. package
  373. paid
  374. part
  375. particulars
  376. parties
  377. passed
  378. patterns
  379. pay
  380. people
  381. performed
  382. permission
  383. permissions
  384. person
  385. personal
  386. personalised
  387. personalities
  388. phone
  389. photos
  390. piece
  391. pieces
  392. pinpointed
  393. planners
  394. plot
  395. pointless
  396. political
  397. poring
  398. post
  399. postcode
  400. postcodes
  401. posture
  402. pounds
  403. power
  404. precise
  405. predict
  406. predicted
  407. prefer
  408. pregnancy
  409. premiums
  410. prescribed
  411. presidential
  412. previously
  413. price
  414. prices
  415. privacy
  416. private
  417. probability
  418. procedures
  419. product
  420. professor
  421. profiler
  422. profiles
  423. programming
  424. prompting
  425. propaganda
  426. property
  427. protected
  428. protection
  429. proved
  430. pseudonymous
  431. pub
  432. public
  433. purchased
  434. put
  435. quiz
  436. rarely
  437. rate
  438. rating
  439. reaction
  440. read
  441. real
  442. realise
  443. realised
  444. realistic
  445. recklessly
  446. recognition
  447. reconsider
  448. record
  449. recording
  450. records
  451. registering
  452. registry
  453. reinforced
  454. release
  455. remains
  456. reports
  457. researchers
  458. researching
  459. responsible
  460. restaurant
  461. resulted
  462. reveal
  463. reviews
  464. risk
  465. ross
  466. safe
  467. salary
  468. samsung
  469. scheduled
  470. search
  471. security
  472. sedentary
  473. sell
  474. selling
  475. send
  476. sensitive
  477. serviced
  478. services
  479. set
  480. sets
  481. settings
  482. shared
  483. sharing
  484. shock
  485. shocked
  486. shopping
  487. shown
  488. signing
  489. simple
  490. sinking
  491. small
  492. smartphone
  493. snapchat
  494. social
  495. sold
  496. south
  497. spend
  498. spent
  499. spoke
  500. star
  501. start
  502. started
  503. starting
  504. startups
  505. state
  506. statement
  507. states
  508. stop
  509. stopped
  510. store
  511. street
  512. stripped
  513. suggested
  514. supermarket
  515. support
  516. supposedly
  517. sussex
  518. sustained
  519. swayed
  520. sweeney
  521. symptom
  522. symptoms
  523. system
  524. systems
  525. takeaways
  526. targeted
  527. targeting
  528. tasked
  529. tax
  530. taxis
  531. team
  532. tend
  533. term
  534. thai
  535. thinks
  536. thoughts
  537. thousands
  538. time
  539. times
  540. total
  541. traced
  542. track
  543. tracked
  544. trackers
  545. tracking
  546. traded
  547. transactions
  548. tripadvisor
  549. trump
  550. trusted
  551. trustworthy
  552. turn
  553. turned
  554. turns
  555. tv
  556. tvs
  557. twitter
  558. typed
  559. types
  560. uber
  561. uk
  562. ultimately
  563. uncover
  564. understand
  565. unexpected
  566. unique
  567. uniquely
  568. university
  569. unmasked
  570. unnecessary
  571. unrelated
  572. upper
  573. urban
  574. users
  575. video
  576. viewed
  577. views
  578. vip
  579. viral
  580. visit
  581. visited
  582. voice
  583. voter
  584. voting
  585. wars
  586. watch
  587. watched
  588. ways
  589. web
  590. webmd
  591. website
  592. wednesday
  593. week
  594. weeknights
  595. weeks
  596. weight
  597. weld
  598. west
  599. william
  600. winning
  601. wired
  602. woman
  603. words
  604. work
  605. working
  606. world
  607. write
  608. wrote
  609. yahoo
  610. year
  611. zip