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 lniivg in a South West postcode in ldonon. 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 idnia every year. They mostly did their shopping online at Ocado, gave mnoey 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 fhltigs 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 pgmmaroring, but I do enjoy on-demand srvceeis 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 fruiuntre, and I don't have any children. On weehikgnts, I tend to sepnd the evenings with my university feridns 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 bonrswig restaurant rweives rather than managing my finances or looking at property prices oinnle. I like the idea of living abroad someday. I peefrr to work as a team than on my own. I'm auotbmiis, and it's iamrontpt to me that my many tiknhs I'm doing well. I'm rrelay 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 arutcace description of what a gourp of companies I had never heard of, personal data tcreakrs, had lraneed about me. My juerony to uovnecr what data companies knew bgaen in 2014, when I became curious about the murky world of data brokers, a multi-billion-pound industry of companies that cocellt, pgackae, and sell detailed profiles of individuals based on their online and offline behaviours. I decided to write about it for weird Magazine. What I found out shocked me, and reinforced my aeneixtis about a profit-led system designed to log behaviours every time we itcrneat with the connected world. I already knew about my daily records being coeteclld by services such as Google Maps, Search, foabocek, or contactless credit card transactions. But you combine that with public information such as land rriestgy, council tax, or voter records, along with my shopping habits and real-time health and location information, and these benign data sets begin to reavel a lot, such as whether you're optimistic, political, ambitious, or a risk-taker. Even as you're listening to me, you may be setneardy, 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 samntetet, or a criminal rrecod. However, I discovered that online amyntoniy 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 pusdeomoynus. In other wrods, 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 dadece ago, Latanya Sweeney, a pserosofr of privacy at hrvraad 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 scevreid 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, messsatatuhcs, in the US decided to sporput the commercial release of 135,000 state eplyoeme health rceords along with their families, including his own. These records did not contain a name or a social security number, but did contain huddenrs of fields of sensitive miedacl information including drugs prescribed, hniassootiapitls, and procedures performed on these employees. For $20, Professor Sweeney puahrsecd the vetor 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 dpeeer into our personal lveis. In the nmoeebvr US presidential eteilocn, a little-known British caompny known as Cambridge aiclntaya was tasked with winning the election for a certain candidate: Donald Trump, using data analytics. The company eomlyepd cokeios online to tcrak people around the web, lgniogg every website visited, every search term teypd, and every video watched. They also created a viral Facebook quiz to dig into people's pileointraess, which was taken by over six million people. In total, they managed to amass data on 220 million vitnog Americans with an average of about 5,000 pieces of data on each person. They then used this data to understand people's inner felengis and then targeted adverts to them on Facebook. Researchers have called them a propaganda machine. It's not just large ceinopmas 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 endnmodoo, it was sharing my details including my location and gender with third-party advertisers. WebMD, a symptom checkers app, was sihanrg 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 yhoao. A pregnancy tracking app was sinellg 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 titewtr, 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 riicotgenon is activated. But the creepy factor remains. Even services like Google and Facebook, trusted and used by biinllos around the world, have been accused of csnosirg 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. truns 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 pecie together what all these companies knew about me, I spoke to a data profiler called Eyeota. Eyeota uses cookies to asigsn me to thousands of different caitegoers, including my job, how many children I have, and whether I'm likely to buy Star Wars mmlobeiaria. (Laughter) They don't know my name, but they know more about me than my neighbours do. Eyeota also buys iiorfnoamtn from third priteas such as the credit rating agency Experian, which amasses a mivssae database of 15 different demographic types and 66 lteyielsfs, all based on people's post cdoes. Because Eyeota buys this information, it knows that I'm more likely to take taxis home rather than nghit buses late at night and that I'm very, very unlikely to ever be found in a DIY store. (luhtaegr) It can then sell this information on to the highest bidder. Sometimes, large data sets can be useful for the puiblc good, for example for the use of health researchers or city and urban planners. But most of this information being collected is sintaseud by advertisers and traded commercially. In fact, eMarketer has predicted that the online advertising industry, which is bsaed almost completely on data targeting and tracking, will hit an all-time high of 77 boillin dollars this year. If you think you don't care about being unmasked, you may want to reconsider. Personalised browser ads may be haemrlss, but connecting disparate aspects of your life to pdecirt your future behaviour could lead to unexpected cnsecneoueqs. 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 inneetdd to, such as your own lifestyle habtis or family members' ailments. In 2014, Ross Anderson, a professor of pirvacy and Security at Cambridge University found that the NHS had been sharing its hospitals' dasbtaae, which ileducnd details of hospitalisations for every citizen in Britain with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, a body that was rcreinhaesg how likely people are to develop chronic ieslnsels at certain ages. Of course, this resulted in an increase in haelth 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 mmiic 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 mdeia activity, your health and fitness, or your home energy use. The more the companies know about you - where you live, how many cleihdrn you have, what your medical ailments are, what you buy - your anonymity becomes irrelevant. What's more, you lose your right to free ccoihe, as companies make decisions on your behalf without your knlgewdoe. Along my journey of discovery, my first reaction was shock. I immediately wrote to my local coiucnl and asked them to make my voter records private. I made up a fake email address, and I started rneergstiig 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 huros poring over it obsessively. But after a few wkees I rieseald this was a pointless exercise. I couldn't be a diigtal hermit. It wasn't realistic for me to stop using social media, serach 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 eirnemowpg. kwinnog 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 sginnig 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 cechk my sentgtis to see what permissions it has. Anything that seems unnecessary like access to my location, I turn off. uitemtlaly, there is hope. As more of us begin to realise the extent of our data frnoptiot, we will start to dmaend coustdy and control of this data. Some critics have even suggested that polpee be paid for their data in order to give them more control. This means it will become too expensive for companies, gnvroetenms, 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 iiiunadvdl, 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 ______ in a South West postcode in ______. 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 _____ every year. They mostly did their shopping online at Ocado, gave _____ 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 _______ 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 ___________, but I do enjoy on-demand ________ 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 _________, and I don't have any children. On __________, I tend to _____ the evenings with my university _______ 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 ________ restaurant _______ rather than managing my finances or looking at property prices ______. I like the idea of living abroad someday. I ______ to work as a team than on my own. I'm _________, and it's _________ to me that my many ______ I'm doing well. I'm ______ 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 ________ description of what a _____ of companies I had never heard of, personal data ________, had _______ about me. My _______ to _______ what data companies knew _____ in 2014, when I became curious about the murky world of data brokers, a multi-billion-pound industry of companies that _______, _______, and sell detailed profiles of individuals based on their online and offline behaviours. I decided to write about it for _____ Magazine. What I found out shocked me, and reinforced my _________ about a profit-led system designed to log behaviours every time we ________ with the connected world. I already knew about my daily records being _________ by services such as Google Maps, Search, ________, or contactless credit card transactions. But you combine that with public information such as land ________, council tax, or voter records, along with my shopping habits and real-time health and location information, and these benign data sets begin to ______ a lot, such as whether you're optimistic, political, ambitious, or a risk-taker. Even as you're listening to me, you may be _________, 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 _________, or a criminal ______. However, I discovered that online _________ 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 ____________. In other _____, 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 ______ ago, Latanya Sweeney, a _________ of privacy at _______ 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 ________ 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, _____________, in the US decided to _______ the commercial release of 135,000 state ________ health _______ along with their families, including his own. These records did not contain a name or a social security number, but did contain ________ of fields of sensitive _______ information including drugs prescribed, ________________, and procedures performed on these employees. For $20, Professor Sweeney _________ the _____ 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 ______ into our personal _____. In the ________ US presidential ________, a little-known British _______ known as Cambridge _________ was tasked with winning the election for a certain candidate: Donald Trump, using data analytics. The company ________ _______ online to _____ people around the web, _______ every website visited, every search term _____, and every video watched. They also created a viral Facebook quiz to dig into people's _____________, which was taken by over six million people. In total, 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 ________ and then targeted adverts to them on Facebook. Researchers have called 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 phone that every time I logged fitness data into the app _________, it was sharing my details including my location and gender with third-party advertisers. WebMD, a symptom checkers app, was _______ 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 _____. A pregnancy tracking app was _______ 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 _______, 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 creepy factor remains. Even services like Google and Facebook, trusted and used by ________ around the world, have been accused of ________ 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. _____ 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 _____ together what all these companies knew about me, I spoke to a data profiler called Eyeota. Eyeota uses cookies to ______ me to thousands of different __________, 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 ___________ from third _______ such as the credit rating agency Experian, which amasses a _______ database of 15 different demographic types and 66 __________, all based on people's post _____. Because Eyeota buys this information, it knows that I'm more likely to take taxis home rather than _____ buses late at night and that I'm very, very unlikely to ever be found in a DIY store. (________) It can then sell this information on to the highest bidder. Sometimes, large data sets can be useful for the ______ good, for example for the use of health researchers or city and urban planners. But most of this information being collected is _________ by advertisers and traded commercially. In fact, eMarketer has predicted that the online advertising industry, which is _____ almost completely on data targeting and tracking, will hit an all-time high of 77 _______ 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 _______ your future behaviour could lead to unexpected ____________. 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 ______ or family members' ailments. In 2014, Ross Anderson, a professor of _______ and Security at Cambridge University found that the NHS had been sharing its hospitals' ________, which ________ details of hospitalisations for every citizen in Britain with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, a body that was ___________ how likely people are to develop chronic _________ at certain ages. Of course, this resulted in an increase in ______ 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 _____ 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 _____ activity, your health and fitness, or your home energy 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 ______, as companies make decisions on your behalf without your _________. Along my journey of discovery, my first reaction was shock. I immediately wrote to my local _______ and asked them to make my voter records private. I made up a fake email address, and I started ___________ 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 _____ poring over it obsessively. But after a few _____ I ________ this was a pointless exercise. I couldn't be a _______ hermit. It wasn't realistic for me to stop using social media, ______ 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 __________. _______ 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 _______ 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 _____ my ________ to see what permissions it has. Anything that seems unnecessary like access to my location, I turn off. __________, there is hope. As more of us begin to realise the extent of our data _________, we will start to ______ _______ and control of this data. Some critics have even suggested that ______ be paid for their data in order to give them more control. This means it will become too expensive for companies, ___________, 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 __________, 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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  40. rarely
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  86. pseudonymous
  87. recognition
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  94. london
  95. november
  96. cookies
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  120. accurate
  121. database
  122. twitter
  123. turns
  124. voice
  125. signing
  126. health
  127. companies
  128. assign
  129. sustained

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
google maps 3
voter records 3
professor sweeney 3

Important Words

  1. access
  2. accurate
  3. accused
  4. activated
  5. activity
  6. actuaries
  7. adapted
  8. additional
  9. address
  10. addresses
  11. ads
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  15. age
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  19. amass
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  27. anecdotal
  28. annual
  29. anonymity
  30. anxieties
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