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Facebook’s recent data scandal with Cambridge Analytica highlights just how much can be collected without your knowledge via third-party apps. The data scandal has been tied to a paid online survey from 2014, requiring participants to download and connect an app to their Facebook pages before receiving payment. It ultimately begs the question: is it possible to use data-driven, connected technology without putting our identities at risk?

The Age of Technology

Welcome to the Age of Technology, a world that gives us anything we need with only a few swipes and clicks. As connected technology only continues to grow, it’s safe to say that it will eventually play a role in most – if not all – areas of life.

In 2017, Cisco predicted that North Americans would have an average of 13 networked devices or connections – per person. It’s now more important than ever to understand what “connected” really means, and how your data plays a role in your day-to-day connections.

If connecting is a normal part of your day, it’s time we had “The Talk.” As we continue connecting to more networks, devices, friends and cloud storage, it’s imperative we discuss the relationship you have with your data, as well as technology’s role within it.

Living in a Connected World

Let’s start with a fundamental question: Why does connected technology rely so heavily on your data? The short answer is because your private, personal and public data can reveal much more about you than you may think.

Simply put, connected technology uses all three types of data to learn more about you. Its ultimate purpose is to better provide goods or services by catering them to your personal preferences.

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Source: The View Beyond the Horizon, Scott Klososky – CBA LIVE 2018

Your Identity = Your “Real” Social Profile

Your private, personal and public information can all reveal something different about you. Optimizing connected technology requires various types of data about you to better understand exactly what you need.

Sensitive Personal Information

At its core, your identity is first defined by your personally identifiable information (PII). The unique combination of these data points can be used to gain access to and verify other sensitive information like financial account numbers and medical information.

Non-Sensitive Personal Information

Along with your PII, you also have other personal data tied to your identity. Information like your address, phone number and email address is unique to you, but cannot be used alone to verify your identity. Important note: this information is not always protected, and it can be viewed publicly in some scenarios.

Public Information

Finally, let’s not forget about your public data. While public data is often information appearing in public databases, or your preference- or activity-based information (i.e. social media likes, device data, online purchasing habits, site visits, etc.), it can tell others more about you than you may think – especially when paired with other personal information.

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What Does “Connected” Really Mean?

In short, connected technology is powered by data. This data is what fuels the connection between you and another entity.

To us, it may seem to happen in a split second. But each time you connect, data is sent back and forth between you and the connecting source to determine who you are, where you’re going and what you want to do. From connecting your iPhone to a Wi-Fi network and logging into your bill payment portals, to using GPS navigation systems and social media profiles – every connection you make is a data conversation.

Technology can be “smart”?

Connected or “smart” technology is exactly what it sounds like – technology with its own intelligence that learns through the connections – or “conversations” – it makes. When you use connected technology, it will learn your behaviors over time and make choices based on your unique preferences.

While this concept may be hard to imagine, a real-world example of this can be seen in the “Time to Leave” alerts provided by iPhone’s iCalendar.

“Time to Leave” alerts tell you when you need to leave for an event so that you arrive on time. Your part of the data conversation begins by “telling” your iPhone of your plans. You add it to your calendar and provide the date, time and location of the event.

Now that it has the information needed, your iPhone will use that data, plus other information about you, to offer a more convenient traveling experience. Your iPhone simply accesses your current location through your device to search for traffic conditions in your local area. From there, it can use the calendar data you’ve already provided to estimate how long it will take to get there, accounting for any traffic hold-ups.

The final result? Your phone will alert you when it’s time to leave so that you arrive to the event on time.

While this example shows how connected technology can bring convenience to your life, it also illustrates how much data is sent back and forth for a single request or feature. By simply adding a calendar event to your phone, your data – as well as your device’s data – were accessed and used to provide a better experience for you.

And as convenient as it may seem, connected technology holds large pools of data that, if not properly secured, can easily fall into the wrong hands.

A Step into the Future

Connected technology is a step ahead into the future. At the same time, it’s a step that makes your data more accessible to others – especially those looking for data to misuse.

Identity crime hit an all-time high this year, and that number only continues to grow. In fact, 79.1 million Americans fell victim to data breaches and identity theft in 2017. Data breaches also saw a significant increase in 2017 – with 1,579 reported data breaches in 2017, a 44 percent increase from the previous year.

Use these tips below to learn how to use connected technologies without putting your sensitive data at risk:

  • Cross-linking Social Media: Your social media accounts are full of private, personal and public information that is often shared with other third-parties. Learn why Cross-Linking Social Media & Apps is Risky Business.
  • Secure Your IoT Devices: Make sure that any IoT devices you use (i.e. FitBit, iWatch, wireless hardware, home management systems, etc.), as well as the application or service connected to your devices is using the latest software.
  • Define What “Connect” Means: Every entity is different when it comes to how they store, handle and share your data. Be sure you understand what “connecting” means before handing your data over to someone else.
  • Protect Public Information, Too: Public activity on social media and other online channels can often reveal private data unintentionally. It can also reveal answers to security questions or other verification processes that are meant to add security to your accounts. Think before you post because once it’s on the Internet, it’s almost impossible to take it back.

Continue following Fighting Identity Crimes to get the latest breach and scam updates, ID protection news and tips from our industry experts.