Column: Cybercriminals, data brokers, and the pitfalls of social media

Whenever I am on Facebook, I keep scrolling when I come across an invitation to “take this quiz!” Or join in on “innocent” looking challenges tailored to obtain all sorts of personally identifiable information. “How many tattoos do you have?” “Put a star by all of the states you’ve ever been to…” on and on.

When I see friends respond or tag me, I think… oh. Huh, I would have never guessed that. Middle names, height, first cars, graduating class and schools, you name it. I have learned a ton of things that I didn’t go looking for.

It’s all fun and games on the surface but the fact is, there are SO many people that are looking for it. Facebook and Google know a lot about all of us, but not more than data brokers. I remember feeling eerie in my undergrad class when I first learned about these types of companies.

Like…”OoOOooo Big Brother is watchiiiing.” No but really, they legally exist, and some of the bigger ones are Acxiom, Corelogic, Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, PeekYou, Rapleaf, and Recorded Future. They record every transaction, conversation, upload, tag, like, audio file, location, time, on and on.

I mean it is a bit unsettling to think about. Worse still is knowing that there are dedicated hackers, traffickers, and thieves gathering the same information. Watching your vacation take place in real time, checking out the background details of little Sally’s first day of school, creating profiles of your favorite indulgences and friends. Being able to search #latestchallenge just makes it a little bit easier to hone in on the exact information they are looking for.

Cybercrimes can have harrowing effects that are often hard or impossible to fix. For instance, identity theft, financial impacts, the erasure of highly important and irreplaceable data, black mail, OR… you know… phishing scams that have majorly impacted a presidential election.

It happens.

A lot of the time cyber security victims are collateral, not necessarily the target. The cybercriminal only wants to achieve their goal. However it is also used for organized crime purposes such as robbery, kidnapping, drug trafficking, etc. With the internet of things it’s just not possible to avoid every pitfall created online or off, nor realistic to live the rest of one’s life indoors. Just… before you click it, send it, upload it, like it, respond to it, or interact with the online environment in any way… think twice.

“It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” ~ Somebody’s Mama

A native of Phoenix, Arizona Aundrea Sayrie is a firm believer in the power of words, faith and a strong spirit. Her greatest desire is to encourage those around her to discover and honor their truth, and to passionately live on purpose.

Any views or opinions expressed in “Living on Purpose” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed Voice staff or its board of directors.