Any personal information can become sensitive information

One day a stranger will be able to read your e-mail, look through your messages and the Web sites you’ve visited without having your permission. So, should you worry about your privacy and its importance?

Together with the development of technologies and markets, the concern of consumers’ privacy has risen (H. Liu, 2000). The Internet has become an integral part of our daily activities and a crucial player in the economy. The use of Internet became beneficial to marketers in analysing customer’s profiles, due to their electronic footprints left on every digital transaction:

  • Biometrics (fingerprints, facial recognition and voice)
  • Browser History (websites visited, calls and text messages sent or received)
  • Financial Information (Includes credit cards and transaction data)
  • Location (records of past and current location)
  • Personal files (photos, videos)

Hidden Information


Government organizations and marketers collect the necessary data about our activities via our smartphones (K. B. Sheehan, 2002). The Government is a two-side player. On one hand, it is trying to protect people’s privacy, but on the other hand, they seek to observe and control their personal lives. The GPS technology allows organizations to locate and notice our daily behaviour. It allows the companies to intrude our privacy zone. Therefore, we become not only easy Malte Spitztargets of advertising companies but also hostages of our personal life. An example of an ordinary victim of privacy violation is the German politician Malte Spitz, who reveals in a Ted Talk video how he had discovered that his own phone company was gathering information about his activity for a period of 6 months. The phone operator stocked data, included his daily geographical location (minute by minute location records) and the browser history (calls, messages, emails etc.) of the politician’s life.

photo (2)

Alessandro Acquisti in “Why privacy matters”  Ted Talk is explaining that a radical change in people’s attitude towards privacy occurred within the past years. As an example, about 100 billion photos were shot in 2010, with a minor percent of them being uploaded, while in 2010 in just one month, about 2.5 billion photos were uploaded on Facebook only. Due to such an increase, the ability to recognize individuals in photos multiplied by 1000 times. The growth of the available facial data, combined with the developed facial recognition capability of devices may cause a crucial change in our privacy sphere. Each web user becomes a potential target of Internet criminal activities.

Internet lawbreakers and strangers noticed that teenagers are the most vulnerable and naïve group of users, which turns them into easy targets for immoral acts.

Indeed, 65% of this group aged 10 -13 years, are active Internet users. Current research demonstrates that 163 out of 166 websites don’t require parental involvement when personal teenagers’ data is gathered.

Now, the question is: how far are people willing to expose their private life?

It is surprising how cheap some individuals rate their online privacy. People easily expose their personal life on social media websites to strangers. A study showed that the average web consumer rates his privacy at only 50 Euro cents.

This threats to privacy cross the boundaries between our private and public life. While the technology is developing very fast and facilitates our lives, it may threaten our existence as individuals. We leave footprints behind us every single moment spent on the Internet (emails, messages, credit cards) or while using our cell phones (biometrics, location, personal data). Privacy is important to our daily activities. It is a part of our personality and decisions. We are to make our own decisions, to protect ourselves from being hurt and our life being exposed. Think about what may happen in 5 or 10 years, when everyone will have access to our personal information, when marketers will take advantage of our activities and without knowing, we will become marketing targets, and even worse- our decisions we’ll no longer belong to us, when our decisions will be ruled by someone else. Without privacy, we are close to become like Adam and Eve – when we realize that we aren’t wearing any clothes.

Any personal information can become sensitive information.


  1. Liu H.: Internet Marketing, Consumer Surveillance and Personal Privacy: Social Exchange or Panoptic Control?,2000
  2. Sheehan K.B.: Toward a typology of Internet users and online privacy concerns, Information Society,2002

4 thoughts on “Any personal information can become sensitive information

  1. Rising concern about privacy is really interesting topic. On one hand the websites we use seems to be really good secured and on the other it might not be the true. Think of the secure payment checkouts, there is PayPal, it says it is fast, easy and safe to use and still there are some case where someone break into the account and spend your money buying items they wanted. In case of PayPal you can still report a fraud and might get you money back, but think about it, we provide them with our credit or debit card numbers and there are many people who are just waiting to steal from us.
    Most of us does not even read terms and conditions while registering as a new customer, most of this terms and conditions says that our information will be past to third parties and that is why our spam mail box is full of all sort of different advertisements such as quick money loan, new products discount etc. We have to be really careful when purchasing products online, do not put 100% trust in what the goods provider is saying.
    Another good example is Facebook, even if we customize our profiles only to be seen by our friends we can still be a victim of identity fraud, someone can simply steal our pictures, create a false account and pretend to be you.
    There is many possibilities we can become a victim online but it does not mean we need be scared of enjoying our life, sometimes taking the risk will benefit us and sometimes it can just go wrong. Life is all about taking risk, no one said it is going to be easy, right?

  2. Hello,

    I really enjoyed reading this blog I found interesting examples and it made me think about my usage of the Internet and the information I am sharing.

    Today you do not need to be an IT genius to collect information about certain person. Using Google people can easily find the main information about friends, family members or enemies. Even ten years ago, if you have looked for a person you would not have found anything, but now there is a meter of time when the information will be reached. Particularly it is easily obtainable in US. Everyone can access the information about your education, place of living and work place. In order, many people has been robed, stalked and injured other crimes just because of the easily accessible information.

    However, some websites understand the need of privacy and developed tools that information would not be accessible for everyone. Social pages now allow to select who can see your profile and pictures, if someone are bothering you he can easily be blocked. Further more, now you can get notifications to your email or mobile phone if somebody is trying to get in to your account.

    In addition, people can easily be tracked by the cookies (the small files that website put on your computer when you first visit). However, many websites has cookie policies, which asks to agree in terms for storing data on a user’s computer or mobile device. Also, there is UK’s cookie law, which limits personal information usage and regulates the privacy.

    Over all, because our society is going through a lot of changes I think there will be improvement in personal information collection and usage as well.

    Kind regards,

  3. Hi,
    Thanks for posting such an informative blog on one of the most discussed topics. Since the emergence of internet, privacy has been a hot topic of discussion. When we navigate online our preferences, personal information, demographics and patterns can be captured for several reasons for example marketing and stalking. I think when we talk about privacy we should not forget to talk about social networking sites we all use several times a every day. We all post our locations, plans for the day and of-course our photos (on Facebook) without even thinking twice that this can be a potential trip-off for thieves or fraudsters planning to make a robbery or fraud.

    I like to shop online just like many others and some times when I place order mainly on websites which seem dodgy, I have this fear of giving my credit card details to someone i do not wish to give.

    Many companies keep track of our activities and bombard us with random advertisements just because we accept to their terms and conditions with out giving a thorough read. This according to me is totally unacceptable and unethical. Most of us including me do not know how to limit our information that is being collected by different companies. Therefore I think companies should teach us how to hide information which we do not want to share.

    Today a lot of our information which we do not wish to disclose is lawfully with in the hand of several companies and government entities. But how ever as the need for better privacy emerges many developing and developed countries are adapting to stronger regulations to avoid the growing risk of personal information being misused. Therefore I think and I hope that one day policy makers from all over the world will find a viable solution to end this concern.

  4. You have given strong arguments about the importance of privacy to individuals. It is definitely true that some sort of personal data can become sensitive data and may be used against us if falling in the wrong hands. From a marketing perspective, companies don’t gather personal data to use it against their customers. The primarily goal is to increase profits by providing a better personalised experience to their customers, based on the information they collect. They simply cannot afford disappointing customers because an inadequate use of the personal data they store. I believe that there are a lot of advantages associated with sharing personal data with commercial organization: convenience, personalised experience, better service. For instance, shopping at a touch of button saves time for more valuable things like work and family. People are aware of advantages and know what is the opportunity cost. . People don’t provide personal data because they are unaware about its importance but because advantages outweigh fears regarding privacy. Those who are concerned about their privacy could easily stop using the internet, stop shopping online, start wearing hats to prevent facial recognition, or stop buying the latest technology. But this is not happening as they know how this is going to affect their lives. Research revealed importance of digital to people, 81% thinking that the internet is powerful because it provides unrestricted access to information(. We claim to be concerned about privacy, but in reality we are much more concerned about living an old –fashioned life. I don’t think it’s necessary to reject the advantages digital marketing gives to use, to live isolated because of some personal information that may never be used against us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s