What Is Data Personalization and What Do You Need to Know About It?

The average person uses a large number of interactive media platforms and social media networks on a daily basis. Whether you chill with a Netflix series in the evening, watch vintage car restoration videos on YouTube, post cooking tips on Facebook on a daily basis or retweet a lot of rock music news, you are leaving a surprisingly big digital footprint.

All the services and platforms you use do some sort of data collection related to your habits, likes and dislikes, favorite hobbies and tastes. It is exactly this process of collecting user input over time in order to provide a better user experience, tailored to the specific user, that is called 'data personalization'.

Users can usually go through a series of unnecessarily convoluted menus on each of those platforms and fetch a complete list of their activity or personal data collected on the respective platform. This could give anyone an idea of what exactly a given platform or service knows about them.

Certain regulations introduced in some parts of the world, such as the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislative package, are trying to protect users from potential abuse of personalized data collected on their habits and tastes.

How to Limit or Avoid Data Personalization?

The question everyone needs to answer for themselves is, how comfortable they are with disclosing information about their personal tastes, habits and hobbies online. The simple fact of the matter is, if you want to be active in today's digital landscape, you cannot avoid feeding significant amounts of information into a number of platforms. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter offer options to filter the visibility of your posts, which can be of some assistance in limiting your digital footprint on the web.

However, if you are very seriously concerned about your privacy, your best bet would be to either never open an account with the respective platform or opt to delete your account on a given service, effectively removing your digital footprint from their servers and web searches.

Whether such an extreme measure if warranted for a regular user who only told big data gathering services that they like fishing and country music, however, is a different question altogether.

The question of personalized data collection is not so much one of security but rather one of privacy and discoverability on search engines. Those can be regarded as another facet of personal cybersecurity, but the personalized data collected on a user is hardly ever accessible to bad actors and hacking attacks rarely aim to steal similar information.

October 7, 2020

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