In recent years, there has been an explosion of ways to collect, store, share -- --even steal - personal information about you. Your information has become big business, and it's available to many people and organisations. They can look at it when it's time to evaluate you for a credit card, a mortgage, a car loan or life insurance, and when you are applying to rent a house, a flat, or even getting a job!
You can take control of your personal information by understanding how it is gathered and used. This helps ensure that your information is only used in lawful ways, is accurate, and reflects positively on you.
You might be amazed to learn how much of your information is kept at places like the department store where you bought your last sofa. Not to mention a whole host of marketing lists that catalogue your buying habits, income, education, and much much more.
Incredibly, outside parties can often access this information easily. Because of the growing concern and incidence of identity theft, recent legislation has stepped up efforts to protect consumer information from being viewed by outside sources. But for now, you are vulnerable to a wide range of prying eyes.
Marketers. More and more advanced techniques have been developed to compile extremely targeted lists about consumers. A quick search on the Internet for "marketing lists" will show you just how many are available.
Web sites. When you visit a Web site, information can be gathered about you in a variety of ways -- either by information you provide voluntarily or using techniques to indirectly detect information about your usage. However, personal information cannot be collected without your consent.
Shop assistants. Can you remember a time when you were asked your post code or phone number when you made a purchase? They didn't really need that information. But it helped the shop compile a profile of you and your purchasing habits to be used for marketing purposes in the future-- and it may have been sold to others. Be careful when giving out your personal information. Only give what is absolutely necessary.
Warranty cards. Sometimes they're not necessary at all. When they are, it's only necessary to fill in your name, address, date of purchase, and serial number of the product. Additional information might be used for marketing purposes.
Loyalty cards. Many claim that the personal data and shopping information collected by supermarket companies from loyalty cards violates privacy rights and doesn't even save consumers money.
New identification systems. Numerous institutions, including several airlines, have begun working on plans for identification systems that would rely on background checks, fingerprints, iris scans, and high-tech IDs to verify individual's identities and speed security screening at places such as airports.
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