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Private info leaked from smartphones being bought, sold online

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Be careful what you search for. It may come back to haunt you.

Think of cyberspace as lightly snow-covered. Every step you take leaves a trace. Collectively they show where you’ve been and where you’re going. The analogy is imperfect. Footprints in snow get obliterated. Data on the internet never does.

“Personal information leaked from smart phones is being trafficked online,” says Josei Jishin (March 28). One housewife the magazine speaks to found that out the hard way.

On a smartphone search site, she input “high-paying part-time jobs” – only to be almost instantly inundated with ads from erotic entertainment establishments. It was irritating at first, and then, as the inundation continued, a little frightening. It became something even more than that when her small child happened to catch a glimpse of the screen and asked, “Mommy, what’s that?”

Personalized advertising is a key feature of online commerce. Businesses naturally want to direct their ads to people likely to be interested in them. In order to do that, they must know who’s interested in what. They must know what you’re interested in; and in order to do that, they must watch you.

In a manner of speaking, of course. It’s not personal surveillance. Whether impersonal surveillance is less ominous is for each individual to decide. Do the benefits outweigh the real or perceived lack of privacy? Every purchase you make online – every item you look at, in fact – leaves an impression, as personalized buying recommendations based on those impressions make home. The recommendations are convenient for the consumer and profitable for the producer – a win-win situation, if the eerie feeling of being watched doesn’t bother you. If it does – well, too bad.

Or to take another example the magazine raises: you’re surfing marriage counseling sites, hoping to be introduced to a marriageable partner. It’s a delicate matter; maybe you’d want this to be just between you and the site. But marriage, romantic to the protagonists, is big business to the periphery, and the periphery is vast. If you’re contemplating marriage, you’d be naturally interested in certain kinds of products. Purveyors of those products want you to know them. To make sure you do, they must, to a certain extent, know you.

Ad agencies and other enterprises, explains Masami Kitada, president of Everysense Japan, bid big money for the right to scour search engines for “big data.” Everysense, on its website, describes its own function as “information harvesting.” “Sensor data,” it says, “will be anonymized, cleared from any personal identifiable information before delivering to the companies who want to use the data for their own purposes.”

“Many people wonder uneasily,” Kitada admits, “how third parties come to know what they’ve been searching for.”

It sounds vaguely subversive, but in fact, he explains, there’s nothing illegal about it – as you’d know if you read (as few people do) the terms of agreement you routinely agree to as a prelude to becoming active on a site. There’s almost always a clause amid the usually voluminous fine print setting forth the limits to the privacy the naïve take for granted. It’s so pervasive that declining to agree would in effect sideline you from the internet.

Just how invasive this sort of thing can be, or at least feel, came to light in 2013, when it appeared that JR East Japan was selling passenger flow data to businesses eager to know, for marketing purposes, how many people of what ages and which genders embarked and disembarked at various stations. Public revulsion was such that JR East stopped the practice. Companies then seemed to grow wary of involving themselves in data trafficking. But did the practice really fall off, Josei Jishin wonders, or did it merely grow more secretive?

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

11 Comments
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Interesting that JR tracks the numbers and sexes of its traffic. Selling it, may not be illegal but should it be?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Not surprising, data from campaigns and free give-aways is another often used source.

Just imagine how much info the current Super Friday(Softbank) give away alone can yield.

Lots of online shops also use prediction algorythms for advertising, suggestions, etc.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The old adage fits - if you aren't paying for a service/product, then YOU are the product being sold.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Personally, I like ads. If you tire of them, just clear your cookies and browsing data and they go away. Changing your VPN address constantly helps too.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@MsDelicious

If you tire of them, just clear your cookies and browsing data and they go away. Changing your VPN address constantly helps too.

Do you do that on your phone as well?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

There are plenty of ways to circumvent tracking of your data. Ghostery and uBlock cover most of the basics for web browsing. Pretty much the only ads I ever see are physical ones such as posters on the train and they are far from intrusive.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Ask the average Japanese user what a cookie is and they will point you in the direction of the nearest bakery.

Internet safety is still in it's infancy here in Japan and sadly things are probably going to get worse before better, and people who may be victims of these criminals are going to be embarrassed to come forward as well and the statistics will be skewed due to the folks who dont report anything wrong.

Don't forget either that VPN's also monitor and mine data traffic as well, before ever using one, do the research on find the one that is right for you. VPN's monitor and mine data to ensure the safety of their networks, and not all are created the same, many keep logs, for the very same reasons, and those are the very things the average VPN user is trying to avoid when signing up for them.

Keep your antivirus up to date, frequently flush your browsing data, and don't forget to flush your dns cache as well, and by all means don't click on advert links, you never know what you are going to find on the other end!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

You can decide which apps can use location and turn off those which don't need it. You can weekly restart your phone. You can delete the history from the browser.

You can use another search other than Google, like duckduckgo which does not track. You can use a vpn like Browsec which works well and good speeds. For years I have turned off my Google history tracking. Need to go to settings.

When it comes to Apple products big surge with malware ads for "Mackeeper" which everyone should ignore and not install.

I wouldn't call any of it "private data" just internet data collected. Same is also true of all computers and devices.

If you want the ads, and some do, you can say which ones you like.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Or don't use a smartphone, people got by OK without one........... just in case you forgot.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

You can also use the Onion Tor Browser but not liked by Google search.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When you put an advert in a newspaper or on a billboard or on the side of a bus you do not know who will see it and it should be the same in cyberspace or the people should be able to completely opt out of personalised adds. This is another factor in the rise of ad blockers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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