Identity and Profile Privacy

How can one protect personally identifiable information?

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Who am I?

For me, the answer is my name. For everyone else, it is my identity. Government agencies may choose my social security number to identify me, a hospital may use my registration number and my bank may tag me with a customer or net banking id. Any of these can be used to trace the “real me” any time and very easily in the digital world today. In fact, even one identification data may be sufficient to “discover” a person using various methods and tools by linking a person’s entire digital profile exposed across websites and apps. The motive in doing so may be harmless in some cases, but often it is not.

Are you comfortable with this?  If yes, then skip this article and have a nice day. If not, read on.

What is personally identifiable information?

Your name, gender, date of birth, your various identification documents, social media profile, email id, mobile number, contact information and even your device id all constitute personally identifiable information. One does not need all of these to identify you but just one or very few. There is a complete “industry” of organizations and individuals trying to breach user identities and their data. Some use it for selfish business purposes while others simply misuse and even abuse it. This is the reason why governments in many countries are coming up with laws to protect their citizens against such privacy breaches.

Why is privacy so challenging?

Alarming as it may sound, privacy is something easier said than done. First, the definition of privacy varies and is often and conveniently subjected to “point-of-view”. Secondly, the awareness in today’s social media age is lacking because people are generally already too exposed and as such have a “don’t care” attitude. Thirdly, humans being a highly adaptable species may eventually learn or experience the pitfalls of privacy breaches, but unfortunately evolution by definition is a gradual process.

What should one do?

While the world at large is becoming more and more aware, it will be a while before things actually change. In the meantime, when someone asks for your personal data, prompts you to agree to a long list of terms while downloading an app, shows unsolicited ads or sends marketing emails or messages based on your recent browsing, be alarmed. It’s probably time to rethink and switch lanes. There are apps today that are focussed on privacy, even for browsing, messaging, email and social networking. Just prefix the word “private” to each, search, explore and determine the ones that fulfil your needs. Check their privacy terms carefully. In parallel, make a conscious effort to not leave footprints of your digital profile randomly.


Pravin Shah

Founder - Riddlock - An ardent believer in privacy being fundamental to human nature.