Security Issues in Data Mining

With the Internet dominating our everyday lives, it has become easier to generate, communicate, share, and access data. The hue and cry about personal data security issues is growing louder by the day. The recent revelations on federal surveillance of personal data in the name of national security have tech companies up in arms about the way online information is tapped into. Your preferences, who you interact with and where you go are all out there for companies to see – and use to their advantage. In fact, advertising and online marketing become easier and more effective when the seller knows about each user’s preferences and habits.

Important Concerns

Data mining can help figure out details such as to whether the shopper is getting married, selling a house, or whether he/she use cigarettes. Such information can be used to identify the customer’s buying habits and to forecast what all they buy in future. This can be useful if the information is used to provide us with the goods and services we are looking for.

For most of us, disclosing some information to gain certain benefits is not a big thing. However, we need to be sure that our personal privacy is not at stake and that our personal information is not used in unethical ways. Businesses that collect customer information to understanding buying trends may wind up one day or get acquired. Acquisition of business causes customer data to get transferred or leaked.

A person’s name and zip code can provide data such as the shopper’s phone number, e-mail address, home address, and so on. This can be used to send junk mail unwanted catalogs, and also to sell addresses to other telemarketers. Data brokers that buy such information can use it to create full consumer profiles.

Credit card steals and identity theft are other security issues. Customer information such as social security number, date of birth, and payroll, if not taken care of properly, can result in information breaches. Some of the firms that have encountered such issues include Ford Motor and Sony.

The need to address the balance between the data mining and individual privacy (by authorized personnel such as policymakers or Government) has become more relevant than ever. It has become clear that data mining does pose security issues, but there are some things you can do to protect your personal information.

Protecting Your Personal Information

  • Don’t disclose your zip code unless absolutely necessary says a recent Fox news report. This will help avoid unwanted intrusions into your privacy.
  • When you are shopping, don’t turn over any form of identification or personal information unless the store asks for it. Only provide information which is necessary for the transaction.

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled that retailers cannot ask for ZIP codes during a credit card transaction if the information is used for data collection or marketing. They are allowed to do so only for fraud prevention.

The Federal Trade Commission offers the following advice for safeguarding your offline and online information

Offline data:
  • Keep your financial documents and records in a safe locker at home. Also lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work.
  • Carry only your ID, and the credit, and debit cards you need. Keep your Social Security card at home. Make a copy of your Medicare card with the last four digits blacked out. Take the original only if you are going to see your doctor.
  • Make sure that the information you share at your workplace, a business, your child's school, or a doctor's office will be safeguarded.
  • Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, and expired charge cards, that you no longer need.

Online information:
  • Be wary of impersonators
  • Remove all your personal information before you dispose of your computer or mobile device
  • Keep your browser secure and use encryption software for your transactions
  • Have strong passwords and keep them private
  • Don’t share too much information on social media
  • Keep your Social Security Number secure

Data mining has proved immensely useful in fields like healthcare. However, it is necessary to establish standards for the collection of consumer data. Consumer information databases with errors can pose a serious risk if this information is used data mining purposes related to risk assessment.

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