New to MySudo? Worried about your personal privacy online? We can quickly bring you up to speed on the problem and the solution (spoiler alert: the solution is MySudo).
Let’s start with the problem. Handy terms to know here are:
- Personally identifiable information (PII) or personal data
- Surveillance capitalism or the data economy
- Data broking
- Data breach.
If you’re one of the nearly 5 billion internet users worldwide, you’d live a lot of your life online. You’d be browsing, buying, streaming, and socializing with the rest of us. That means you’d be leaving a lot of personal information (or personal data, or even ‘digital exhaust’ as it’s often called) with a lot of different web sites and services all over the web. This personal information can include your name, age, address, phone numbers, Social Security number, credit card details, credit history, web searches and spending habits – loads of it highly personal and sensitive.
For the complete scary picture of what information about you is out there, you’ll definitely want to read these articles:
- What Constitutes Personally Identifiable Information or PII?
- 14 Real-Life Examples of Personal Data You Definitely Want To Keep Private (Plus, How to Do It)
- What is Digital Exhaust and Why Does it Matter?
“So what’s the big deal about my information being on the web?” we hear you ask. “Plenty!” we reply.
First, your personal information is like liquid gold to Big Tech and other businesses, especially those businesses that “don’t charge” for their services (e.g. Facebook). Have you heard the saying, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product?”. Bingo! Your personal information, when collected, correlated, packaged up and sold, is a highly lucrative, tangible product – and plenty of companies are making big money from it.
Using customers’ personal data as a product is a business model known as surveillance capitalism – a term coined by Professor Emerita Shoshana Zuboff of Harvard Business School in her book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. Zuboff defines it as, “The unilateral claiming of private human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioral data. These data are then computed and packaged as prediction products and sold into behavioral futures markets — business customers with a commercial interest in knowing what we will do now, soon, and later.” Put simpler: companies are claiming OUR DATA as THEIR ASSET and making money off of it.
Companies use your personal information to:
- Serve you personalized ads (those scarily coincidental ads that pop up within seconds of your search for a product)
- Set higher prices (you search for something high risk like “motor racing” and suddenly your insurance premium goes up)
- Control the content you see (think algorithms: the sets of rules social media platforms use for determining the unique content curation each user gets in their feed)
- Influence your political decisions (read up on Cambridge Analytica for a famous example).
There’s a lot to unpack here, so you might want to read these articles next:
- The Privacy Pitfalls of Personalized Advertising
- Do Consumers Even Want Personalized Ads? (The answer is yes and no, but a key takeaway is that in 2019 Pew Research found 81 percent of Americans believe the potential risks from data-driven products and services outweigh the benefits.)
- Streaming Services are Invading America’s Privacy: New Research
- Shocked or Not: Your Bank is Selling Your Personal Data
And the big picture of data privacy gets even bigger: let’s talk data broking.
Data brokers grease the wheels of surveillance capitalism. As you’ll read in this article – How Data Brokers Find and Sell Your Personal Information – data broking is a legitimate but unregulated industry, worth around US $200 billion annually. About 4,000 data brokers operate worldwide.
It works like this: So that a brand has the best chance of selling you their product or service, they want to know as much information about you as possible. For example, they want to know your age and marital status, where you live, your email address, employer, how much money you make, how many children you have, where you shop, what you buy, your medical conditions and health issues, and who you vote for and support. Brands want this information so that they tailor their content and ads to you by homing in on your demographics and preferences. Data brokers gather this type of personal data from across the internet and, once they have it, they sell it to brands, usually in list form. Your email address on a list of people with a particular medical condition such as diabetes would be worth about $80 and on a list of a particular class of traveler about $250.
And that’s the rub: A lot of your personal data online is certainly not information you’d want to share around. But while data brokers argue the data is anonymized, we know it’s scarily simple to re-identify so-called “anonymous” data.
Did you watch the April 10, 2022 episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, which was a startling expose of data broking? He gives examples of how easy re-identifying a person on a data broker’s list really is.
So you can see that trail of personal information you left online last time you signed up to a streaming service, opened a new social media account, or searched for pregnancy advice or for your mother’s diabetes medication, is being used in the background to manipulate your every move.
But wait, there’s more …
Vast stores of customer data, like name, address, credit card number and SSN, are honey pots to criminals. When a company’s data is lost or stolen either accidentally (say, by a staff member error) or on purpose (by a criminal attacker), it’s called a data breach – and they’re on the rise.
A data breach is a security event where highly sensitive, confidential or protected information is accessed or disclosed without permission or is lost. Organizations, governments and individuals can be victims of data breaches, and usually these events are enormously costly in terms of time, money or corporate reputation.
To give you an idea of the size and scale of some data breaches, 3.5 billion people had records exposed in the 15 biggest data breaches of this century. In just the first half of 2019, data breaches exposed 4.1 billionrecords.
If it’s a criminal who gets their hands on your personal information, they may use it to commit credit card fraud, identity theft and more. And you can’t say, “Oh, that won’t happen to me”, since internet-connected computers are attacked every 39 seconds in the US, and 45% of Americans have been caught in a data breach in the past five years alone.
A part of the internet known as the dark web is where a lot of these criminals hang out and trade stolen data for financial and reputational reward. You might want to read The Growing Risks to Businesses and their Customers from the Dark Web.
So, now you can see the privacy and security risks of living your life online, what is the solution?
MySudo, the all-in-one privacy app
At Anonyome Labs, the makers of MySudo, we believe being private doesn’t mean opting out of online services or hiding from the world. We empower people to determine what information they share, and how, when and with whom they share it. And we exemplify that in our consumer app MySudo.
MySudo is different from other privacy apps in many ways, not least because it’s built around the Sudo, a secure, customizable digital identity or ‘profile’ that intentionally differentiates from your personal identity and protects your personal data.
A Sudo isn’t a ‘burner’ or fake ID—it’s a real, alternative identity that you can use anywhere your personal identity is required. Your Sudo profile is a secure stand-in for your personal identity, and it’s entirely under your control. You create the Sudo profile and manage it, and you can have up to 9 Sudos in the app.
Each Sudo has a range of privacy capabilities and security features built into it, which is what makes MySudo the all-in-one privacy app.
You assign each Sudo its own private and secure:
- Telephone numbers (with a monthly plan)
- Handles (free with SudoFree plan and included with every monthly plan)
- Private browsers
- Virtual payment cards.
Sure, there are other private messaging apps, private email, and browsing apps on the market, but you’d have to maintain an account with each separate service, which can be unwieldy. And some apps, even the big ones like Signal, ask for your personal phone number to set up the app – which we don’t do, and yet another way we’re different from most other apps on the market today.
Adding to the value, we extend the usability of the Sudo by offering you up to 9 separate Sudos in the app (depending on your monthly plan) so you can harness the power of compartmentalization, the best data protection strategy on the planet.
Compartmentalization works on the principle of siloing or separating our personal information into different contexts (e.g. online shopping, travel, house hunting) so you lessen the impact if one context is breached.
We explain compartmentalization in this article as not putting all your eggs in one basket:
The egg/basket advice is basically about spreading risk and diversifying assets, right? If all your valuables (eggs) are in one place (basket) and that place is compromised (basket breaks), you’ll lose all your valuables. Eggs are fragile and baskets break, so you’re facing a real risk, but it’s one you can easily mitigate by spreading your eggs across more baskets.
And that’s where the link to data privacy comes in. If we put all our personal information in one place (the internet) by using it everywhere we interact online, then we risk losing all that information in one incident (data breach, identity theft, credit card fraud etc.). What’s more, we risk having it correlated by data brokers or ad tech, stolen by hackers, or sold by the service operator itself.
Compartmentalization recognizes no system is perfect, breaches are always possible, so it’s wise to manage the risk. You might lose an egg or two, but you won’t lose them all.
So, let’s recap:
Every time you go online, you leave a trail of personal information that data brokers and criminals can scoop up like candy.
Every purchase, every new account or subscription, every web search, every social media post puts you at risk of having your money stolen or your life invaded.
—You see a string of mysterious charges on your everyday card, and now you’ve got to cancel it and clean up the mess.
—Someone uses your driver’s license as ID on bad checks.
—An impostor commits a crime in your name and you’re wrongly accused.
—You buy your mother-in-law’s heart disease medication and suddenly your health insurance premium goes up.
—You spend time searching “auto racing” and now your car insurer sees you as high risk.
Your best defense is not to give out your personal information in the first place. But in an increasingly data-driven world, that’s impossible – without MySudo.
MySudo powerfully protects your personal information online (name, age, address, email, phone number, browsing history, bank details and more) in a single all-in-one privacy solution that users are loving for its power to both protect and organize (compartmentalize) their life.