News from Forbes that Avast’s Jumpshot subsidiary is tracking — and reselling — data on billions of user actions daily via its browser plugins should have people wanting answers to two questions: Why is a security company using its privileged browser position to collect and resell data on my every click? And what would it take for me to have my own virtual walled garden?
Lets talk about those walled gardens.
In the business world, a walled garden has nothing about trees and shrubs, it is about a closed ecosystem in which all operations, hardware, and programs are controlled by that ecosystem’s operator. Walled gardens vary by generations, too. Older people can remember Bell Telephones and their hold on the analog telephone world and younger people think of Apple with its tight control of everything Apple.
Big Tech and analytics firms love to garden.
Walled gardens are not just about hardware. A few other examples are Google, Amazon, and Facebook. They work hard to keep you in their walled garden ecosystem from your initial search, purchase, and writing reviews. It’s like a Google search for a muffler shop, the Google maps recommendation on how to get there, and that Google reminder to write a review a few days later.
Then there is Jumpshot, a fast-moving analytics firm, who claims to be able to “measure every search, click, and buy from more than 150 marketplaces across 1,600 categories.”
If you have these products on your device, no matter where you go, this company is tracking your activity and then reselling this data.
Do you have your own private walled garden?
Security companies do collect limited details about you, your device, and your activities as they work to protect against incoming malware. But, the data that is needed for your security is far, far less than the data that can be collected. In addition, the decision to resell this data isn’t mandatory – it’s a money-making choice that crosses an ethical line and at least one Senator asking questions. In fact, some security companies are taking the opposite approach – restricting invasive trackers, limiting their own data collection, and making the decision to never resell user data.
Two steps for creating your personal walled garden.
You – and your device – should be a walled garden where you don’t have peeping toms taking notes on your activities and then reselling their findings. It should be a place where you make the private decisions on content, access, choices, and sharing. Here are two basic steps to get started:
- Be aware of who is looking in – Take a look at the reviews and news reports about the apps on your device and their developers. If they have a dodgy reputation or if news comes out that they are doing unseemly things with user data – get rid of them. Nothing speaks more clearly to a developer than uninstall.
- Get a good partner – Creating your private garden requires a mix of ad blockers, password managers, and a VPNs. Together, these can help trackers from following your online moves, minimize the risk of a catastrophic data breach, and keep eavesdroppers out of your online life. You can choose the best individually or try Avira Free Security Suite to get all of these privacy features in a one free package.