Privacy Issues Make Online Buying a Tough Sell

Going online, in many ways, is like opening up a diary of your life and inviting corporations all over the world to analyze what’s inside it. By looking at your personal information, including interests, purchases and browsing history, companies can engineer ways to sell you their goods and services. 

This is what people have come to expect on social media, where it’s common practice to share exactly where you are and what you’re doing with pictures and check-ins. It’s also reasonable to assume the same type of tracking takes place when you make a purchase online. 

To get an idea of who monitors what you’re buying, you would need to read the privacy policy of each website where you make a purchase. And a privacy policy doesn’t always restrict who companies share or sell your personal information with. It’s simply the document that provides an overview of how they share that information. 

Privacy is a growing concern across all mediums: Computers, cellphones and your cable TV provider, just to name a few. This issue reiterates the importance of building a relationship with a trusted financial professional — as opposed to a website — and as a financial professional we’re always open to meeting face to face to discuss your long-term retirement income goals.

If you entrust your retirement assets to an entity with which you communicate only online and by phone, you’ll never get that face-to-face interaction, a handshake, and all the other cues that may help you to determine that a person is trustworthy. In short, the Internet takes from you of the ability to use your instincts to help make decisions regarding who to trust. 

We work hard to earn our clients’ trust. It is the hallmark of the financial professional-client relationship and one we take very seriously — both in person and with electronic records and communications. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “It’s Your Data: Empowering Consumers to Protect Their Privacy on Broadband Networks” from Re/code, March 10, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “New privacy rules expected for Internet providers” from Fox Carolina 21, March 10, 2016.] 

Just to give you an idea of how big the privacy issue has become, a study by Pew Research revealed that 91 percent of Americans believe consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies. Given the highly publicized data breaches of some the country’s largest companies, the public also has little confidence that companies (who can afford to do so) are keeping their personal data secure. 

Despite these concerns, many Americans are willing to provide additional personal information (email address, mailing address, phone number, etc.) to receive a discount on a purchase. And why not? Saving money makes sense. However, a new survey found that while many shoppers are willing to make this trade-off, they resent it.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “8 conversations shaping technology” from Pew Research Center, March 10, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Convenience-Surveillance Tradeoff” from The Atlantic, Jan. 14, 2016.] 

If the tide is turning toward more stringent controls over private information, it is happening very slowly and amid a great deal of opposition by the companies seeking to use personal consumer data. Not to mention government agencies. In recent years, the FBI has had access to data involving emails, texts and phone calls that Americans have with people outside the country, which is collected by the National Security Agency. 

Just this year, however, the FBI revised its privacy rules to limit this access by requiring “supervisory approval.” This ambivalent language still suggests that the FBI may not require a court order for access, but rather a level of internal approval. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “FBI quietly changes its privacy rules for accessing NSA data on Americans” from The Guardian, March 8, 2016.] 

There are ways to protect yourself from excessive supervision. For example, the article below details how Microsoft Windows 10 users can adjust privacy settings that reset the “Express Settings” commonly selected during the initial setup. 

While it may be complicated to manually change settings on your computer (as opposed to simply clicking an “opt out” button), those who take the threat of privacy loss seriously may wish to do so. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Broken Windows Theory” from Slate, Aug. 3, 2015.] 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

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