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Essential to know why your data is big business

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Consumer business by Denisha Maxey

EVERY TIME you download an app on your mobile phone or other electronic device, a pop-up display asks for permission to access your data. Permission is requested to access your contacts, videos, photos and locations. If you decline the request, you might not be able to download the app.
Why is this information so important to companies? The answer is simple – for app-providing companies, your data equals big dollars. Information held in your phone or other electronic device, such as your contacts’ phone numbers, e-mail addresses or the locations of places you frequent is valuable.
Such information helps companies tailor their advertising efforts to fit “your” needs. When you are online reading the news or listening to music, have you ever noticed how advertisements pop up that are related to your recent online searches?
If you have recently searched the internet for a dentist or restaurant, or shopped from a clothing website, pop-up ads will match the items in which you have shown recent interest.
Companies are willing to pay millions of dollars to access your data and use it to generate revenue and there are several different ways that they utilize it.
Consumers’ data can be used for marketing purposes, new products or services research to create targeted advertisements. It is also sold to third-party companies.
Data collection can be beneficial not only for companies but for consumers as well. Just as you can select your personal preferences when setting up a social-media account, your data can be used to personalize the list of advertisements you see and the products and services you are offered.
Your online activity can be used to help shape your online experience but, as more companies start to depend heavily on consumer data for their business needs, it is also essential that they are transparent as to which consumer data they will collect and what it will be used for.
Consumers are less inclined to grant access to their data if they are not aware of what it is being used for. They are more likely to allow access if they know it involves benefits such as receiving coupons and special offers from retailers and other companies with which have previously initiated business interactions.
Consumers have an expectation that companies will manage their personal data responsibly.
Reviewing a company’s terms and conditions when it asks for permission to access your personal data can give you a better understanding of what data will be collected and how it will be used. But most people do not take the time to review the terms and conditions because it can be quite lengthy and contain technical language they might not understand.
However, we all should still take the time to review the information and educate ourselves on how our data is being used. Our mobile phones and other electronic devices hold personal information that’s not only valuable us but to commercial interests as well. Be an informed consumer and fully understand how a company is utilizing your data.
Denisha Maxey is director of dispute resolution at Houston Better Business Bureau.

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