Don’t get fooled: 4 times you thought you deleted your data but didn’t

Gal Ringel
4
min read

<hl>Here are four commonly made mistakes when “deleting” and “protecting” our personal data online.<hl>

4 times you thought you deleted your data but didn’t

There’s no denying the increasing awareness for online privacy issues. Cisco’s research revealed that 80% of internet users care about their online privacy, and almost 50% have acted to protect it. But while that’s great news, we often lack the necessary knowledge and end up acting in ways that only seem effective. Instead of taking actions that would actually protect our data, we leave it unintentionally exposed. But no worries, we’re here to shed some light on the most common mistakes we make when it comes to our data protection and offer some solutions. Here are the four misleading online behaviors that leave your data in the hands of companies, even if you think otherwise:

1. Away from your inbox, NOT from your data: Unsubscribing from mailing lists

When GDPR first went into effect in 2018, internet users in Europe and beyond were bombarded with messages asking for their consent to receive emails from businesses. Many felt and continue to think that by hitting “unsubscribe,” they’ve ended their relationship with the company and regained data ownership.

But there’s a difference between consent and ownership. Just because you’ll no longer receive emails from a company does not mean that they no longer track you using other channels, and it most certainly doesn’t mean that the data the company already has is removed. The company can still have access to your data and might share it with others which could expose your data to digital risks. To prevent that, users must take an additional step of requesting data clearing, often known as “The Right to Be Forgotten.” If you haven’t done that before, you might be surprised when you discover all the businesses that still have access to your data and are all listed on your <nofollow>Mine account<nofollow>. Luckily there’s no time like the present to take action.

2. Still in a relationship with your data: Deleting apps from your phone.

Uninstalling an app is effective to some degree. It prevents the app from tracking your activity after removing it, but it doesn’t delete the information already gathered. It also doesn’t stop the company from offering this data to third parties. Your private information is still out there, being used in ways you’re unaware of and have never approved.  

There’s an effortless way to test this. After removing an app, re-install it on your device. You’ll see how for most cases, it is super easy it is to bring your user profile back to life, proving that your data didn’t go anywhere and was waiting for you to come back (or for someone to purchase it from the company).

3. They can still see you: Surfing the web using incognito mode.

Ah, the invisibility cloak that is the Incognito Mode. Who are you hiding from? Yourself. We’ve written a detailed post on this topic in the past, but it’s always worth reminding that websites you visit continue to track your activity when browsing in incognito. The only difference is that your activity isn’t saved on Chrome’s browsing history, no cookies information is stored, and others who use the same device will not be able to see where you’ve been (which is priceless in some cases, but not this one).

This is an excellent example of practices that the average user might find misguiding. It’s easy to see why so many people think of incognito mode as a way to avoid data tracking, and only a few actually read the explanation behind such solutions. Online privacy is a confusing field that requires straightforward, user-friendly solutions.

4. Data doesn’t fade: Disappearing messages.

The disappearing messages trend started with Snapchat and is now a typical social media practice. The recent hit, which is the Clubhouse social network, uses it as a key feature. It’s a pretty simple notion that promises users to delete the content they publish after a while.

We doubt that anyone really thinks of this feature as a safety measure. Even though Snapchat alerts users when a screenshot of their message is taken, there are still ways to bypass these notifications. As for Clubhouse, the app removes users who tape sessions but recently suffered a data leak and explains in its guidelines that sessions are recorded and kept for investigation purposes.

In other words, disappearing messages create a more contemporary, fresh vibe that triggers users’ FOMO and keeps them coming back, but no more than that. Still, some users could mistakenly believe that the deleted content is also removed from the company’s servers, which might not necessarily be the case. Companies that launch the disappearing content feature often leave out any explanation regarding the long-lasting availability of this data to the company itself, and they know why.

The visible solution

The solution to all the above scenarios is switching to an ownership state of mind. Internet users should not be forced to chase their data, figuring out which options protect them and which ones don’t. Instead, we all deserve the calm and collected mode that gives users ownership and gathers all the data-tracking sources in one place.

Mine’s solution offers a comprehensive overview and simple management capabilities that will stop you from wondering. There’s no need to read long privacy policies or product descriptions that use legal and tech talk to keep you confused. It’s all there, bright and clear, waiting for you to call the shots.