There are many different types of data in our world, but not all of them relate to your online identity. In this post we will be covering the 6 types of data that can affect your online privacy: personal data, behavioral data, financial data, health data, demographic data, and legal data.

Personal Data

Personal data, also known as identifying data, refers to any data that can be used to identify who you are, either directly or indirectly. Essentially, any information that can be used to distinguish someone from their peers can be considered personal data.

The most common examples of this include name, phone number, street address, and email address, however personal data can also refer to more sensitive information such as your social security number or even your mother’s maiden name.

This data is by far the most invasive, as the majority of personal data can be used to assist in crimes such as stalking and identity theft, as well as contribute to the endless amount of spam calls/texts we get every day.

Personal data is also one of the most common types of data available on the internet, largely due to its popularity amongst individuals. If you had to choose one type of data to remove from the internet, I believe most people who opt for personal data.

Behavioral Data

Unlike the other types of data listed here, behavioral data does not act as static data. This means that the data will constantly change and update depending on the actions you commit, and generally speaking these actions refer to your commercial spending habits and overall interests.

As for the collection method, behavioral data is typically tracked through devices such as computers, tablets, or smartphones.

For example, if you visit a website looking for sports equipment, behavioral data will track this and determine you have an interest in sports equipment—even if you refrain from purchasing anything. This interest is clearly valuable to companies that sell sports equipment, thus increasing the demand for this behavioral data.

To summarize, you can think of behavioral data as an ongoing report of your current and past interests, mainly from a commercial standpoint (i.e. purchasing behavior).  

Financial Data

Financial data is relatively straightforward, as it refers to information containing insight on you or your family’s financial situation.

In general, anything that can be used to determine the wealth of your household can be considered financial data. This can include standard financial information such as net worth, annual income, and property value, however it has become increasingly common to reveal more sensitive information such as credit score, job history, and details regarding ownership of stocks or bonds.

Typically, financial data is not used by individuals. The majority of financial data is bought by businesses, both small and large, to target buyers with a prerequisite amount of wealth. This concept of targeting individuals is somewhat similar to behavioral data, however financial data is generally used on much more expensive products.

The Real Estate industry is a great example of this, as realtors understand that you need a certain amount of money/wealth in order to even consider purchasing a house.

Health Data

Health data refers to any information that is able to shed light on the health of your body, either in a general sense or for specific body parts/areas.

For starters, this can include any current or past injuries such as sprains, tears, bone fractures, broken bones, and concussions, along with ailments such as colds, flus, and general diseases. On top of that, health data can also contain information regarding any surgeries associated with those injuries or ailments.

Most people would agree that this information is relatively harmless, however health data covers more than just your medical history. The more invasive examples of health data include personal information such as dietary concerns/supplements, known allergies, prescription details, and insurance information.  

Demographic Data

Demographic data works by using broad human characteristics to profile individuals, rather than unique traits or specific identifiers. Although definitions can vary, these characteristics generally refer to age, race, sex, weight, marital status, employment, and education.

Note that unlike personal data, none of these traits on their own have the power to consistently distinguish someone from their peers. Instead, this data is primarily used as a grouping tool. In the past, this information had been collected by government agencies to understand economic patterns and predict future economies. Today however, demographic data is mainly used by marketing agencies to filter potential buyers into what they call a “target audience”.

For example, if a certain company notices that most of their customers are married women in their 40’s, a marketing agency can use demographic data to target only individuals that meet those requirements.

By targeting specific demographics, companies can increase their potential customers while optimizing that amount of money spent on advertisements.

Legal Data

Legal data refers to any information that provides insight regarding your legal history. Contrary to the other types of data, legal data can be both broad in scope (i.e., Demographic Data) or acutely specific (i.e., Personal Data). From a privacy perspective, the broader aspects of legal data are much less invasive than the more targeted data.

For example, traffic violations, convictions, arrests, court cases, and general public records all fall under this type of legal data.

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