Personal data vendors lurk in all corners

NEWS reports on personal information being stolen for sale has shocked many and triggered awareness among us, the consumers, as to the risks we face and how to prevent them.

Bangkok Post reported in the middle of last month that an investigation panel was formed by the national telecom regulator to examine the causes of a customer data breach perpetrated by an Advanced Info Service (AIS) employee.

privacy-1-2The panel is expected to report within the next two weeks, said Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The regulator will then pass its findings on to the police for further investigation. The move by the NBTC was in response to a message posted on the community website by an AIS customer who said her call data record (including the user’s locations and incoming and outgoing calls) had been stolen.

Actually this is just the tip of an iceberg on personal data trading in this digital world and as Thailand is moving into its 4.0 economic development phase, people’s risk of their personal data being collected and sold by data vendors has been increasing accordingly.

People might be surprised as to how an email from companies selling goods and services can be sent to them.  How can someone we don’t know call to offer loans, insurance packages or a free yoga course trial.  How can these firms send us SMS to offer all sorts of goods and services?  If you asked them on the phone as to how they got your number, they would not give you a straightforward answer.

In reality, Thais’ lifestyle of participating in social media unintentionally provides an opportunity to collect personal data for sale to data vendors.

Facebook, for example, is the most popular social networking site being used by around 19 million Thai people and surprisingly, Bangkok ranks highest with the most number of Facebook users in the world.  Bangkok has some 8.68 million Facebook users, beating global megalopolises.

When registering to use, there is personal information you provide as public information and anybody can see these details.  And often when you were motivated to play games or quizzes posted on Facebook, they ask your permission to access your personal information on Facebook, your list of friends too.

This personal info can then be collected for their own use. Of course, Facebook itself has its privacy policy and we tend to believe it holds on to the promise on its part not to reveal our private info to anybody else.

And of course we often attend seminars, exhibitions, motor shows and trade fairs.  We are in most cases tricked or forced to fill a form, asking for our name, address, income, education, as well as info about our husband or wife and children.

Since it’s free, most of the time they make it a requirement for you to fill the form and may offer you a chance to win a prize. There you go, giving your personal information, and you would never know whether they would sell it to somebody or not and whether the buyer intends to use it for a good or bad cause.

It’s time we take care of ourselves as the authorities have yet to come up with an effective measure to deal with such grey data trading business.


TOP: The social media bandwagon inadvertently opens the door to personal data trading. Photo: Juan Iraola (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

INSET: A smart phone and a laptop are the tools to join sometimes risky social media. Photo: Magicatwork (CC-BY-2.0)

By Kowit Sanandang


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