Increasingly, the everyday activities of consumers are being recorded, measured, and leveraged by businesses for transactional advantages. On an average day, a consumer may unknowingly reveal thousands of data points through financial services, online interactions, communications channels, utilization of modern health care options, and personal activities. Consumers are rarely given the ability to “opt-out” of such tracking and, where such control does exist, the process remains concealed, tedious, and potentially ineffective.

For example, the social networking utility website Facebook.com suffered criticism in May 2010 over its failure to provide individual users with simple privacy tools, prompting founder Mark Zuckerberg to admit the settings had “gotten complex” for users. Thereafter, the company was forced to redesign its privacy controls, announcing to consumers, “social network Facebook has said it will offer a one-stop shop for privacy settings in response to user concerns. The new system will offer users one privacy page with a list of all their applications and a choice of three settings for each.” Zuckerberg also said, “We don’t sell your information and we have no plans to.” Accordingly, many consumers took action to restrict their information and protect their Facebook privacy status.

Yet, in October 2010, consumers were shocked by the Wall Street Journal headline, “Facebook in Privacy Breach; Top-Ranked Applications Transmit Personal ID’s.” The WSJ investigation revealed that many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. were transmitting identifying information. Facebook Inc. was, in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names, to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies.  As the Wall Street Journal specified, “the issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.”

A follow-up article by the Wall Street Journal in October 2010, “Facebook Inc. Says User Data Sold To Broker“, revealed that sales of personal user data by Facebook Inc. undermined Zuckerberg’s credibility among users. As demonstrated, even the most vigilant consumers who took action to secure their Facebook profile privacy status were vulnerable to data leakage and exploitation. To help consumers manage these responsibilities, SafetyPlan offers an online service that tracks privacy across six domains – health, online, credit and banking, your devices, your physical property, and in your community – and enables consumers to manage risk.

The threat to consumer privacy is constant. Another investigation by The Wall Street Journal series “What They Know – An Exploration into Digital Privacy“, uncovered a remarkable proliferation of the use of consumer marketing data to create a “predictive modeling” system for insurance applicants. The article “Insurers Test Data Profiles to Identify Risky Clients” reveals that insurers’ new approach is made feasible by a trove of information held by giant U.S. data-collection firms, such as Acxiom, Alliance Data Systems Corp., Experian PLC, and Infogroup, who each have detailed information on more than 100 million American households. In fact, these data-gathering companies have such extensive files on most U.S. consumers, including online shopping details, catalog purchases, magazine subscriptions, leisure activities and information from social-networking site, that insurance companies are exploring whether data can reveal nearly as much about a person as a lab analysis of their bodily fluids.

In the absence of national privacy protections for personal data, consumers are burdened with an individual responsibility to secure their personal information and protect against intrusions in multiple spheres, including insurance, financial services, employment, health care, communications, personal property, and online activity. In each area, SafetyPlan offers the following benefits:

  • Credit and Banking – Identity Theft Protection and Insurance; Credit Report Monitoring
  • Online – Block Viruses and Spam; Block Ads and Tracking Cookies
  • Social Network – Protect Privacy Online; Parental Controls for your Child’s Computer and Social Networking
  • Health – Know what’s in your Medical Records; Spot Hidden Health Risks; Analyze Health Insurance Costs
  • Devices – Block Unwanted Calls and Texts; Recover Lost Laptop
  • Property – Emergency Preparedness Kit for your Home; Analyze Health Insurance Costs

With a unified platform to manage consumer risk in each area, the ‘whole-community’ approach taken by SafetyPlan empowers consumers to regain control of their personal data and private information.  In addition, SafetyPlan offers valuable tools for consumers, including: My SafetyPlan to create a personalized action list of privacy steps; and My SafetyScore to rate consumers’ safety based on publically-available information.  For example, once consumers create a SafetyScore, they receive a personalized action SafetyPlan, with prioritized action steps to reduce vulnerability and improve the SafetyScore.

SafetyPlan Inc., Founder and CEO Brad Ketch, a technology and telecom manufacturing industry executive with more than 25 years of experience, explains, “There are risks in credit and banking. There are risks to your health, or to your house. When you are online, there are risks that others are spying on you. There are even risks that your conversations on your mobile phone are not private. At SafetyPlan, we provide you with information, guides and caring representatives that will help you understand these risks and what you can do about them.”  For more information, or to enroll, visit SafetyPlan online at https://getmysafetyplan.com.

For modern consumers, it has never been more challenging to navigate marketplace – identity theft, consumer fraud, and property losses are growing. In the United States, over $50 billion in consumer losses and 11 million identity theft victims were recorded last year. Increasingly, consumers must maintain preventive awareness and while comprehensively protecting against the next unknown privacy threat.

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