Residential Data Privacy: Not just pulling the blinds anymore

Posted by Jolenta Averill on Monday, January 20th, 2020 at 11:23am

 

Privacy for homeowners has encountered a new frontier: privacy is no longer limited to visual and audio encroachments, no longer merely susceptible to just telescoping cameras and audio bugs, but due to the hyperconnected Internet world now available in almost all residential neighborhoods (in fact “good internet” is now almost as sought after as “clean water”), residential neighborhoods are vulnerable to a whole new source of transgressions against their personal privacy. Who are these transgressors and what do they want from us?

These new intruders are no longer interested in spotting you in your skivvies. They’re not even attempting to tape your conversations. This new breed of intruders wants to mine the little bits and pieces of data that are off-gassed by your cyber life and manipulate this data for possible fraud for their own personal financial gain. To be clear: they are thieves. Like Willy Sutton’s advice, they are going where the money is. And where is that? Residential neighborhoods, that's where. Banks and businesses have money too of course, but they're often better fortified than the residents of single family homes and condos that still primarily view the Internet as entertainment. The average person forgets that they're actually conducting serious business on the internet and have placed a great deal of information about themselves on their home networks. 

Not only is it now more important than ever to screen your garbage, making sure that nothing with personal identifiable information (PII) is cast into the public refuse domain, but consumers must also adopt a more vigilant attitude around maintaining the privacy of their cyber identify from the public cyber domain, from both cyber criminals and cyber corporations. We are best advised to not allow any PII to go public: bills, meetings, vacations, grades, car repairs, etc. Almost anything can be used by a clever criminal or a relentless corporation to steal your money or get you to spend money.

Even more fundamentally then just taking our money is the sense of violation that accompanies a data privacy breach. Some people may ask, “Why do I care if they learn about my Madison water utility bill?” Let me partially answer that by asking “Why are we so nervous about being spotted in our jammies?” It's because privacy is ancient, it’s in our evolutionary foundation, it is a core primitive urge. As individuals, we want to choose when to reveal ourselves. We own our privacy, we pay a lot for our homes to be secure and private and we don’t want to relinquish that control. When our trash is picked through or our mobile phone is sniffed, we're no longer deciding what will be revealed about ourselves, not to mention what will be done with that data. Perhaps we're not that bashful about being caught lederhosen-less by the mailman, but if that same exact exposure were purposely taken by a creepy voyeur, we would be extremely alarmed. In our collective sense of justice, we get to decide what we reveal about ourselves. In this regard, privacy is akin to trust. So, who can and should we trust?

By definition, we surrender some privacy to family, friends, and close business associates such as financial advisors, CPA’s, attorneys, estate planners, mortgage lenders, title companies and, last but not least, Realtors. After all, we already share our homes and lives with family and friends, but even this arrangement is on a well understood basis of consent. When little brother reads big sister’s diary, there's no confusion about what lines were crossed. But when Big Brother collects data tidbits around every transaction, consumption, and display of preferences registered on the internet, there's suddenly an enormous and deliberate cloud of confusion over what, why, and when laws are being broken. The way corporate America would like to spin this is that they’re so conscientious about your consumer needs they’re willing to gather this data in order to better serve you. But how convenient is it for corporations to promote this mindset? We all know full well that it’s extremely self-serving: the fact is that corporate America is milking you.  

When corporations claim otherwise they're adding a lie on top of their blatant thievery. Gathering data without consent and without a clearly stated, limited, and required purpose is unwanted surveillance, nothing less. This is spying and spying is stealing. When it’s done via an outhouse knot-hole we call it a perversion. When it’s done via website cookies they call it marketing. No one would agree to being spied on if they knew what Big Brother was actually doing. So why do they keep doing it, if no one wants it? Two reasons: 1) because they can, and 2) for financial gain. 

Simply put, data privacy is just privacy, albeit the modern updated version of privacy. But it’s still just privacy. Just a short time ago the concept of privacy was limited to having some quiet alone time in your living room, free from being spied on while in your comfy PJ’s with no thought of being vulnerable to the aggressive intentions of anyone trying to obtain your attention. This type of privacy was and still is a cherished attribute in our society that consumers seek not only when buying a home or condo, but also when planting bushes, building fences, tinting windows, parking off street, going on vacation and lowering the shades. Most people aren’t truly comfortable without at least a modicum of this treasured state present somewhere in their lives. 

Unfortunately the peeping toms of the world are now all over the internet and have upped the ante. Cyber peepers now have something like x-ray vision that can peer right through our seemingly carefully crafted privacy shrubbery and collect data on us from afar. They can effectively learn enough about us to violate our privacy. It’s still our good old fashioned privacy that’s being broken, but this new type of invasion redefines the scope of privacy and necessitates new deterrents in this arms race of spying. Upgrading to lead curtains may stop x-rays but will do little to stop cyber criminals from prying into our lives. 

Originally, we thought that surfing the Internet gave us a view into the world. It now it appears as if using the internet gives the world a view into our private lives. If a consumer or citizen or employee or business wants to maintain some of that good old fashioned privacy, they’re going to have to adopt a new rigor that includes sheltering every aspect of our lives, both physical and virtual, from public viewing. Privacy shrubbery just got a lot more complicated. 

Naturally this brings up the question of how your data privacy is impacted in a real estate transaction. What types of data are typically collected in a real estate transaction in Dane County? Who sees this data and what happens to it after the real estate transaction is over? How can you, as a consumer, limit your exposure and vulnerability? Please comment below or use the information below to contact the broker privately to ask questions about data privacy concerns you might have in conjunction with your upcoming plans to buy or sell a home or condo in the Madison WI area. And rest assured, Lake & City Homes Realty and its agents would never dream of sharing, let alone selling, any of your personal private information. Your privacy and confidentiality is paramount to us.

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