It’s a known fact that social media sites and search engines are collecting your information. However, there are many other places you may not be aware of that collect your information.
“At every moment keep a sturdy mind on the task at hand, as a Roman and human being, doing it with strict and simple dignity, affection, freedom, and justice — giving yourself a break from all other considerations. You can do this if you approach each task as if it is your last, giving up every distraction, emotional subversion of reason, and all drama, vanity, and complaint over your fair share. You can see how mastery over a few things makes it possible to live an abundant and devout life — for, if you keep watch over these things, the gods won’t ask for more.” — MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 2.5
This blog post will explore the issue of what data is being collected, what is being done with it, and the potential impact on your privacy.
There’s a big controversy about how these companies are collecting our data, and the most recent instance was the Facebook data scandal in the United States. What’s the controversy? In the United States, Facebook was accused of mishandling the data of 87 million users, which was then used for political purposes, as reported by The New York Times. After the data was released, Facebook was forced to release an apology and conduct audits on their data.
The data came from a personality quiz, which around 270,000 people were paid to take. The quiz — “thisisyourdigitallife” — in turn pulled data from their friends’ profiles as well, ending in the enormous data stash.
The data that was collected through the Facebook “breach” included names, email addresses, location, birthdays, posts you’ve made, messages you’ve sent, and more.
So, What Data Do These Companies Collect?
They also collect your location information, your browsing history, your friends and family members, their phone numbers, and their posts
In addition, Facebook also collects information about the links you click on and the ads you interact with.
Twitter collects information about the links you click on, the ads you interact with, and your IP address. Twitter also collects information through cookies and other technologies like pixels, tags, and other methods.
Google collects your search queries, IP address, and what apps you have installed. Google also collects information on your location, what device you’re using, and other information about your browser. Information is collected from users across a wide variety of Google services, including Maps, Search, YouTube, Gmail, the Chrome browser, and more.
In 2018, Google was fined €50 million by the French authorities for failing to comply with national data protection laws. Google has also been accused of collecting Wi-Fi data through its StreetView cars. The data included emails, user names, passwords, images and documents.
The Big Data Scandal
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, revelations that online companies are gathering and selling your data without your knowledge has brought up a lot of questions about what is happening to your data.
The tech industry and data analysts have done a great job of making sure that they can gather as many data points as possible. The problem is that this has created a large number of valuable pieces of information that are stored in multiple locations, with sensitive personal information intertwined in the bits and bytes. With the introduction of artificial intelligence, organizations are using machine learning algorithms to glean insights from these datasets. This has increased the security risks associated with these new technologies by exposing businesses to hacking attempts and unauthorized access.
“AI is the new electricity” — Andrew Ng
Privacy is a complicated issue
The question of “what should I share?” is something that is constantly in the back of our minds, but there are a lot of factors that need to be considered before that question can be answered.
In 2014, it was revealed that Facebook had personal information on over 87 million users, including over 60 million Americans. This means that they can know what you like, what you dislike, who you’re friends with, how long you’ve been friends, and what your interests are. Google and Twitter are also guilty of collecting user data for personal gain. Google stores your emails, chats, documents, and videos for up to 18 months, and Twitter stores your phone number with your account. These companies are guilty of violating your privacy without your consent, and they’re the ones who are profiting from your data.
These three have been there for years and have been used by millions of people around the world. When you go to Google, Facebook, or Twitter, you’re more likely to see ads than what you were looking for. But you’re also giving these companies access to everything you do, everywhere you go, and everyone you know.
If you want to know more about what information is being collected by these companies, it might be helpful to look into the usage policies.
Where Does My Data Go?
Social media companies are profiting from the data they collect from their users, all the while telling them that the data is exclusively for their benefit. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are just a few of the social media giants that collect data from you without your knowing it. The data they collect is used to create targeted advertisements, but the ads made in this way are not always what the user wants. The data collected by social media companies can be used for countless purposes, such as helping with targeted advertisements, but the companies are not transparent about this fact. They are also not transparent about what data is collected and how it is used, which makes the user feel like their privacy is being violated. Users are not allowed to see their data in detail, and there is no way for them to opt out of this process. Most social media companies sell data to third parties. Google, Facebook, and Twitter all sell data to advertisers. Google, for example, sells data that allows them to market to people who search for a product and also shows ads to people who visit a website.
This is a “common practice” that many social media companies use to make money. Companies are profiting off of the data users provide them, and the user has no idea what data is being collected. Social media companies have a responsibility to be transparent about their data collection process, and this is not the case. They make millions of dollars from the data they collect from the user, and they have no obligation to be transparent about how, where, and why the data is being used.
The data they collect from millions of people is expanding rapidly. This data is used to make money, and often sold to companies outside of the social media sites. Google, Facebook, and Twitter have claimed that they use your data to improve your experience. But, are they really using the data they collect to do what you want?
In an article published by NBC News in April 2019, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook was found to have used the data of its users as a bargaining chip to help friends and also to fight its rivals
Zuckerberg, along with his board and management team, found ways to tap Facebook’s trove of user data — including information about friends, relationships and photos — as leverage over companies it partnered with.
In 2017, Facebook announced that it is launching a Nearby Friends feature for U.S. users. The feature enables users to share their locations with friends nearby. When users opt in to the feature, their location is shared whenever they check-in to a place on Facebook. Users’ locations are also shared when they use Facebook’s Nearby Friends feature to send friends a location. Users can also choose to share their location with individual friends.
Twitter collects users’ location data via the Twitter app on mobile phones. Data may also be collected when Twitter users use the Twitter website or third-party apps that enable location sharing. Twitter uses this data to provide location-based services, including local weather reports and nearby places. When Twitter users activate the location-sharing feature, their location is shared each time they Tweet. Users can also choose to share their location with individual friends.
In March 2018, Google announced that they are shutting down Google+ and that the data will be deleted over the next 10 months. A user can be identified by a unique identifier that can be linked across different Google services. This allows Google to create a detailed profile of a user’s activity and interests, which is then used to target advertising and content. By combining users’ activity across different services, Google is able to create detailed profiles to target users with ads. For example, Google may use a user’s search history on Google.com to target them with ads on the Google Maps app. Google has also been accused of collecting information about users’ browsing activity on third-party websites through its DoubleClick advertising service.
In 2017, Google announced that it will stop scanning Gmail messages for targeted advertising purposes. Facebook has also been accused of collecting information about users’ browsing activity on third-party websites through its “Like” buttons and other plug-ins. In 2015, Facebook announced that it will stop using browser history data to target ads. However, Facebook still collects browsing data from third-party websites that include its Like and Share buttons. Google and Facebook both make it easy for users to download an archive of the data they have collected. In 2014, Facebook allowed users in the European Union (EU) to download an archive of the data they have collected.
“Business Insider” reported in 2016 that Twitter is collecting TV viewing data from users who have enabled location sharing, and is sharing it with Nielsen Holdings. Twitter then pays Nielsen for the data, which it uses to sell targeted advertising.
Google and Facebook both provide tools to users to manage their privacy and data settings. Google provides a Privacy Checkup tool that gives users an overview of the data that Google has collected about them, and allows them to make changes to their privacy settings. In 2017, Facebook provided a new tool called Clear History that allows users to delete browsing history data from within the Facebook app
So, the next time you’re looking to log on to a site, take into account what data that site is collecting and how the company uses the information. If you’re not comfortable with the site, you might want to reconsider!
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