Following the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, many people are expressing concern about Facebook and how much it knows about them.
A poll by Reuters found that trust in the social media giant has plummeted recently, with 51 percent of people saying they don’t trust the company to obey the laws protecting our personal information. What’s more, many people have been investigating how much data Facebook has on them, and are horrified by the results.
But Facebook isn’t the only tech company that has a lot of your data.
As everyone keeps telling you (ironically through the medium of social media): If the product is free, you are the product. If they’re making money, they probably have a lot of your data to sell. So, here’s a rundown of some of these companies, and the kinds of information they have on you.
Google is pretty much the master of collecting and monetizing big data. You’re probably already aware that it can see a lot of information about you, such as your entire search history, including the searches you’d rather not have on your record.
But Google also has access to, well, just about everything you do online, as well as a lot of stuff you do when you’re not even looking at the Internet.
You can order a file of everything that Google and its associated apps have on you. As an indication of how much info they have, when you order the data they warn that it will likely take hours (or possibly days) to create.
One Twitter user, Dylan Curran, did just that and documented it in a viral thread.
He found that Google had a record of every email he’d ever sent or deleted, every image he’d ever searched for or saved, every YouTube video he’d ever viewed, and every file he’d ever stored (including ones he’d purposely deleted).
Google also had his health data…
And a record of every meeting he’d ever attended, along with information on whether he showed up for it or not.
The company also knew where he’d been, and tracked his movements.
Unless you have this setting turned off, it’s doing the same to you. The location services on your phone, along with your logins on computers and browsers let Google know where you are, giving a pretty accurate picture of your movements over the years. Imagine how useful all this information is to advertisers.
If you want to see for yourself what Google knows about you, you can access:
And if that sent some alarm bells ringing, you can adjust and tighten your privacy settings here.
But be warned. If you want to keep using Google (and let’s face it; you do) you will always be giving some information away. That’s how you’re paying for the service.
As well as using this data to improve their service, non-personal data may be sold to third parties (e.g. marketers and advertisers).
TomTom obviously has a lot of data on where you’ve traveled that’s useful to everyone from city planners to governments. It’s also really useful to the police. Though they’ve since apologized, in 2011 TomTom sold information from their users to police in the Netherlands, who then used this information to set up more effective speed traps.
Amazon Alexa and Amazon Echo
Alexa is always listening. The microphones in Echo are always on. Like Siri, the data used from your commands are used to improve the service (teaching the assistants to learn how to better understand speech).
It sounds slightly more sinister than it is. Both devices only start recording when activated by their trigger words. Although they may gather information about what you’re searching for using the device (or when you turn the lights on, when you come home etc.), they’re not recording or selling your private conversations. Relax.
You can see what Twitter thinks you like based on your tweets here.
If you don’t like this feature, Twitter lets you opt out here.
Facebook, the company that has made people panic about their data over the last week, has quite a lot of personal data, given how people use it as a place to talk about their private lives. Depending on your privacy settings, it can collect data on things like messages you’ve sent, your contacts, and even calls that you’ve made from your phone.
You can see exactly what they know here.