Max Vetter | 10 October 2016
Did you know that Google knows more about you than your spouse? Or that Facebook has the ability to manipulate your emotions?
This is the power companies wield by having access to large amounts of your personal data. Most people don't even consider when they do a Google search, exactly where that search is going, and who can see it. What do companies like Google and Facebook actually do, and how do they make their money given most of their services are free?
As the quote goes: "If you're not paying for the product, you are the product." These companies use the data freely provided by us to generate billions in profit through advertising. As the biggest online advertisers in the world, they use a huge array of advanced computing and machine learning to identify exactly who you are when you're online to maximise the amount of profit they can make from the data they hold about you. However, it often doesn't even have to be that complex; Google reads your emails, to "provide you personally relevant product features, such as customised search results, [and] tailored advertising."
You should not be surprised by any of the statements above, because the companies inform us that they do it. It's all written in black and white in their terms of service, which we all read in great details... of course we don't, but maybe we should.
If you are concerned about your personal data, where it goes and how it being used online, then reading terms and conditions is a good place to start. However, if you're one of those people who thinks "I don't care about my online privacy I'm not doing anything illegal", you should read some case studies of the thousands of individuals who have become victims of online stalking and cyber bullying.
As we say "privacy doesn't matter until you've lost it", and if there comes a time when there is someone in your life who you hope can't track your every move, you may wish you could have been a bit more careful about what you shared online in the past. Even if you're happy and willing to share large amounts of data online understanding a bit more about where it goes and what it is used for is never a bad thing.
In this ever increasingly connected and data-driven world disconnecting completely from the grid is a bit extreme but understanding a bit more about how the grid works helps dispel myths and allows us to realise just what is done with our data.
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