The Knowledge is power saying sure is true for companies. The more they know about you, the more they can profit.
But giants like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Alphabet don’t just keep a close eye on you to better cater their apps to you. There are also other reasons at play.
So, join me to learn what companies have to gain from tracking you and what they do with your data.
6 tactics companies use to track you
When it comes to your information and data, most tech companies are maximalists; they want as much of it as possible. The privacy-by-design principles aren’t that popular with this bunch.
Instead, here are some tactics you can expect companies to use to keep tabs on you online.
Cookies are files websites store on your device when you visit them. You’ve probably given your consent thousands of times by now for them, and they seem to be everywhere.
To you, they’re sometimes helpful because they remember your settings and credentials for you. But companies use them to identify users and track their behavior through stats like visits, clicks, page views, search history, usernames, passwords, and much more.
Heatmaps are recordings of your screen activity.
By using data analysis software, websites can record your mouse activity. Some companies take it one step further and also record your eye movements, but they usually ask for extra permissions before.
The data they gather this way helps companies understand where you spend most of your time on their pages. Afterward, they can place ads or call to action button there.
3. Your location
Along with the invention of the GPS came GPS tracking.
Sure, if you’re a boat or a plane or some sort of vehicle, that’s very useful. But companies can also track your very human whereabouts this way, so be careful what permissions you give to your apps.
It’s one thing for a map app to know where you are, and entirely another for a social media platform. Just one really needs it to deliver its services to you.
4. Wi-Fi tracking
From coffee shops to hotels, restaurants, and public spaces, free Wi-Fis are now ubiquitous.
But the companies that were so kind as to set them up can also hide some stuff in their fine print. For example, they often track all your digital activity when using their connection.
And since most of these networks are unsecured and lack passwords, your data is at risk.
5. Social media
By now, it looks like social media platforms are where privacy goes to die.
Every move you make on sites like Facebook and Instagram is monitored, recorded, analyzed, and acted upon.
To see just how bad things on, take a look at all the issues uncovered by documentaries like the Social Dilemma documentary.
And if you’re ready to take the plunge, we’re right here for you with some helpful guides:
6. Facial recognition
Before facial recognition turned into widespread, accessible tech, there were not many companies out there able to put a face to all their data. Sadly, that’s no longer the case.
With cameras everywhere, cheap machine learning software, and high incentives for data, now more businesses than ever can track you in their stores and all the info to the file they keep on you.
This data gathering abuse constantly threatens your privacy. Sometimes, even law enforcement agencies or governmental bodies act just like tech giants, collecting data invasively.
This is how businesses use your data
The amount and type of data companies collect helps them predict user behavior and uncover new ways of influencing decisions.
For instance, they can use your purchase history to determine what you’ll be interested in next. This works exceptionally well for shops that focus on repeat buys, such as online retailers and convenience stores with loyalty card programs.
Entertainment companies also use your browsing, search history, and click activity to determine what type of shows interest you. This way, they can keep showing it to you, and you end up spending more time on their platforms.
But, most importantly, entire businesses are based around collecting your data and selling it to the highest bidder.
Data brokers & the value of your data
Businesses known as data brokers are different from the likes of Facebook, Google, and co.
They don’t collect user data for generating their own insights; they sell it to other companies for their databases.
Companies that have access to your data analyze it to understand what you click on, what you buy, what you read, and so on.
All this information is used to create profiles, customer avatars that highlight the kind of manipulation you’d be prone to. If it sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve heard it before. It’s exactly what happened with Cambridge Analytica and the scandal about influencing the 2016 elections.
It’s difficult to estimate your data’s average value to companies, but evaluations vary from $1 to about $100. There’s also the example of this one person who sold his data for $2,733 on Kickstarter.
How to avoid online tracking and data mining
Living in this digital age also means living in a constant state of surveillance, and it’s becoming increasingly hard to protect your privacy, both online and offline.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it hard for data hoarders to know who you are and limit the amount of info they have on you.
You can always:
- Choose products from companies that truly care about protecting your privacy.
- Use all the privacy settings at your disposal.
- Rely on a privacy-friendly browser.
- Clear your cookies.
- Use a VPN.
As you can imagine, we know a thing or two about VPNs.
VPNs are crucial for your digital privacy because they hide your IP address, replace it with a different one, and encrypt your connection. This way, nobody knows what you’re doing online.
Here at CyberGhost VPN, we honor our strict no-logs policy, and we take great pride in having been the firsts in the industry ever to publish a Transparency Report. That was way back in 2011, but it’s something we still do quarterly.
To better understand how we make sure our Ghosties stay anonymous online, you can always read our Transparency Reports.
Hungry for more? Check out these simple 7 tips to protect your data once and for all.
How about you? What are you actively doing to protect your personal information and all the data you generate?
Let me know in the comments below!
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