And this is how YOU become the product

Skeletons tumbled out of the closet after the actions of Trump campaign contractor Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, in scraping loads of personal data from Facebook, came to light. 

And just like that, the hitherto seldom used phrase of “If you’re not paying for the product, YOU are the product” became one of the most commonly referred statement.

Maybe the moment of the testimony of Mark Zuckerberg in front of ageing Senators is this. In response to a line of questioning from Sen. Orrin Hatch about how Facebook remains free, Mark Zuckerberg pauses a beat and puts it plainly: “Senator, we run ads.”

Search & Social Sites are in the “tracking” business

Did you know that when you search on Google or browse on Facebook, they keep your  history forever? That means they know every search you’ve ever done. That could be a scary thought for some, but it is just a fag tip of a large iceberg of Big Data that you generate and that is food for Google and Facebook advertisers.

What most people don’t realize is that even if you don’t use any Google products directly, they’re still trying to track as much as they can about you. Google trackers have been found on 75% of the top million websites. This means that you are being followed even if you are not on Google and simply browsing your favorite news, social or entertainment website.

Most people also don’t know that Google runs most of the ads you see across the internet and in apps – you know those ones that follow you around everywhere? Yup, that’s Google, too.

And same goes for Social Sites such as Facebook. When you are on their platform, they “own” your information and you have probably, unknowingly given your consent for them to use your information for commercial purposes.

But even that’s not all…

And this is how…

If you do use Google products, they try to track even more. In addition to tracking everything you’ve ever searched for on Google (e.g. “latest iPhone”), Google also tracks every video you’ve ever watched on YouTube. Many people actually don’t know that Google owns YouTube; now you know.

And if you use Android (yeah, Google owns that too), then Google is also usually tracking:

  • Every place you’ve been via Google Location Services.
  • How often you use your apps, when you use them, where you use them, and whom you use them to interact with.
  • All of your text messages, which unlike on iOS, are not encrypted by default.
  • Your photos (even in some cases the ones you’ve deleted).

If you use Gmail, they of course also have all your e-mail messages. If you use Google Calendar, they know all your schedule. There’s a pattern here: For all Google products (Hangouts, Music, Drive, etc.), you can expect the same level of tracking: that is, pretty much anything they can track, they will.

Oh, and if you use Google Home, they also store a live recording of every command you’ve (or anyone else) has ever said to your device! Yes, you heard that right – you can check out all the recordings on your Google activity page.

Essentially, if you allow them to, they’ll track pretty close to, well, everything you do on the Internet. While this is the reality of today’s digital age, there will need to be really strong Privacy Policy in place.

..YOU Become the Product

Why does Google & Facebook want all of your information anyway? Simple: they aren’t a search or social company anymore, they’re a tracking company. All of these data points allow Google & Facebook to build a pretty robust profile about you. In some ways, by keeping such close tabs on everything you do, they, at least in some ways, may know you better than you know yourself.

And they use your personal profile to sell ads, not only on their search engine or social site, but also on over three million other websites and apps. Every time you visit one of these sites or apps, they are following you around with hyper-targeted ads.

Everyone involved is profiting from your information, except you. You are the product.

With inputs from DuckDuckGo 

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Kiran Borkar

Having been part of the Internet Industry since the late Nineties, he believes Nostradamus goofed up by not predicting how the World Wide Web would change the world.

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