Data Breaches

Never Forget That You Are Being Watched

What data do Facebook, Google, and mobile apps collect, do mobile carriers listen to your calls? Read this post and find answers to these and other privacy questions as well as get tips on how to protect your personal data.

It has become known that information about 257,000 Facebook users have been freely available. Although hackers claim to have data of 120 million people. In addition to hacker attacks, Facebook itself knows everything about its users. The social network collects 98 types of information – from geolocation to education level, income, credit cards details, and your preferences as to clothes.

See: Google collects Android location data even if location service is off

The main source of information for Facebook, Google and plenty of other services is, of course, your mobile phone. People always carry it with them and use it to access the Internet. The smartphone has become the best surveillance device of the 21st century, and users deliberately allow 3rd parties to track every step they take.

Why do all those companies collect your data?

Have you received SMS messages about big discounts just the moment you entered the mall? Or did the restaurant advertisement pop up when you were close by? This is not a coincidence. The phone is transmitting data about your movements, and therefore the advertisement comes at an appropriate time.

Your phone transmits your geolocation, web surfing history, shopping history, watched movies, and all this is connected to specific time stamps. By having this information, one can trace in each detail all your movements and know things like how much time you spend for lunch, where did you have that lunch and what food you ordered.

Having personal data, businesses can make advertising more effective. They can predict what you will need in the near future, analyze the behavior of users and improve the service. On the one hand, such things make life easier for us, and on the other hand, we do not feel protected.

Freeware is making money from you

Why do the most popular apps come for free? Obviously, they earn money from advertising. However, there are many free apps that do not show ads. And they are, as a rule, more popular. You should be careful about using such applications – they are most likely to collect your personal information. All these “free” services, such as Facebook, Google Mail, Google Photos, are not free. You should know that you pay for creating such services and supporting them. You pay a big price – your personal data. People should understand that they are not Google’s customers, they are Google’s product.

When installing applications on the phone, people often do not even read the terms of use. So, apps get access to all personal information.

Recently, a lot of free VPN services became very popular. What is a VPN service? Roughly speaking, it is a proxy, a layer between you and the website you want to visit. Suppose you want to watch a Netflix show, but it’s locked in your country. With the help of a VPN service, your request first goes somewhere in California, where it asks for data from Netflix servers, and then returns to you. This looks pretty safe, but there are some pitfalls. Any VPN service will not work for free. They keep all logs and know what sites you visit. A good VPN service will have to charge money.

See: Mark Zuckerberg admits Facebook scans user private messages

Recently, I have found a great application called Getcontact. It lets you know how your name is written in your friends’ contact lists. It seems like nothing special, just another entertainment. But the developer did a good job of collecting information about your contacts with your full permission. It can then sell this mobile number database to third parties. It is this way that the taxi services you never used send you SMS alerts about discounts.

Facebook affects your choices

The more time you spend on Facebook, the more information it collects about you. Again, it sells this data to 3rd parties. Facebook knows a lot about you. It knows how much you spend reading and posting to the timeline, not to mention how you click links, communicate, etc. In the settings, deep enough to find, written with small text, hide a link where you can upload an archive with the data that Facebook keeps on you.

You must have probably heard of a big scandal around Facebook. It was about the largest data leak in the history of the company – that had to do with about 50 million users. Data was used by an analytical company that utilized it for political propaganda during the US presidential election.

By collecting and processing information about you, Facebook helps you read necessary news, choose your country leader, build values, and spend your money. Data analysis and psychology can make people do a lot. This way you are being offered unnecessary products, forcing you, for example, to change the smartphone each year.

Google is even worse

Google definitely collects the largest array of information in the world. It knows more than the CIA. Google has many convenient services and its own operating system – Android. It collects large and complex data arrays when you use Chrome, Calendar, Mail, Google Photos, Google Pay, etc.

Today, Google can sort your photos into albums by dates, locations, or even people in the photo. Youtube can recommend interesting videos. Gmail will automatically create a reminder about a visit to a dentist. Google Maps may at some point tell you that there is a good Thai restaurant nearby. Google Pay will not force you to re-enter your payment card details since it remembered it from last time. And Google does this with your permission leaving no room for privacy.

Google analyzes each email (The company claimed it will stop doing so however it was later revealed that third-party app developers read your Gmail emails). Otherwise, how does it can prompt you that you should follow upanswer a specific message, or suggest taking the event to a calendar and create a reminder?

See: Apps on smartphones are selling and sharing our location data 24/7

In order to make sure that you are being watched, go to Google Maps > Timeline and find fairly accurate information about your moves.

How to protect yourself?

In order not to allow modern technologies to collect all data about you, you need to follow these simple rules:

1. Never enjoy free and unverified services.

2. Use end-to-end encryption when working with all new messengers. In some applications, it is disabled by default and requires the creation of a separate chat. For example, a secret chat in Telegram.

3. If you want to share as little information as possible, you need to replace Google Chrome with other browsers like DuckDuckGo and never log in to Google services.

4. It is important to read what the application wants to access. Some apps may try to convince you that it is necessary. Facebook Messenger will ask you to access contacts to find people that you have not yet added to your friends.

5. Use VPN services on an everyday basis, especially with public Wi-Fi networks.

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