Digital platforms are a part of life, but they can also pose more of a threat to your privacy than you might realise. Karen takes a look at some information these platforms are collecting about us and what they’re using it for.
Even if you’re not a heavily active user of social media or other digital platforms, you may be surprised to learn that there are enormous amounts of data they collect about you.
According to The Washington Post, Facebook advertising is based on 98 personal data points that they gather about users. When journalist Dylan Curran requested to download all of the data Google has on him, the file was 5.5GB, which is roughly the size of 3 million Word documents.
So you might be wondering, what do they actually know about me?
1. What you like and don’t like
Social media platforms keep track of all your interactions and engagements—your likes, comments, shares, retweets, what you post about, the behaviour of others on your posts, and more. All of this helps the platforms build comprehensive profiles of you and your interests, which businesses can use to advertise to you in your newsfeeds.
Google does this too. If you’re visiting a site when logged into your Google account, the pages you view and how long you spend on them are just some of the many insights the platform collects to influence the ads you see on other Google platforms, like Youtube.
2. Your location
Some digital platforms track your location using your phone’s Global Positioning System (GPS). It’s called geotagging, and every time you turn on your phone you’re telling the internet where you are.
Even if you don’t deliberately tag your location on social media, this information can still be saved in the photos you upload. You can turn off location tagging on your device, but many don’t. This info can be risky to share, especially if it reveals personal information like where you live or where you’re staying for holidays.
3. Your activity on other apps and websites
Nowadays, there are heaps of apps that allow users to sign in using their social media or Google accounts. These platforms then share information about you with these apps and websites. They also track your activity and share that information back to the platform you signed in with. Every app or website collects and shares different data points. Typically, they just want access to information like your name, gender, and location, but many dig deeper into your personal preferences and friend networks.
Take a closer look at that pesky pop-up next time you log in to a new website using your Facebook credentials. The terms and conditions and privacy policies of these platforms are publicly available so you can check out what information they’re collecting and sharing.
Do you know what data is being collected on you?
It’s true that sharing some of this information with the internet can make our experiences online better—who doesn’t love being reminded of that jacket you left in the shopping cart?—but it’s important to be aware of the impact it can have on your privacy.
If you’re concerned you may be revealing more about yourself online than you realise, Facebook’s education portal or Google’s Safety Centre are good places to start. Find out what they’re collecting and why, and learn how to set your preferences.