A reader had this comment about finding out what types of information companies like Google have about you:
“If you occasionally use a Google service but have declined to open an account, you cannot find out what they have about you. They are collecting and storing info somewhere, as are many other companies for which you do not have any account or membership. The tracking becomes ever more sophisticated.”
You’re absolutely right! These days information about consumer habits and preferences is the hottest commodity. A good rule of thumb is that if you aren’t paying for the product or service, you are the product. (That quote came from my good friend, the author Rebecca Regnier)
That would include any free email service like Gmail, Outlook online, Yahoo, or AOL, and sometimes even services offered by your own ISP. YouTube, Google Search, Yahoo Search, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc… all are free services where you’re basically the product. Most free apps for either Android or Apple devices are keeping an eye on you if you delve down into the permissions. Those free games people love to play? They know a whole lot about you. Even your smart tv is tracking your viewing preferences and behavior. It’s one of the reasons prices of items like phones, tablets, and smart TVs have actually decreased.
Most free email services actually scan your messages for keywords. That’s why sometimes you email someone about something and suddenly ads for it pop up everywhere you go online and in your Facebook feed or that item shows us in your search results.
Other places that deal in your behavior might surprise you. You know those reward programs that your grocery store, favorite coffee shop, or gas station offer? That card you swipe not only gives you discounts, it collects information about your habits that stores can use to market to you or even sell to companies that specialize in data. Even organizations like the AARP share your personal information with companies that support their organization.
I will point out that open-source products like Firefox, LibreOffice, and others do not keep track of your information.
Don’t expect this to slow down any time soon. Younger folks are more and more comfortable with sharing their personal information in exchange for convenience and free access to things.
And in case you are wondering, no this site doesn’t harvest your data for sale. That’s part of the reason we charge for the newsletter subscription. You aren’t the product.