How Google, Apple, and Facebook Use Your Private Information

Apple and Google have faced ongoing scrutiny for their data collection practices. Google, for instance, came under fire when it announced a two-year delay in rolling out its Privacy Sandbox initiative. It is a key project by the company that promised better data privacy for its users. And the sudden delay has attracted criticism from many experts questioning the real intent behind the hold-up.

Right now, Google has several ongoing antitrust cases to deal with. And they are all linked to its data prowess. The sheer scale of these tech businesses that provide them an unfair advantage over user data is drawing concerns from all corners of the world.

Google, for instance, doesn’t just dominate the global search market. Its services such as Google Maps, Gmail, and YouTube have a similar grip on a large swath of the world population. Meanwhile, Facebook dominates the social media landscape with over 3 billion active users each month. And Apple, the most valuable brand on the planet, has equal might with devices that have built a cult-like following and fast-expanding services like the App Store, Apple Music, and iCloud.

The epic scale of these companies and their ubiquitous services provide them unfettered access to user data. And this collective dominance could have a frightening effect on data privacy. The fact is, today, they control the levers of digital data collection. And regulators have been struggling to take back the reins, not just to prevent unfair economic advantages but also safety risks with potentially irreversible outcomes.

Where data goes out of control

The pervasive reach of companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple has allowed them to access personal data in countless ways. And each time you enjoy their services and products, you are letting them chip away the barriers that secure your privacy.

Many internet users already understand the typical data tracking and collecting tactics in use. Search queries, user profile information, and social media activities represent the most common tracking instances on the internet.

But these tech giants are watching users even when they are not actively sharing information. In fact, passive data sharing is one of the biggest threats to privacy and safety now.

For example, by Apple’s own admission, its smartwatches can read and write all health data they collect, from your heart rate to step count and fitness level. And it collates what you manually enter as well as what it collects through apps, services, and other devices like iPhones to create a detailed profile of you. In other words, your health data gets combined with your Apple ID and all other personal information it has stored, such as your location, age, transactions, calendars, and search histories.

In short, tech businesses are not just tracking and collecting your data. They are also building profiles by sifting, sorting, and combining every possible piece of information they can gather. But you would have hardly expected all these privacy threats when you purchased an Apple Watch or turned on Google Assistant.

Unraveling the real threats

Data privacy is a fundamental right. So, the giddying pace Google, Apple, and Facebook collect personal information, often without explicit consent from its owners, leaves much to think about.

This thirst for data stems from the financial opportunities they present. Many of these businesses rely on advertising-related revenue streams to sustain their free services and market dominance. And user data is the critical source for this income. This means tech giants like Google are not just tracking and collecting personal information for their own business use. They are sharing what they collect with third parties, too.

And the vast data mines they have built are not only popular among businesses looking to push their marketing messages to specific audiences. They are equally valuable for many others, like political campaigners looking to target key demographic constituents and push forward their political agendas. The infamous Cambridge Analytica debacle demonstrates the potential risks of data tracking and mining and how far personal information of users can travel without their knowledge.

All this poses distinct threats to users. Losing control of personal data presents chilling prospects, from abused privacy to data breaches and identity theft. But privacy regulations and data restrictions stand to threaten the very existence of these tech giants. It explains their reluctance to support such efforts wholeheartedly.

Evading the data ecosystem

Data collection is like a double-edged sword. Without it, the user experience on websites and devices will be more complex and time-consuming. For example, data tracking allows platforms to monitor account usage behavior and identify anomalies that may signal a security breach. And it’s not merely about detecting account log-ins from unusual IP addresses and alerting users. There are many unforeseen facets to the benefits of data monitoring. For instance, it allows companies like Facebook to identify malicious actors trying to lure in youngsters. It’s also critical to prevent disinformation, abuse, and promotion of violence on its platforms.

But excessive data tracking exposes users to severe risks that are hard to ignore. This is why legislators are pushing for more stringent control to hold businesses accountable. But internet users also have an essential role to play in safeguarding their data. Cutting down on data sharing and minimizing over-reliance on digital services and devices might be the only source of comfort for now. Deleting unused social media accounts is also a must. Before that, however, Nuwber recommends deleting data uploaded or shared under the accounts to remove all data trails. 

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