What is it that far too many people who use modern technology do not understand? Privacy and security basics. And the fact they are being tracked and stalked at a level that would put your neighbor or co-worker in jail if they did the same thing. Who is the worst predator among major technology companies and gadget makers?
I have my suspicions that Apple would be at the bottom of a list of 50 such companies that track customers or users, but Google, Facebook, Amazon, et al, would top the list. How so?
Google was caught red handed or red faced– or whatever it is that should keep a company honest– by tracking Android smartphone users’ locations even when Location Services is turned off, even when apps have not been used, even when said phone didn’t have a SIM card.
Sneaky, no? Keith Collins in Quartz:
Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet
Now, remember, to Google, you are the user, not the customer, a part of the product, and, again, not a customer. Even if you buy a Pixel smartphone or use Android OS, you’re not a customer. You’re part of Google’s product which is advertising and data collection.
Why would Google collect such data in such a secretive way?
Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.
Just remember, wherever you travel on the web, Google tracks you through tracking scripts spawned by website pages, analytics trackers, and more. The company has a data dossier of you, your habits, your locations, your purchases, and more.
What about Facebook?
In some respects Facebook is more dangerous than Google because not only does Facebook track you while you browse the social media site, the company also displays information designed to influence your behavior, and coupled with other third party tracking data, also builds a profile of you that connects to other Facebook users.
Kim Kommando came up with a way to stop Facebook from tracking you and serving up creepy ads and stories. First, what’s going on:
Many online companies are members of ad networks, and each ad network puts a bit of code called a “cookie” on your computer. When you visit one of the member sites, the site recognizes the cookie and lets the ad network know where you are so it can send you ads. Even worse, the member sites share what you do on their sites to build a database of what you like and don’t like or even specific items you looked at. This makes it easier for the ad network to send you ads that it thinks you’ll click on. Of course, it’s a two-way street. Just like Facebook can show you ads from other sites, it’s sending information on you to those sites as well.
Ms. Kommando has a long list of ways to use the world wide web without Google tracking you but it isn’t easy.
Get started this way:
Instead of visiting every company online and telling them you don’t want to be tracked, you can just opt out of the ad network and it applies to every company in that network. Facebook and other major companies, including Amazon and eBay, are part of the Digital Advertising Alliance. You can use a tool on the DAA’s website to opt out of “online behavioral advertising. The tool will scan your computer to see what companies are already customizing ads to target you. It can also tell if you’ve opted out of any online tracking for those companies in the past. It’s simple to choose a few companies and sites, like Facebook, where you don’t want to see targeted ads. Or you can click the “Choose all companies” button at the bottom to opt out of targeted ads for every participating network member. Simple!
Does it work? Who knows? Why would an organization make it easy to opt out, let alone promote the tools to do so?
Just remember, when everyone is out to get you, a little paranoia is the right attitude to have.
What about Facebook? Well, think of a few million Amazon Echo owners throughout the world (could be thousands; Amazon won’t say) with a device that listens all the time. What could go wrong?