It should come as no surprise to anyone that social media and tech companies collect a lot of information about you. In most cases, you voluntarily (or sometimes unwillingly) supply data so that you can access their services. Tap or click here for 10 Facebook privacy and security settings you need to change now.
But not many people know that almost every big tech company has some or the other information about you. If you think about it, where do you think targeted ads come from? How will they know which ads to show you?
Companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook all have a profile on you. But what do they really know? Well, there is a way for you to find out.
Here’s the backstory
For the most part, your location, age, and the equipment you use are the most important things a company wants to know. From there, they’ll be able to set up where you go, shop or relax. With your age, they gradually build a profile on your behavior.
Some Big Tech companies have taken steps to reduce the exposure of your data to third-party advertisers, but this does not eliminate it completely. A few months ago Apple introduced its App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which allows iOS users to decide which apps can access their data.
But even with that setting activated, Apple still collects huge amounts of data.
You can download a copy of your personal data to see what Apple has stored on you. To do so, log in to your Apple account here and scroll down to Data & privacy. From there, tap Manage Your Data & Privacy, then select Get a copy of your data.
Note: If you have this enabled, you may need to sign in and receive a 2FA code several times, which you should do.
Google tracks more than search
If you have a Google Account, the company may know more about you than some of your closest friends. If you have a smart assistant installed in your home, where you live, work and shop, who your family is and birthday are potentially known by Google.
The best (and only) way for Google to stop tracking and storing your data is to not use its services at all. But it can get really tough if you rely on it for Gmail and other services. To see what the company knows about you, sign in to your Google Account and navigate to the My Activity page here.
Here you can see what Google has saved in your profile, and you can also delete your entire search history, location tracking, YouTube history, and personalized ads. If you have location tracking enabled, Google also keeps track of where photos were taken.
Facebook is a treasure trove of data
Social media accounts store a lot of your personal information. This is why hackers find Facebook or Twitter accounts more valuable than credit card details. And the best part? You have given the information yourself.
By setting up a Facebook account, the company knows your name, age, where you live, your friends, your interests, and even your political affiliation. To see what Facebook has stored on you and to limit your risk, you can download a copy of your data.
To do this, log in to your Facebook account on a desktop computer and click the Accounts button in the upper right corner. In the drop-down, click Settings & Privacy, and then Settings. On the left pane, click on the third option (Your Facebook Information) and click on Download your information.
Microsoft has more than you think
If you use any of Microsoft’s products, you will need to create an account. This is where data collection begins, and it may be more than you think. Many companies use Office 365, so Microsoft knows who you are, where you work and your job.
If you have a gaming account like Xbox Live or GamePass, the company will be able to tell where you live, what games you like and how often you make purchases.
Luckily, you can also see what the company collects on you. You can navigate Microsoft’s Privacy Dashboard to manage your browsing and location data. From here, you can also view other privacy settings for products like Xbox, Windows, Microsoft Teams, and Skype.