Originally posted on makeuseof.
The so-called “Big Tech” companies have gained attention for their data-collecting methods, but what can you to stop them?
n recent years, more and more online users have grown skeptical of companies gathering data about them. And in particular, the so-called “Big Tech” businesses have found themselves under the spotlight for the information they collect about others.
The internet has become a huge part of many people’s lives, and quitting it entirely might be a tall order. Still, though, you can take steps to minimize the amount of data companies collect about you.
In this article, you’ll find out why technology companies collect data about you—and what you can do to make this information useless to them.
Why Your Data Is Important to Big Tech Companies
Big data has become a big deal in recent years with the tremendous growth of the online community.
As millions of people surf the internet daily, they leave their digital footprints online and Big Tech companies leverage such data to advance their businesses.
Believe it or not, your data is worth more than you think. Let’s find out just how important your data is and what they use it for.
1. Customer Acquisition and Retention
Big Tech companies are invested in your data because it helps them with getting you in their corner. By studying your online interactions, they get a sense of the products and services that appeal to you. Once they have this information, they can create such offerings to win you over.
2. Targeted Campaigns
Over the years, Big Tech companies have learned their lessons from spending high budgets on advertising campaigns that deliver little or no results. Now, they’re smarter with their money, and tailor their campaigns to only those who need them.
Having tracked and analyzed your online interactions, these businesses can begin to show products and services that resonate with you.
3. Product Improvement and Innovation
The rising consumer demands call for the improvement of existing products and the creation of better ones.
As your tastes and needs evolve, tech companies strive to cater to them. They use a variety of tools to get your feedback about their products and services to measure your level of satisfaction.
4. Risk Management
Catering to billions of users around the globe, Big Tech companies are prone to risks. They resort to the collection and analysis of your data to avoid and mitigate possible risks.
By understanding your online behavior, they create tailor-made risk management models and solutions to avert problems along the way.
5. Insights to Supplier Networks
Big Tech companies collaborate with supplier networks on different fronts. They give your data to these networks to help them streamline their analysis for high precision.
By having precise data of your online interactions, supplier networks are more accurate in their analysis of your online behavior. And such information is beneficial to Big Tech companies in creating useful products and services.
What Data Does Big Tech Collect From You?
Knowing what information Big Tech companies can collect from you can help you be more mindful of your online interactions. Here are some particular areas to keep in mind.
1. Personal Information
Technology companies often gather a lot of your personal information. These include, but are not limited to:
- Email address.
- Place of residence.
But businesses can go deeper than that, too. For example, some might obtain your social security number or driver’s license.
2. Unique Identifiers
If you thought that personal information was the most that companies can gather about you, you’re in for a big surprise.
Data collected by some businesses also extends to unique identifiers, such as your IP address and the type of device you browse their content on. They can also find out all of the following, plus much more:
- The browser you use.
- The date, time, and referrer URL of requests.
- Interactions between apps.
Besides gathering information about you as a person, Big Tech companies can also find out a lot about your behaviors online. For example, many businesses gather information in the following areas:
- Browsing history.
- Interaction with content and ads that you view.
- Time, frequency, and duration of activity.
Companies can also find out video and audio information, along with how often you go online—and for how long you stay on there.
4. Location Information
Technology companies can also gather a significant amount of information about your location. These include:
- Sensor data from your device.
- Information about things near your device, such as Wi-Fi access points and Bluetooth-enabled devices.
- Your GPS positioning.
The above list isn’t exhaustive, though, and there are plenty of other ways that companies can gather information about your location.
How to Make Your Data Worthless to Big Tech Companies
Although Big Tech companies often argue that they use your data to improve their services, that argument isn’t enough to convince some users.
If you still don’t want these businesses collecting information about you, here are a few ways you can make your information less useful to them.
1. Data Poisoning
Data poisoning is the process of altering your data by doing things you normally wouldn’t online and giving off the impression that you’re interested in things you’re not.
As you surf the internet, Big Tech companies make use of algorithms to track your actions. They interpret your interactions as your behavior, and proceed to serve you ads based on them.
You can beat them to it by doing some things that you wouldn’t do normally. For instance, you can click on ads that are of no interest to you. The ad-serving algorithm will have the impression that such ads appeal to you, and continue to show them to you. When in reality, you have no interest in these.
2. Data Strikes
Data strikes are similar to labor strikes. It’s about not showing up in the virtual world. Rather than continuing to put out your data, you withhold this information as much as you can.
If you have put out a lot of data already, you may choose to delete them so that Big Tech companies will no longer have access to them.
Another form of data striking is the use of privacy tools to restrict the systems that tech companies adopt to collect your data.
If everything else fails, you can choose to leave a platform completely. Although this is an extreme measure, it’s very effective as these companies will have nothing on you to use.
3. Conscious Data Contribution
In essence, conscious data contribution is like shopping in one place because you didn’t like your experience with the other. Instead of using one platform, you spend more time with a competitor instead.
With conscious data contribution, the competitor will obtain more of your meaningful data than the platform you’ve stopped using as regularly.
The Power of Collective Data Action
Considering their significant global presence, a handful of people pushing back against data collection won’t drastically affect Big Tech. But if more users take collective action, then they’ll start to feel more of an impact.
While your impact might be small in the grand scheme of things, making your data worthless to Big Tech companies is—if you’re concerned about privacy—better than doing nothing.