tech companies

Image via Adobe Stock

How much do tech companies really know about you?

At a time when security and regulation are the rallying cries in this tech saturated time, it is necessary to ask yourself what FAANG and other tech companies really know about you.

tech companies

Image via Adobe Stock

FAANG is an acronym for the market’s five most popular and best-performing tech stocks — namely Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet’s Google. FAANG was born out of the original acronym, FANG, which did not have Apple when CNBC’s Jim Cramer coined the term in February 2013.

So let me ask: How much data does Google have on you? It is much, much more than you may think.

How much does Google know?

When I requested the data that Google has on me it returned to me a zip file that was 368mb big (uncompressed it will obviously be bigger). For me most of this data was only text since I did not upload any pictures or videos or any files to Drive, Photos, YouTube and such other services. And considering that Adobe PDF files with low-resolution graphics average about 100 KB per page; this would mean that Google has over 3600 pages of data on me.

This data was divided across 49 matrices which included my contacts, calendar data, chrome bookmarks, history and settings, all files in Google Drive, Google Fit, Google My Business, Google Pay, Google Photos, conversation history and attachments from Hangouts, location history, all of the messages and attachments in my Gmail account, my watch and search history, videos, comments and other content I have created on YouTube and many, many more.

Google does not only have contacts that you yourself save and have your devices sync to your account, it also automatically saves contacts from your interactions in Google products like Gmail. As if this was not enough, if you use the Home App, they have your device, room, and home information.

Now, you have to understand that all of this data is data from the first time you created your Gmail account to the present. So if you have been using your account for over five years, it means that Google has five years’ worth of data on you.

Why does Google need all this information?

The argument for collecting so much data is always, they say, to give you more personalised experiences across services, like faster searches, better recommendations, and useful ads.

Using their android ecosystem they know almost everything you do on your device; they know what app you open at what time. If you are using Google-owned apps like Chrome and Maps, what they know is even more specific. They know exactly what you searched for, exactly which site you visited.

If you use your device without an internet connection, and think that you are safe I am sorry to burst your bubble, your data may be saved in your account once you return online. Meaning that your location is tracked even without a connection.

From here it only gets worse. Google does not only collect information from their own ecosystem, they also include activity from sites, apps, and devices that use Google services.

The Assistant asks you to record your voice and audio to improve speech recognition. And again, Audio can be saved even when your device is offline. Google uses your Voice and Audio Activity to: learn the sound of your voice, learn how you say words and phrases, and recognise when you say “Ok, Google”.

On that last point, the convenience of being able to use your voice to give your phone commands without touching it tells you that your phone is always listening.
Google says, shared endorsements make it easy for you to get great recommendations from others. For example, when you visit Google Play, you may see that a friend has reviewed a new album by your favourite artist.

Here’s what you need to know: To help others find cool stuff online, your activity (such as reviews, +1s, follows, shares) may be used along with your name and photo in commercial or other promotional contexts.

As you use Google services, or browse websites and apps, the factors used to personalise your ads will be updated.

Even though Google and all these other tech companies will tell you that they don’t sell your personal information to anyone, before you upload that next pic, or write that next comment take a moment to think — do I want this out there?

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