Big Tech and Personal Privacy

May 13, 2022

Companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter create character profiles and store data such as where you live, where you work, and what music you listen to and use this data to deliver targeted advertisements directly to you. 

So, how do you keep Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other companies from your private life?

If you are reading this article, there is a good chance you have some concern over the data that big tech companies are collecting and storing about you and may have heard of the saying, 'if you aren't paying for the product, you are the product.' 

The solution is easy. Cancel your Facebook account, log out of Twitter and use a different browser, you might think this would be enough, but you'd be wrong! 

Facebook also owns Whatsapp and Instagram, so these would need to go too. Many websites and apps have also integrated Facebook's tracking and marketing technologies, providing generalized data straight to Facebook. Likewise, if you use your google account to log in to apps, then they too share your data with google, 

Which leads back to the question, how do you keep Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other companies from your private life?

Big Tech is tracking your every move. Google, Facebook, and Apple track your phone's every movement from the moment you switch it on when you have location services enabled. But lets break it down and see what type of data each company harvest.

What does Google know about you?

Google stores perhaps more data than any other company on its users, and it's all available for you to download under the banner Google Takeout. Be warned that this certainly isn't a fast service, and you'll need a big bag for this takeout!

A brief list of what Google potentially stores;

  • Your entire search history, incognito or not
  • All the apps you use
  • Your YouTube history
  • Your voice, age, marital status, address
  • Your interests
  • A timeline of everywhere you go
  • Your photos and videos
  • Your job, along with the meetings you attend

And as a side note, if Google Assistant powers your smart home, this list gets a whole heap longer! 

What does Facebook know about you?

Facebook, a company with less than perfect data security history and questionable motives, knows more about you than your best friend. Every message, comment, like, photo, or interaction you have ever made is stored in your character profile on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, along with;

  • What you look like
  • Your marital status, date of birth, home address
  • Who your friends are
  • Who your partner is
  • Where you go and who with
  • What you are interested in
  • Data from any app you have ever used Facebook to sign into
  • Where you shop and what you buy

What does Twitter know about you?

Like Facebook and Google, Twitter also stores your data on a vast scale, creating a detailed user profile that it employs to target ads directly to you. It uses your profile and the way you interact on the platform to discern your interests, and marketing agencies pay for this data so they can pinpoint their advertising strategy. The list of data held is comprehensive and will include most of the above information that Facebook has. 

Change your Facebook settings to keep your data private.

Facebook is constantly updating its privacy settings due to increased mistrust in the platform. It is advisable to review these settings to understand what access you give Facebook. By selecting and managing Off Facebook Activity, you will be privy to a summary of how Facebook harvests your activity from other businesses and organizations, including;

  • How does Facebook receive your activity
  • How many interactions do they receive
  • Activity from Apps and Websites you've logged into with Facebook
  • Activity from data service providers and marketing agencies

Change your Google settings to keep your data private.

You can never keep all your data private from google; it just wouldn't work effectively as a search engine. However, one key feature can increase your privacy dramatically; Google calls it 'Activity Controls,' and you can find it by clicking, Manage your Google account > Data and Personalization. This feature will take you to the activity controls option, where you can toggle off to the following settings;

  • Web and App Activity - Saves your activity on Google sites and apps, including associated info like location
  • Location History - Saves where you go with your device even when you aren't using a specific Google service
  • YouTube history - Saves the YouTube videos you watch and the things you search for

Change your Twitter settings to keep your data private.

The first thing to update on Twitter is the privacy of your tweets. By default, your tweets are public, which means they are searchable on the internet. Visit Settings & Privacy > Privacy and Safety > Protect your tweets; toggling this setting will mean that your tweets are visible only to those who follow you. Other privacy controls that you can toggle on are;

  • Photo tagging - the ability for others to tag you in photos
  • Location information - the storage of your location by GPS
  • Discoverability and contacts - let others find your account by email or phone number

Disable Location Tracking

Grab your phone, head to Settings, and select location services; this will provide you with a list of apps using your location. While Uber must know your location, is it also necessary for your bank?

Disable Microphone Access

Mark Zuckerberg has famously gone on record to say that Facebook doesn't listen via your microphone and while this may be true, who can you trust? We’ve all been in that situation where we talked about cat food and suddenly you get an ad suggesting cat food! As with location services, you can turn off Microphone access to the apps that don't need it within the settings function of your mobile phone. 

Opt-Out of Personalised Ads

To stop getting targeted ads, you need to turn the settings off in each app, such as Facebook and Twitter. You will not prevent the ads, but you will limit the tracking of websites you visit. 

Protect your privacy with a blockchain solution

Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is the right to be left alone. But in today's world, privacy has become a luxury.

It is not just Facebook and Google that are invading our privacy. It's also the banks, the telecommunications companies, and even our governments.

Blockchain technology can help us protect our privacy from these entities by providing decentralized storage for all of your data and changing the way data access is handled.

We can now use blockchain to protect our privacy by controlling what information we want to share with certain people. This all comes together in the upcoming infrastructure of the internet, called web3. New solutions, like those being built by Zinnia, will offer everyone new ways to protect and share their data.

Zinnia DAO

The internet is evolving, and we need to start thinking about how we can protect our data and what rights we should have to it. As discussed above, blockchain is a technology that can help you regain control of your data by allowing you to decide who has access to it and how it is used. You can share your data with companies or people on a case-by-case basis or refuse access altogether.

Zinnia is developing a solution in the form of a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO). Zinnia DAO will be governed by its participants, with its sole purpose to build and create products and applications that anyone can freely use. Imagine a decentralized Google, without the profit, just applications. Zinnia sees a world where consumers meet corporations on the same playing field, where each holds their piece of the key to data ownership, transparency, and, most importantly, truth.


What is digital life?‍

'Digital Life' is a term used to describe various aspects ranging from the increasing reliance on digital technology to companies recording your life in digital files on the internet. 

How to delete a digital footprint?

Deleting your digital footprint may be almost impossible. Still, simple steps like downloading a copy of your Google data and then erasing their copy can go a long way to removing your online presence. ‍

How to protect yourself online?

1. Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication

2. Steer clear of unsecured public wifi

3. Be smart with personal information

4. Don't open unrecognized links

5. Back up your data and delete online data held by third parties such as Google.