Facebook and Google have now been hoisted in front of the public, and rightfully reprimanded for their invasive data collection. (Notice, the deafening silence of our politicians and government officials on this issue.) In reality, the entire industry has been condoning and abetting these practices. You can follow my Know Your Data series of posts all the way to 2010, documenting what some of the big names have been doing in taking away every citizen's privacy.
The Guardian's article is indispensable in its meticulous documentation of everything Facebook and Google collect about you. Facebook is in fact less intrusive than Google, simply because Google has embedded itself everywhere: Chrome (browser), Android (mobile phones), Chromecast (TV), search, Google Phone, Google Analytics (on most websites), Google Apps (used by a lot of universities and businesses), Gmail, Google Hangouts, Google Maps, Google Calendar, you name it.
For the author of the article, Google has over 5 gigs of data on him while Facebook has 600 megs. (We are making the assumption that we are being shown everything.)
Some of the key takeaways:
- Deleting something merely disconnects you from your data. The data still exist in the corporate servers. (You should have known this when these companies tell you that you can come back and restore your old contacts, data, etc.)
- The era of "anonymity" is long gone. All of the data are traced to you. Some readers may remember the days when we were told that cookies are harmless files that are not personally identifiable.
- Your mistakes, bloopers, etc. are all stored. If you accidentally click on a spam ad, it is stored, and likely used by some algorithm to profile you.
- Google seems to have kept not just metadata (titles of images, sent dates and recipients of emails, etc.) but all the data (photos, emails, etc.)
- No one cares whether the information about you is accurate or not.
If there is one copy of this data, you can bet there are lots of copies of the data. This is called "redundancy" - you just have to keep multiple copies to recover from inevitable data losses.