What does Big Tech know about you? Find out

Digital freedomPrivacy news
5 mins
Big Tech Data Users

By now, we’re all aware that Big Tech companies not only provide services like social media and internet searches, but they also obsessively track your data for big profits

So what exactly do big tech companies know about you? There are easy ways to find out. One of them went viral on TikTok, thanks to @tiktoktrishkabob, who demonstrated in a video (liked 3.2 million times to date) how Google users everywhere could find out what the company knows about them with a simple search.

All users have to search is  “ads settings Google” or follow this link. To view the most accurate information about themselves, users should log in to their main Google account.

How to see what Big Tech companies know about you

In general, Big Tech companies can quickly obtain information on your approximate location, age, and gender. However, depending on each company’s business nature, they might acquire other types of data. 

Find out what Apple knows about you

A couple of years ago, Apple launched a marketing strategy targeted at the privacy-conscious. The company made the move in part to comply with Europe’s GDPR legislation. Since then, Apple has been making changes to its privacy policy and has allowed users to download all the information it has on them. 

To get a copy of Apple’s data on you, log in to your Apple ID account, then select Data & Privacy -> Manage Your Data and Privacy -> Get Started on the “Get a copy of your data” section. 

Apple will then take a few days to compile all your data and send it to you via email.

Apple generally keeps a log of the following: 

  • User Apple ID details
  • Data stored in iCloud, such as contacts, photos, and email
  • App usage information 
  • Items purchased and browsing history from App Store, iTunes, and Apple Books
  • Records of your Apple retail store and support transactions
  • Records of marketing communications, preferences, and other activities 

While you can’t prevent Apple from tracking your retail store history, support transactions, and purchase and browsing history, what you can do is avoid using iCloud for sensitive files like photos, contacts, and emails. Without iCloud, your data will exist only on your device. Additionally, you might want to turn off personalized ads from Apple. To do this, go to Settings -> Privacy -> Apple Advertising. You can toggle to turn off Personalized Ads and view targeted information. 

Find out what Facebook knows about you

Facebook is one of the most aggressive entities when it comes to collecting data about its users. Not only do they track everything users do while they’re actively using Facebook, but they also track off-Facebook activity—regardless of whether you have a Facebook account.

To find out what Facebook knows about you, log in to the desktop version and select Settings & Privacy -> Privacy Shortcuts. Unfortunately, while you can prevent Facebook from using your information in certain ways, it’s very difficult to stop them from collecting your data.

If you want to limit the data Facebook collects about you, avoid using the Facebook app. It gives Facebook permission to know what kind of device you use, which Wi-Fi networks you connect to, and which other apps you’re using. Even with location tracking switched off, Facebook can still determine your approximate location from the IP address you use (unless you’re using a VPN).

Find out what Google knows about you

Google collects a lot of data on you to show you ads it thinks you might click on. 

The most obvious and effective way to stop Google from tracking you is to discontinue using its products. However, many people find this virtually impossible. Even if you’re not using any Google products in your personal life, chances are you’re exposed to them through your job.

However, Google does allow you to remove much of the information it has collected on you. Visit the Activity Controls page on your account and delete everything in the Web & App Activity, Location History, and Device Information category. You can also choose to turn tracking off for these categories. If you’re too lazy to delete your history manually, there’s a setting that automatically wipes everything the company holds on you that’s older than three months or 18 months. 

Find out what Microsoft knows about you

You might have a lot more connections with Microsoft than you think—primarily if you use the web-based versions of its services like Word and Excel. 

To find out what Microsoft has on you, access Microsoft’s Privacy dashboard. Here, you’ll be able to view your activity history, download your data, and clear your personal data as well. While you’re at it, make sure to toggle to Ad Settings as well to prevent Microsoft from feeding you targeted ads. 

Finally, if you’re trying to prevent Microsoft from tracking you entirely, don’t sign in when using Word or Excel tools, and avoid using Cortana as a digital assistant. You can also avoid creating a Microsoft account altogether and use the applications locally on your Windows computer or laptop.

Find out what Yahoo knows about you

Like other major search engines, Yahoo keeps tabs on its users’ interests to serve them targeted ads. In 2018, Yahoo came under fire when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was allegedly scanning its users’ emails for data. 

To view and manage all data associated with your account, visit the Privacy Dashboard while logged in. You’ll get the opportunity to view and clear data and reset any permissions you previously gave. 

Ensure Yahoo doesn’t read your mail by heading to the Ad Interest Manager page and select opt-out on both the “Your Advertising Choices” and “Across The Web” sections. 

Ultimately, the best way to stop Yahoo from getting its hands on your data is to simply not create an account with them or use any of their services. 

Can you delete all your existing data? 

While you can attempt to remove all your data from various services, the truth is it’s not possible to completely extinguish your digital footprint. Even after you’ve gone through the process of erasing your data, companies like Google may still retain it for up to two months. 

This is a case of prevention being more effective than a cure. Limit permissions on your apps, stay logged out of services when using them whenever possible and delete cookies on your browser.

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