You might take your online privacy very seriously. You always connect to one of the best VPN services when surfing the net. Likewise, you have also read the terms and conditions carefully before clicking on the “Accept” button. You can even customize your smartphone and app settings to make sure they save as little information as possible about you.
However, despite your best efforts, big tech companies still collect a huge amount of data about you every day. Unsurprisingly, they also make tons of money from it.
Since collecting data looks like an unavoidable practice, why not take advantage of it yourself, then. Would you be comfortable selling your sensitive data for profit if you had the means?
That’s exactly one of the questions analyst firm Exploding Topics asked more than 1,600 Americans. And – surprise, surprise – almost half of respondents said they would.
Make money from your data as a fair practice
As part of a larger investigation, analysts from Explosive Subjects Contacted (opens in a new tab) to 1,617 Internet users living in the United States to gather their views on data privacy, ownership of online content and the role of big tech companies.
Perhaps the most interesting finding concerns the sale of personal data.
While acknowledging that these companies make huge profits by sharing users’ personal data with third parties for commercial purposes, 47.9% of respondents said they would consider selling their data for financial gain.
The remaining half is then split between 26.5% who say they wouldn’t and 25.6% who don’t know what they would do if given the option to cash in on their own sensitive information.
Analysts got an even stronger response when they asked if users should automatically get a share of the profits in case a company sells their data. Here, over 70% agreed that it would be a fair trade.
What data does Big Tech collect about you?
While such a practice is unlikely to gain a foothold in the big tech industry anytime soon, you can at least make more conscious choices about what information to share and with whom. For this, it is important to know exactly the types of personal data that these companies hold on their users.
Companies record a range of personal information on their users directly from them. These include their name, phone number, email address, home address, payment details, username, passwords and even the emails they write and/or receive.
Another set of data falls into the category of unique identifiers characterizing the device you use to go online. These include IP address, device and/or browsing type, system activity logging and URL request details.
Then, specific information was collected on user activities. These can include the search terms they are looking for, the posts shared, the content viewed, and the length of their online session.
The additional data that big tech companies hold about users comes from their Location Information, such as the time zone they are connected to and GPS movements. Businesses can even get information about their customers from publicly available sources such as newspapers, advertisers and credit bureaus.
Among the biggest companies in the market, Google wins the gold medal of the most data collected (opens in a new tab). While Apple seems to be the one that does the most to protect the privacy of its customers. Additionally, the two major social media platforms Twitter and Facebook seem to store more data than they need.
As you can see, for companies it is easy to savagely exploit users’ personal information for their financial gain. That’s why governments around the world have been busy crafting new laws to deal with privacy issues in today’s digital society.
The notion of data minimization is critical here. Underpinning many global data privacy laws such as the EU/UK GDPR and the US Data Protection and Privacy Bill, it allows companies to collect only strictly necessary user information. to provide a specific service in the most transparent way possible.
Ways to minimize data collection
How big tech companies and governments act isn’t the only factor impacting user data collection, however. Individuals can do their part to take over a certain agency on their personal information.
We mentioned earlier how a vpn service can help strengthen your privacy. In effect, it spoofs your IP location while encrypting your data in transit inside its secure VPN tunnel. Choose a no-logs VPN provider to ensure that none of your personal information is ever logged.
You also have a few alternatives to better secure your personal conversations. A messaging app powered by end-to-end encryption, such as WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram, is a must. There is also secure email services prevent anyone from reading your emails. One of our favorites is ProtonMail, developed by the same Swiss company behind the secure VPN service Proton VPN.
You should also consider using a anonymous browser and private search engine. The Tor Browser is a must-have when online privacy is paramount, as it secures your data inside three layers of encryption. It’s a bit slow, however, but completely free to use. While, a good alternative to your data-intensive search engine is DuckDuckGo.
Along with more proprietary software and other security services, there are also steps you can take to stay on top of your digital hygiene. These include change your passwords regularly, disable location data collection from applications that do not need this information to function, and continue deleting your cache history registration from your browser.
As a general rule, keep yourself informed about who you trust with your data, while minimizing the personal information you share as much as possible. Not a financial income here, but you will at least gain online anonymity.