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Yes, your data is very valuable. It helps companies target you with ads, allows the government to track your digital footprint, and makes a lot of money for third-party data brokers.
Your data is collected by every app and website you frequent. The collected data can be information that you knowingly divulge, like your name, date of birth, and shipping address; or it can be data you indirectly disclose, like your IP address and your contacts.
Your personal information is most at risk when data is pieced together from multiple sources. For example, data brokers can combine public data like DMV records or your credit history with other data purchased from social media apps and retailers to identify you. Once brokers have your full identity, their databases become a target for hackers, who can sell all of your information on the Dark Web. From there, identity theft becomes a real possibility.
Okay, enough with the scary stuff. As I said, every app you use and every website you visit collects data from you. But do you know what data they take? Let's play a game and see what you know.
Below, I'll present scenarios taken from the privacy policies of popular apps and websites, and you'll decide if it's true or false. Let's go! We'll start out easy first.
TikTok may provide your name, phone number, password, or metadata associated with when, where and by whom your content was created to third-party payment processors and transaction fulfillment providers.
These gateways take your credit card information, account number, and the cardholder's name and send it to the bank to which your card is connected. Then, a payment processor notifies the bank that the transaction is occurring.
The bank will confirm if you have enough money to make the purchase, and your purchase will be approved or denied. This is the same process used by TikTok and your bank to detect fraudulent transactions.
When you enter a physical store, Walmart may collect your biometric information such as your face geometry, fingerprints, or retina and iris imagery.
When you visit some of its stores, Walmart may collect biometric information from you. You know those security cameras around the premises? Retailers can use in-store cameras or digital try-on software to collect your face and retinal scans.
Some retailers like Walmart say biometric data is collected to fulfill a business purpose, such as identifying shoplifters. But many experts say that collecting biometric data on American citizens can lead to wrongful convictions and increased identity theft.
Last year, Walmart settled a class action lawsuit in Illinois that alleged the company violated the state's biometric privacy laws by collecting biometric data from current and former employees without their consent or knowledge. The lawsuit charged that Walmart unlawfully uploaded the biometric scans to a third-party biometric database.
Less than half of US states and municipalities have laws protecting citizens from tech and retail companies unnecessarily collecting their biometric data.
Amazon may collect and store voice recordings when you speak to Alexa.
For years consumers have felt uneasy about Amazon hoarding their voice recordings when they speak to an Alexa-enabled device. You can request a copy of your data from Amazon and recover audio files from all your Alexa-enabled devices.
In another instance, a voice recording caught by Alexa was given to authorities by Amazon to convict a man of killing his wife. And Alexa recordings have served as key witnesses in several criminal cases around the world.
By turning off location tracking, apps cannot know your smartphone's location.
Turning off location tracking services is not a surefire way to stop apps from tracking your mobile device's whereabouts. Although turning off tracking services may prevent an app from accessing your precise location, most apps utilize other tracking methods.
Aside from GPS tracking, your location can be tracked by your phone's signals when you access a public wifi network, even if your device is not connected to that network. Apps can also access your location via pings from local beacons and cell towers.
A big part of Apple's allure is its commitment to privacy and how its commitment is much more serious than any other Big Tech company. Apple's data policy, under the legal jargon found in the California Consumer Privacy Act, does not "sell" your data.
That means that Apple does not offer any data that can be linked to you to a third party in exchange for money. But that does not necessarily mean Apple does not allow third parties to use your history on its platforms to target you with ads.
Researchers concluded that the data collected when users visit Apple apps like the App Store, Apple Stocks, and Apple Music are linked to their iCloud accounts and can be used to identify them.
When you request to delete your data from an app or website, it is deleted immediately.
Some companies, like Google, say the deletion process begins as soon as you put in a request, but it can take up to six months for your data to be removed from all systems. Facebook says it can take up to 90 days for all of your posts to be permanently deleted from its servers.
Most companies take a few days to respond to your request to access or delete your data. Then, they can take even longer to delete your data.
If you answered more than three questions correctly, you've probably spent some time reading through your favorite apps' privacy policies. Congratulations: You ought to know what data is being collected from you.
You should also know that there are some ways to prevent companies from collecting data from you. But there's usually a consequence for not sharing important data with an app or website: Your experience can be less personalized or significantly decrease in quality. Many app and website experiences remain seamless, all-encompassing, and convenient because of how much data you allow that site to pull from you.