What Information is Being Collected About You?

Whether it’s your favorite social media platform or your trusted email provider, you’re more than likely unsafe from data collection. Many popular services in 2017 are collecting a great amount of detailed information on their users, including you. We’re taking a deeper look into what specific information is being collected by top services across the web, to better educate the public about the importance of Internet privacy.

Google

Across the globe, millions of people flock to the search engine, Google, to look up directions, find recipes for dinner, search for jobs, and do a variety of other things. Founded in 1998, Google is the powerhouse of the Internet, and has transformed and expanded to include Google Maps, Google News, Google Analytics and much more. However, their generally positive reputation shouldn’t deter users from using Google with caution. Google is known to collect data from users, and to sell this data to advertisers and other entities for targeting and other purposes. Here are just a few items that Google current collects:

  • Videos you watch
  • Websites you visit
  • Your location
  • Contacts you add
  • Calendar events
  • Photos and videos
  • Device information

Facebook

Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, Facebook is the leading social media platform on the web. With 2 billion monthly users and a highly innovative spirit, Facebook continues to grow with the acquisition of multiple companies, including WhatsApp. Despite their popularity, Facebook is well known for its data collection practices, selling user data to third-party advertisers so that they may better target ads to users. Facebook has also been criticized widely for using WhatsApp to gather user data, sparking international outrage when they announced they’d be doing so. Here are a few key pieces of information that Facebook is collecting from you, and potentially sharing:

  • Current location
  • Income level
  • Political engagements
  • Shopping and buying behavior
  • Websites visited

Twitter

Founded in 2006 in San Francisco, CA, Twitter is a leading social media network known for its easy ability to share fast, important information across the globe instantly with one 140 character ‘tweet’. Transforming into a popular news and social media outlet, Twitter has had its growing pains but has come out the other end with millions of active users, on desktop and mobile. Twitter is undeniably popular, but with great popularity comes concern. Here are some of the alarming pieces of information that Twitter is collecting about you in order to track your activities and monitor your interactions:

  • Visits to third party sites
  • Contact information including your email and phone number
  • Direct messages and non-public communications
  • Location information
  • Websites you visit while using the service

Browsers

We use browsers, such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, in our day-to-day lives to power our Internet searches. Web browsers are software applications (programs) used to reach and explore the Internet. Think of a browser as the engine that starts your drive to the Internet. We interact with browsers every day, but we rarely think about the information they’re collecting about us. Here are the most worrisome items that are being collected and potentially distributed by Internet browsers:

  • Cookies
  • IP addresses
  • Information about your devices
  • Web beacons
  • HTTP referrer (what sites you came from)
  • Pixel tags

Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Internet service providers, such as Verizon and AT&T, are running massive monopolies in the Internet space that are used to manipulate traffic, impact consumer activities, and extract data. Currently, there is a worldwide fight to save the Open Internet and preserve net neutrality, a concept that the FCC is currently trying to repeal. At Golden Frog, we have long battled for full open access, as a measure of maintaining choice, transparency and competitive markets. As certain ISPs continue to monopolize access to the Internet, it’s important to stay educated on the pieces of information they are collecting about you:

  • Search terms
  • Sites visited
  • Your location
  • Shopping habits
  • Deep packet inspection
  • Information passed to the government
  • All browsing data

The Government

Perhaps the most alarming of all is the amount of information that is collected about us by our own governments. The NSA has been spying on people for a long, long time, with help from ISPs such as AT&T, who have supplied the NSA with access to countless emails and other sensitive information. Other email providers such as Yahoo have also done this. What’s very interesting is that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) does not hide what they’re collecting, but they do note that the information displayed on their website is only a partial list of current and planned future data collection targets. Here a few of the most pertinent items:

  • Emails sent and received
  • Mobile phone GPS-location data
  • Skype video calls
  • Credit card/debit card transactions
  • Legal documents
  • Travel documents
  • Health records
  • Online purchases and auction transactions
  • Educational records
  • Photos viewed/uploaded online
  • Social media activity

Sources:

NSA, Google Privacy, Information Facebook collects and targeted ads, Twitter Privacy Policy, Myshadow.orgHow-To GeekFox NewsCNN