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More and more people are talking about how big tech companies collect information about their customers. Whether it’s from more news coverage, documentaries, or new laws, it seems like you hear about how big tech companies have access to your data everywhere you go. But what exactly does that mean? As the CEO and founder of a company that does data intelligence, I want to make it easier for people to understand what data collection is, how it’s done, and what it’s used for.
First of all, what do we mean when we say that “big tech” has your data? These companies keep track of your name, email address, phone number, IP address (which tells them where you are in the world), the device you’re using, the times you’re using it, what you’re doing on it, and more.
It’s important to note that not every brand collects this information. What each brand tracks and how it uses that information is up to each company. However, researchers at security.org took a deep look at some major tech companies to see what they were tracking and gave each one a letter grade.
How do they get your information?
Companies can get to your information in many ways, but here are the three most common ones:
1. by asking you for your data. Have you ever
• Have you exchanged your email for a report?
• Have you ever bought something from a brand and been asked to fill out a survey?
• Would you give your service a score of 10 out of 10?
• Are you waiting until the end of a customer service call to answer a few questions?
All of these are ways that businesses try to get you to give them your information. When they tell you about it, they don’t call it that, but that’s what they are doing.
2. by keeping track of what you do. Almost every website you visit in a day records what you do.They keep track of everything you do on the site: how long you stay, what you click on, what you scroll past, the email address you used to log in, and where you are logged in from.
3. by buying consumer data. There are a lot of brands that sell data, and there are just as many that buy it. It’s a way to speed up the process of collecting data. Instead of collecting your own data, you buy it from someone who has already spent the time and money to do so.
What do they plan to do with that information?
Isn’t that the most important question? What do these companies do with your information if they have it all? Companies mostly use your information to create a customer profile of you so they can learn more about who you are and what you’re interested in. And companies want to build up this customer profile and make it as detailed as possible for one main reason: they want to make their interactions with you as relevant and personal as possible.
Now, this customization shows up in many different ways, like the ones below.
• Social media apps want to make sure they’re showing you things you want to see. Ever wonder why it’s so hard to stop using TikTok? Because they put a lot of effort into making an algorithm that shows you new content based on what you’ve already watched and liked.
• To show you ads that are useful. If you’re in your 20s and keep getting ads to schedule a tour of a retirement home, it’s likely you won’t do that. You don’t fit the bill for that job. But if advertisers know you’re younger and won’t be looking for retirement homes, they’ll know not to show you their ads.
• to tailor your experience have you ever gotten an email from a brand on your birthday? They don’t send that email to everyone and hope someone’s birthday is in there. They send it to you because your customer profile shows that it is your birthday. Most likely, they also wished you a happy birthday by name in that email. They also have your name in their records. They can send you this email because they have enough information about you to do so.
All of the things I just said don’t sound too scary. Most of the time, brands don’t take our information for bad reasons; they do it so they can serve you better. However, this does not grant them access to your information.You own your data, so you should be able to decide how and when it is used, and you should be fairly paid for it.
A lot of brands don’t share enough information about the data they collect, but that’s starting to change because of how people feel and because of government rules. In a recent article, I talked about what the future of collecting data will look like and how each consumer will be in charge of it. Some customers will be able to share their information and have very personalized experiences if they want to. But if sharing that much information makes you feel uncomfortable, you can choose not to share any of it.
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