You can take your online privacy very seriously. You always connect to one of the best VPN services while surfing the net. Likewise, please read the terms and conditions carefully before clicking the ‘Agree’ button. You can even tweak the settings of your smartphone and apps to make sure they capture as little information about you as possible.
Despite all your efforts, major tech companies are still collecting a huge amount of data about you every day. Unsurprisingly, they also make tons of money from it.
Since data collection seems like an unavoidable practice, why not take advantage of it yourself. Would you be comfortable selling your sensitive data for a profit if you had the resources to do so?
This is exactly one of the questions that analytics firm Exploding Topics has asked more than 1,600 Americans. And – surprise, surprise – almost half of the respondents said yes.
Making money with your data as a fair practice
As part of a larger investigation, Exploding Topics analysts reached out (opens in new tab) to 1,617 internet users living in the US to gather their views on data privacy, online content ownership and the role of major technology companies.
Perhaps the most interesting finding is actually about the sale of personal data.
While acknowledging that these companies make huge profits from sharing users’ personal data to third parties for commercial purposes, a whopping 47.9% of respondents said they would consider selling their data for financial gain.
The remaining half is then split between a 26.5% who say they wouldn’t, and a 25.6% who say they’re not sure what they would do if given the chance to cash in on their own sensitive information.
Analysts got an even stronger answer to the question of whether users should automatically get a share of the profits if a company sells their data. Here, over 70% agreed it would be a fair trade.
What data does Big Tech collect about you?
While it’s unlikely that such a practice will gain a foothold in the large tech sector anytime soon, at least you can make more conscious choices about what information to share and with whom. For this, it is important to know exactly what types of personal data these companies have about their users.
Companies register a range of personal information about their users directly from them. These include their name, phone number, email address, home address, payment information, username, passwords, and even the emails they write and/or receive.
Another set of data falls into the category of: unique identifiers characteristic of the device you use to go online. These include IP address, device and/or browser type, system activity record, and URL request details.
Then there is specific information collected about: user activities. This can include the search terms they search for, posts shared, content accessed, and length of their online session.
Additional data that major tech companies have about users comes from their location information, such as the time zone they are connected to and GPS movements. Companies can even get information about their customers from: publicly available resources such as newspapers, advertisers and credit bureaus.
Among the largest companies in the market, Google wins the gold medal for most data collected (opens in new tab). While Apple seems to be the one doing the most to protect the privacy of its customers. Also, the two main social media platforms Twitter and Facebook look like they are storing more data than they need to.
As you can see, it is effortless for companies to wildly exploit users’ personal information for their financial gain. This is why governments around the world have been busy drafting new laws to deal with privacy issues related to today’s digital society.
The concept of data minimization is critical here. Under many global data privacy laws, such as the EU/UK GDPR and the proposed US data privacy and protection law, companies are only allowed to collect user information that is strictly necessary to provide a specific service in the most transparent way possible. offer.
Ways to minimize data collection
However, the way major tech companies and governments act isn’t the only factor influencing users’ data collection. Individuals can do their part to take back an agency over their personal information.
We mentioned how before a VPN maintenance can give your privacy a boost. This is because it spoofs your IP location while encrypting your data in transit in the secure VPN tunnel. Choose a VPN provider with no logs to ensure that your personal information is never captured.
You also have a few alternatives to make your personal conversations more secure. A messaging app powered by end-to-end encryption, such as WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram, is a must-have. There are also secure email services prevent anyone else from reading your emails. One of our favorites is ProtonMail, developed by the same Swiss company behind the secure VPN service Proton VPN.
Also consider getting a anonymous browser and private search engine. Tor browser is a must-have when online privacy is paramount as it secures your data within three layers of encryption. It’s a bit slow, but completely free to use. Though DuckDuckGo is a good alternative to your data-hungry search engine.
In addition to more private software and other security services, there are also some actions you can take to stay on top of your digital hygiene. Among which change your passwords regularly, turn off location data collection of apps that do not need this information to function, and keep clearing your cache history file from your browser.
As a rule of thumb, be aware of who you entrust your data to, while minimizing the personal information you share as much as possible. There is no financial income here, but at the very least you gain online anonymity.