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With all the attention paid to Facebook in recent weeks over ‘data breaches’ and privacy violations, even though what happened with Cambridge Analytica is part of their standard business model, it’s easy to forget that there are four other Big Tech corporations collecting just as much - if not more - of our personal info.
Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are all central players in “surveillance capitalism” and prey on our data. New reports actually suggest that Google may actually harvest ten times as much as Facebook.
Curious about just how much of his data Google had, web developer Dylan Curran says he downloaded his Google data file, which is offered by the company in a hub called “My Account.”
This hub was created in 2015, along with a tool called “My Activity.” The report issued is similar to the one Facebook delivers to its users upon request. Whether or not these reports are comprehensive is still up in the air, but Curran says his was 5.5 GB, which is almost ten times larger than the one Facebook offered him. The amount and type of data in his file, Mr. Curran says, suggests Google is not only constantly tracking our online movements but may also be monitoring our physical locations.
Curran’s Google report contained an incredible amount documentation on his web activity, going back over a decade. But perhaps more importantly, Google had also been tracking his real-life movements via his smartphone device or tablet. This included fairly random places he’d frequented, many of the foreign countries and cities he visited, the bars and restaurants he went to while in these countries, the amount of time he spent there, and even the path he took to get there and back.
This, of course, is not new. It has been well-known for some time that Google silently tracks you everywhere you go and creates a map of your physical movements through its Location History feature. You can deactivate it by going to your timeline and adjusting the preferences.
Another Google user downloaded his file and discovered the company had been archiving his data even when he browsed in Incognito mode, a setting that advertises itself as one that does not save browsing history.