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How Do Companies Use Your Data?
So now that these companies have so much of your personal data, what exactly do they do with it and why did they want it in the first place? The short answer is to tell to third parties, who might want it for a variety of reasons, depending on the industry. According to an article from Villanova University, there are a few main reasons that companies want your data:
- Market trends: Companies want to keep on top of what people are saying about their products and services, so companies like Dataminr analyze millions of Tweets for their data, alerting clients of any important news.
- Predicting success of employees: In order to minimize risk, many HR departments may use data to screen candidates. Data company Evolv says that even something as seemingly insignificant as your web browser can say a lot about job performance. Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox users perform better in jobs than people that use their systems’ default browsers, according to their studies.
- Advertise products: More data means that brands can specify exactly who they show ads to, for example, showing an ad for a baby thermometer to someone that just bought baby aspirin. Some companies even crawl your emails from data, using it to deliver highly targeted ads.
- Identify lifestyle changes: By aggregating data from multiple sources, companies can predict major lifestyle changes, sometimes even before the person knows that they’re imminent. Target, for example, can tell when a woman is pregnant by her purchases, even if she’s not aware of the pregnancy. From there, they can send targeted ads for relevant products.
- Increase number of in-app purchases: By analyzing the actions that someone takes before making an in-app purchase, particularly for mobile or console games, companies can optimize the placement and timing of advertisements to increase sales.
Ultimately, the underlying reason why most big tech companies want your data is to deliver more targeted and relevant advertising to you at optimal times for purchasing. With the ease of A/B testing, companies can create ads that are super niche, tailored to your individual interests and needs, and shown to you at a time that you’ll be most likely to buy.
How Can You Protect Your Data From Big Tech Companies?
The amount of data that companies have on your can feel troubling at the least. However, there are a few ways to minimize the amount of data they’re receiving without preventing you from using the popular websites you know and love. Here are some best practices on how to stop companies from selling your data:
- Don’t fill out surveys: While surveys may be a great way to potentially win prizes, they are primarily in existence so companies can grab your data.
- Get on a “suppression list”: You can actually opt out of data sharing through a few large companies, including Axciom, Epsilon and Lexis Nexis. You may have to share your driver’s license or some other proof of identity, however.
- Protect student directory data: Federal law under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows schools to give out “directory information,” which may include your name, address, phone number, and more, of students from kindergarten all the way through senior year of college. However, the act also specifies that students can opt out of data sharing. To opt out, search FERPA and the name of your school and look for a form titled “Restriction of Directory Information” or something similar.
- Join the Do Not Call registry: Although it may not be entirely effectively for those pesky robocallers, the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call registry can prevent telemarketers from calling you. For an extra two dollars, you can also be added to a Do Not Mail list to avoid junk mail. Once you put your name on the list, you won’t get any junk mail for 10 years! If companies can’t call or mail anything to you, they’re less likely to care about your data in the first place.
Related: Protecting Yourself From Phone Scams
- Use a digital wallet: Services like Apple Play or PayPal can be a good way to lessen the amount of data that your bank has on you. I also recommend using a variety of payment methods to obfuscate your transactional history.
Although the amount of data that big companies have on you can make you feel a little hopeless, there are many ways to resist, and most of them only take a few minutes. Now, at least you can say you’re more educated on the topic. For more information, leave a question or comment below and I’ll get back to you soon. We’d love to hear from you!