Please understandnim asking this question from a genuine place. I dont want the quora answer, i want the tech savvy, security expert minds of my fellow lemmings. If thats ok?

What happens to this data? What can/do they do with it? and why are so many people concerned about google tracking them?

Do i as an average user need to be concerned?

If so, What sorts of things can i do to avoid being tracked? Preferably without too much comprimise.

  • ImplyingImplications@lemmy.ca
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    9 months ago

    People don’t realize how much data is collected, how it’s analyzed to determine things about you, and how it’s given out to nearly anyone. Here are some concerning examples that hopefully speak for themselves.

    Data from fitness app Strava was used to locate secret US military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq by some random guy on Twitter. He did this by pointing out people running in squares in the middle of the desert. Imagine what America’s enemies could do with this information that this company will sell to anyone.

    Ad company Xandr allows you to target audiences with labels like “Recently purchased a pregnancy test”, “Has a large gambling debt”, and “Has depression”. Once again, this is freely available for anyone to purchase. These tracking companies find out things that are very personal to you and then sell that info to people who might not have your best interests in mind.

    Last but not least. Governments and law enforcement can access this information at any time for any purpose. Do you really want the government and police agencies to have a database of people grouped by their religious and political beliefs or their sexual orientation?

    Hopefully you can see why the information being collected and given out to anyone is concerning. As to how to avoid it, I’m not sure there is any way besides government regulation. Maybe someone else has some answers!

    • tpihkal@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      I just don’t use the internet, can’t track me if I ain’t on it!

      • foggy@lemmy.world
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        9 months ago

        If your friends have Facebook, and they share contacts on their phone, and they communicate with you Facebook has a shadow profile for your phone number. They still track you even without the app or an account.

          • Adulated_Aspersion@lemmy.world
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            9 months ago

            You’re fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes…

        • Stantana@lemmy.sambands.net
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          9 months ago

          Yes, that’s why I have two phone numbers. One with an official work number that I give to friends and business partners - Its basically a requirement to have a public phone number if one runs a company where I live, so no hiding there anyways. And then I have a separate number I never give out, for data only.

          Oh, you tried to call me but I didn’t pick up? Sorry, I was busy/tired/generic excuse. But if you get on Element I’ll give you my private account. Think of it as a backstage pass, you’ll get in when nobody else does. You’ll be special.

          Kindergarten level psychology that works surprisingly well.

          • phillaholic@lemm.ee
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            9 months ago

            Are they both attached to smartphones? Location data can be pulled essentially equating the two numbers. If both devices always are in the same spot it’s the same person etc

            • Stantana@lemmy.sambands.net
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              9 months ago

              Different tools for different threats. I’m not trying to hide from state-level actors and phone data is illegal to sell where I live.

              And if I were, surely I wouldn’t talk about it on an open forum. In such a hypothetical scenario I wouldn’t even bring a cellphone, no matter if it’s a smartphone or a plain ol’ Nokia from the last millennium.

              • phillaholic@lemm.ee
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                9 months ago

                My point is they probably know both are you. I have two phones too, it just depends on what your goal is. If it’s not to be tracked by the Google, Microsoft, and Metas of the world you’re probably failing.

                • Stantana@lemmy.sambands.net
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                  9 months ago

                  How can Google, Meta and Microsoft corrolate two phones where one is completely devoid of any Google Play blobs if they don’t have access to location and triangulation data from the cell towers?

        • snownyte@kbin.social
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          2 months ago

          You’re not even safe from deleting your account.

          You delete your account, come back with a new one to find that the suggested people are people you once had as friends or looked at.

          Gee, wonder how they know that? /s

    • Professorozone@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      I watch a YouTube channel called The Hated One. He explains a lot about how to stay safe on the net. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like it’s possible to be completely safe and to be even a little bit safe is a HUGE PITA.

      • Meowing Thing@lemmy.world
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        9 months ago

        I remember reading something about a guy that went so hard at being anonymous that the FBI almost arrested him since it looked like he was doing something criminal to want all this anonimity.

        I couldn’t find the source now

  • Quetzalcutlass@lemmy.world
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    9 months ago

    Has everyone already forgotten about Cambridge Analytica, which scraped data from tens of millions of Facebook users and used it to microtarget swing voters in several countries with propaganda and misinformation to get them to either vote for right-wing candidates or stay home on election day?

    • phillaholic@lemm.ee
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      9 months ago

      I don’t think many people comprehend the impact. Most people don’t think they can be manipulated, and they are all wrong.

      • averagedrunk@lemmy.ml
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        9 months ago

        It’s funny, the more likely you are to admit you can be manipulated the more likely you’ll notice when it’s happening. So I just go around telling everyone how easy it is to manipulate me.

      • magikarpet@lemmy.world
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        9 months ago

        Well the other crazy thing with voting is how narrow the margins are.

        It doesn’t have to convince everyone. Only a small percentage across the country mixed with a few people in key locations and you can change everything.

        • Quetzalcutlass@lemmy.world
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          9 months ago

          Miami-Dade and Palm Beach says hello. A 537 vote margin in a few Florida counties decided the 2000 US Presidential Election.

          One wonders how different the world would be today if George W. Bush didn’t get that first term.

          (Fun fact: the usual chicanery to depress Democratic votes also happened in 2000 - voter roll purges, roadblocks in Democratic areas, too few voter areas in cities… In many ways it was a trial run for the bullshit Republicans pull now)

    • Stantana@lemmy.sambands.net
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      9 months ago

      Of course not. But in peoples defence, you can’t forget if you never knew. And I seem to have the impression that this was a thing and then it’s was pretty much gone again. Not brought up again and again over years like other, less important topics may have been.

      Non-interested people would have been left with the impression it was bad, but it must have been fixed or else we’d hear more about it.

  • Krudler@lemmy.world
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    9 months ago

    Just a personal story to bring one example into focus.

    I got sober 8 years ago and never talked about it online until I was about 4 years sober. Never saw a single promotion for anything related to alcohol…

    Until the day I made a single comment on Reddit telling my story to help support another person who was just starting their own sobriety journey.

    And like magic, all promoted communities to me were alcohol related. Even though I’m an ublock user, when I would selectively disable it every advertisement I saw online was related to booze.

    So even though there are ethical applications for my data, I found that it was used in an attempt to target me based on human frailties.

    • Steeve@lemmy.ca
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      9 months ago

      I think that’s just really shitty targeted advertising, not surprising on Reddit lol

      • Krudler@lemmy.world
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        9 months ago

        Reddit wasn’t even the worst offender.

        I made two posts one on asshole design and one on dangerous design and they cumulatively got something like 7,000 up votes and then “magically” the problem was fixed on reddit!

    • guacupado@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      I found that it was used in an attempt to target me based on human frailties.

      This doesn’t even make sense. It’d be much more lucrative to target multiple things you speak fondly about it or have expressed personal interest in by actively searching.

      • Yurgenst@lemmy.world
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        9 months ago

        If you enjoy something you buy it occasionally. If you are addicted you buy it every day, every time you have money, you think about it all the time. That’s way more lucrative, it’s the whole business model of the tobacco industry too.

        • OneWomanCreamTeam@sh.itjust.works
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          9 months ago

          That definitely doesn’t describe how I act with nicotine, and I’m ABSOLUTELY addicted to nicotine.

          I could say the same for alcohol, but I’m a very mild alcoholic.

      • bogdugg@sh.itjust.works
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        9 months ago

        Things we need are higher on our priorities than things we want, and addiction convinces you that you need that thing. So anything that can monetize that addiction is going to be more effective and consistent than something you merely want.

  • Lycist@kbin.social
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    9 months ago

    An example of this I use on occasion is:

    You date someone years ago and no longer are. You’ve moved on, but that person then goes and commits a heinous crime. The police decide that since you dated years ago, and that record of your personal info is stored on some database they have somewhere, they no-knock warrant into your house, and shoot you dead in your own bed (Brianna Taylor - Louisville KY.) because they think there’s a possibility he was there.

  • Jourei@lemm.ee
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    9 months ago

    I don’t like the idea that if history repeats itself, a powerful entity can force the data vaults open and see who they should send to the showers. I could be on the “correct” side at that time yet something I did or said last year has the system deem me unfit for the noble breed.

  • vikinghoarder@infosec.pub
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    9 months ago

    My worst imagination is labelling you and selling your label to the companies they supply to, and how wrongly those companies can use that data, example: google search “prostate cancer” or searching for symptons associated with prostate cancer - label telling probable prostate cancer developing with this user - insurance companies denying insurance to you or making it too expensive. Now extrapolate this to what your searches probably tell about you or your state, and multiply by the websites you visit, the time you spend reading article/tweet/forum/post about a certain subject, where and how you comment those articles, etc, and being labeled according to their perceived likes/hates/problems about yourself.

    • kpaniz@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      This. I remember that one video by LTT where he tried searching for a flight and he got a way higher price on the standard browser compared to the one with no personal accounts/cookies.

      If I use search engines, be it to find opinions on a topic or as you said an insurance, I want those sorted by factors like the date it’s been created and maybe the reputability of the source. Not what the algorithm thinks I want to see or I should see in “its” opinion.

    • magikarpet@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      My worst imagination is a nefarious entity using our data to determine if we are a threat or try and categorize people for some kind of psyop manipulation.

      Something like Captain America Winter Soldier but more realistic. Even things like Cambridge Analytica show it is not that far fetched.

      While social media companies and amazon may not have the desire to do those things, they sure make it easier for others by greedily collecting the data.

    • Steeve@lemmy.ca
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      9 months ago

      That doesn’t happen. These companies don’t sell user data and never have, they make money by being the only ones with your data through targeted advertisements. It’s not in their interest to sell it.

  • Samsy@lemmy.ml
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    9 months ago

    It’s called microtargeting, all big tech companys are sorting people in groups, just by their use of the service. It starts with simple things, for example: cats or dogs? And this goes deeper to your religion or sexuality, politics etc. Created mostly for advertising it got used by political parties. Check the Cambridge analytical scandal. If you easily able to sort the people for your target you are able to manipulate your targeted people.

    Newest scandal for microtargeting came from the EU-Commission with the chatcontrol.

    • Rokk@feddit.uk
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      9 months ago

      Cambridge Analytica stuff though I think mostly revolved around them identifying more vulnerable users.

      I don’t consider myself vulnerable to this stuff (I may consider grandparents and certain friends a bit more vulnerable) - should I still be worried about them having my personal data? I obviously would rather they don’t have my vulnerable relatives data so they aren’t manipulated, but for me personally does it matter?

      • doublenut@lemm.ee
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        9 months ago

        You not considering yourself vulnerable to this stuff makes you exactly the type that is vulnerable to this stuff.

      • Professorozone@lemmy.world
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        9 months ago

        That’s kind of silly really. Consider the example above where the woman gets fired for being pregnant. Now just pretend it was a man thing instead. What if you are diagnosed with a curable cancer, but your employer only sees oncology and fires you. What if they find out you go to a bar that is NEAR a gay bar and they just establish a policy that draws a radius around them? I can go on forever. You don’t have control over what makes you vulnerable.

  • Kage520@lemmy.world
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    9 months ago

    I think the best example is for women. Imagine they can figure out, with 95% accuracy or something, that you are pregnant, that could be valuable data.

    Now imagine you are a woman at a large corporation who just got pregnant, but aren’t telling anyone yet. Too early. Your corporation buys a batch of data and discovers there is a 95% chance you are pregnant. They don’t want to pay for maternity leave or make reasonable accomodations during pregnancy or pumping breast milk. They fire you for “unrelated reasons”, before you ever tell them you are pregnant.

    Nothing illegal happened there really. You never told them so you have no way to prove they fired you for that.

  • Shambling Shapes@lemmy.one
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    9 months ago

    The US and UK have both used data from period trackers to spy on women and monitor for “suspicious” miscarriages.

    • Rentlar@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      Governments in free, democratic countries are not supposed to spy on you without a probable suspicion of wrongdoing. Government agencies around the world get around that by “purchasing information” collected by private firms and use it to gain probable suspicion whenever they feel like.

  • Cyborganism@lemmy.ca
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    9 months ago

    Because then the authorities can get a warrant to access that information if they believe you are guilty of something.

    In the case where a law is unjust or puts peoples’ lives at risk, say like abortion laws in some US states, the government can use this against you as proof in a court of law.

    Edit: here’s another post about how this information is used against people:

    https://feddit.uk/post/4030393

    • ValiantDust@feddit.de
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      9 months ago

      To add to this: Many people shrug this off saying they don’t have anything to hide. Even assuming that is true, they usually mean they don’t have anything to hide right now from their current authorities. Ask yourself the question: Is there absolutely no form of government/regime you might want to hide something from? Are you absolutely certain these authorities might not get access to your data? Doesn’t even have to be a possible future government in your own country, it could be in some other country you might want to visit. Or maybe some terrorist organisation who for some reason targets people like you. Is there really absolutely no one you would mind having access to all the data collected about you?

      The thing is, the data isn’t going to be uncollected again. The way things are drifting the number of countries not in some way endangered by antidemocratic movements is constantly decreasing. Call me paranoid but I just don’t want to risk it.

      • foggy@lemmy.world
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        9 months ago

        Good counter to people saying they have nothing to hide is the guy that lost his apple or google acct because he sent a photo of his child’s rash to his doctor and it got flagged as CSA.

        You don’t need to have anything to hide to get fucked over by a lack of privacy.

    • AlmightySnoo 🐢🇮🇱🇺🇦@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      Yep, one could imagine scenarios in Texas where women could in theory be arrested if their messaging app snitches on them and tells authorities about their planned abortion (since it’s very easy for AI now to understand your conversations so it should be easy to automate in theory) or Google Maps reports them for having detected that they went to an abortion clinic.

  • Pheonixtail@lemmy.world
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    9 months ago

    It’s not so much about you as an individual, it’s about catalogueing and manipulating trends in our societies that can be used to make profit, for example Meta spends a lot of money and time manipulating election outcomes in favour candidates that will keep their taxes low through manipulating their content algorythm in favour of their desired candidates.

  • lightnsfw@reddthat.com
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    9 months ago

    Corporations are scummy motherfuckers. Once they have this data they will keep it forever. Even if they don’t have a use for it now they can come up with something in the future and will have no qualms about fucking you over with it. The technology available to analyze it is only getting more powerful as time goes on.

  • Thorny_Insight@lemm.ee
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    9 months ago

    I think if people knew the extent to which these big-data algorithms can figure out things about you just based on the links you click and posts you upvote then they would be more concerned. If it was just that they knew my location, age and interests then I wouldn’t really care much but the reality is that they probably know stuff about me, that even I don’t.

    I simply don’t like the fact that this database exists somewhere because it can come back to bite me one day. Just imagine what a fascistic government could use data like this for. Or maybe not even that, but remember how we first didn’t have chatGPT and no one thought we would for years but then it just appeared and now it’s there. Well what if tomorrow someone comes up with an equally fun tool that you can put any person’s name into and it’ll give you access to all this data. I want my page on that app to be very brief and inconsistent.

    I’m perfectly aware that it’s impossible to use the internet and not leave any tracks at all, but I want to make sure that my tracks are incredibly difficult to follow and preferably that they don’t lead anywhere.