How Do Companies Use Your Phone And App Data?
If somebody asked you how many apps you had installed on your phone, you might not have an exact answer but you could give it a good guess. But if somebody asked how many of those apps were harvesting data and passing it on to third-party companies, you probably wouldn't have a clue. In most cases, it's a lot more than you think. In fact, it is estimated that 90% of all apps on Android are sending information about you straight back to Google. Around one-third of them are sharing data with up to 10 other companies. That's a lot of your data being shared every single day without you really knowing where it's going or what is being done with it.
Some people assume that they are sharing data from their phone but they don't worry too much about it because they don't think it goes anywhere. But the truth is, companies are using your app and phone data for all sorts of reasons and a lot of them are making huge amounts of money out of it, while you get nothing. In order to protect your data more effectively and make sure that it is being used responsibly, you need to understand how it is being used in the first place. These are some of the main ways that your app and phone data are being used.
Targeted And Personalized Ads
When you visit a website or look at an ad, there's a pretty good chance it knows what you've been doing on your phone. This is partly due to the fact that most websites use Google to serve up ads but it's also because companies like Facebook (who owns Instagram) and Google (who owns YouTube) hold onto huge amounts of data about you. Using all this data effectively means being able to target specific groups of people with adverts for specific things that they might be interested in, based on what they have been doing online and on their phones. The more targeted these ads are, the more effective they tend to be.
More often than not, people don't even realize that they are being targeted at all. If you search for something on your phone or click on an ad, companies like Google and Facebook will use this information to give you more of the same in future based on what they think you're interested in. This is incredibly valuable information not just to advertisers but also to people who run small businesses because it means that they can find out far more about their customers than ever before and target them with personalized messages. As a result, data is becoming a central part of advertising and all of the information that your phone collects about you is incredibly valuable. So, there are a lot of companies out there using your data to convince you to buy things and make more money out of you.
Selling Data To Third-Parties
A lot of app developers want access to as much user data as so that they can improve their services and use the information in new and interesting ways, as well as using it for targeting ads. However, they can also sell this data to companies who can buy it and put it to good use. There is a huge market out there for user data from both Android and iOS devices because it is incredibly detailed, specific and allows marketers to get extremely targeted with their ad campaigns. The problem here is that most people who download free apps don't actually think about what happens to their data once they've given permission for an app or website to access it during the setup process. You might not realize it but all of your data and your email address are being sold to multiple companies all around the world and the data brokers that facilitate these sales are making huge profits.
Using Location Data
Your location data can be extremely valuable for businesses that want to get a clear picture of your habits and general lifestyle. Companies may use it to help them determine where to open a new store, for example, by monitoring foot traffic. However, it can also be used for targeting ads for businesses that are in your local area. Unfortunately, this use of location data is incredibly invasive, especially if you're not aware that your data is being sold or at least used for commercial purposes. The problem is, a lot of the common apps we use rely on location data. For example, things like Uber or Deliveroo require your location data to use the service, and that data is then likely passed on to somebody else.
Powering the Web Through Your Voice Searches
Thanks to Siri and Google, you no longer need to type out searches or instructions on your phone, you can just ask for whatever you want. This might include asking the phone to do a search or set a reminder, and while this is useful, its also another way to collect more app and phone data from you. By listening in on your conversations when you're not aware that your mic is being activated, companies can pick up all kinds of snippets about your life and find out what you're interested in. Once again, this is incredibly valuable information for companies who want to sell you products and services. Although tech companies claim that the microphones are only switched on when users say the activation word, studies into the technology have found that this is not true in all cases.
Monitoring Screen Activity
By watching exactly what you do when you're using your phone or tablet, companies can pick up a lot of information about you and monitor your behavior as you go from app to app, website to website and even as you type things into Google. By keeping track of where people click on a website, for example, web developers can improve layouts and streamline sites so they are easier to use. It can also give a good insight into which apps and websites you use most, to help build a picture of your interests and target ads more effectively by putting them on the right platforms.
We all use our phones on a daily basis and every time you do, your app and phone data is being passed around all over the place and, more often than not, monetized. Its important that you think carefully about which apps you give permissions to because you dont always know what theyre doing with your data.
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