If going “off the grid” doesn’t seem to be a reasonable option in the 21st century, what can a private citizen do to combat the personal data collection of tech giants such as Google and Facebook?
Technical consultant and Web developer Dylan Curran demonstrated in a series of tweets this week how much information Google and Facebook are storing about individuals, the Gateway Pundit reported.
Commenting on Facebook’s spying, he observed to the popular blog: “When you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.”
In a video, he explained how to to opt out of data collection:
He shows users how to modify their Google privacy settings.
Curran said users must first think about what information they are willing to exchange for the benefit of Google’s and Facebook’s services.
The taking of information by the tech companies isn’t necessarily bad, he said, the issue is “the extent” of the information they take.
In his tweet thread, Curran showed how Google knows its subscribers’ every move, search history, gender, health, relationship status and much more.
He said he may be on an FBI watch list, so if he dies in the next few months “it wasn’t an accident, it was a set-up.”
“Want to freak yourself out? I’m gonna show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realizing it,” he began.
On Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook took a swipe at Facebook for profiting from its users’ data, calling for the social media giant to be more tightly regulated.
He said online profiles with “incredibly deep personal information that is patched together from several sources” shouldn’t be allowed to exist.
“I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation,” Cook said. “However, I think we’re beyond that here, and I do think that it’s time for a set of people to think deeply about what can be done here.”
In an interview Wednesday with the Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson, Curran discussed some of his recent findings about the information Facebook and Google are collecting.
He said he found that Facebook was collecting phone records and Google was storing search records as far back as 2008 and locations as far back as 2014, “showing pretty much every location I’ve been for the last four years, every day, and with a time stamp.”
The most disturbing thing,” he said, “is they actually store your Google incognito history.”
That means, he said, “when you think your privately browsing, Google is still collecting that data.”
How to download your Google, Facebook data
Todd Haselton, CNBC’s technology product editor, shows Google subscribers how to download everything the tech giant knowns about them.
He points out Google allows its users to download a copy of everything they have stored on the company’s services, including Drive, Calendar, Gmail and Hangouts.
“This is particularly important if you ever decide to quit Google and delete your account entirely, but still want a record of your Google Calendar, an archive of the pictures in Google Photos or a copy of everything in Gmail,” he wrote. “It’s also useful if you want a reminder of everything Google knows about you.”
How to download your Google archive:
- Go to http://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout
- Select the products to back up.
- Click ‘Next’ at the bottom of the page.
- Choose the file format and the maximum size.
- Choose the delivery method. A link can be sent via email or the archive can be sent to Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.
- Tap “Create Archive.” (Google warns the archive may take hours or days to create).
Haselton also has offered instructions on downloading Facebook data:
- Go to Facebook.com/settings
- Tap “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”
- Tap “Download Archive.”
- It might take a few minutes, but Facebook will alert you when your archive is ready.
- When it is, click “Download Archive” again, and a zip file will download to your computer.
- Browse through that archive by opening each file inside the folder.