Most of us are not strangers to the concept of targeted advertising. Most of us don’t particularly care, either. After all, who wouldn’t want relevant ads for products that might actually appeal to you? However, most of us don’t understand the measures these companies go to to invade your privacy and collect this data, or the devastating effects it can have on people. Your data is a moneymaker, and Big Tech companies will go to great lengths to obtain it.
It may sound paranoid, but it’s a fact that entire companies exist simply to collect your data and build a profile on you. In the eyes of these companies, the ends will always justify the means. Often they collect data in ways that range from questionable to blatantly illegal, collecting information that no one would knowingly consent to. This massive trove of data is regularly abused. For example, in 2019 the Egyptian government tracked opponents and activists through phone apps, the Moroccan government spied on the phones of human rights defenders, and the Chinese government hacked Asian telecommunications companies to spy on the Uighur, a minority Muslim ethnic group living in China.
How Big Tech Invades Your Privacy
It sounds like something from a dystopian sci-fi movie, but the ways these companies can collect your data are crazy:
- They can use high-pitched tones that only electronic devices can hear to report how many people are watching a TV show,
- They collect your banking and shopping information,
- They track your car as you drive through the real world,
- They track your phone as you browse through stores to see where you spend the most time,
- Now they even collect your DNA from family heritage testing services!
“Wow,” you may say, “that’s intense. But I’m not an activist or famous. Why should I care about privacy? I have nothing to hide.”
Here’s The Evidence
- Western governments spy on their own citizens, even on peaceful, positive movements. (Source)
- Western government officials have attempted to use the law to silence critics. (Source)
- According to the US Bureau of Justice, “During a 12-month period an estimated 14 in every 1,000 persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking” and “Approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%).” In 1989, a woman was murdered by her stalker, who obtained her address from DMV public records. Separately, a Los Angeles man was killed in a robbery gone wrong after posting his address to Instagram. (Source, Source, Source)
- When people feel they lack privacy, they are afraid to educate themselves on important issues, thinking they be mistaken for troublemakers. (Source)
- In 2017, the FBI chose to drop charges against a pedophile rather than reveal how they caught him. This was to avoid having their backdoor fixed, to avoid having other countries use it against us, or to identify that we used it against them. This demonstrates that despite their constant calls to ban encryption in the name of “stopping child sexual abuse,” this not always their true motive. (Source)
Corporate Privacy Abuse
- Multiple industries keep “surveillance scores” on people. These scores have been used to determine employability, overall consumer trustworthiness, insurance rates, and even whether you’re a good person to rent to. Some western countries are even working on implementing a China-style social credit system fed by your online and collected data. (Source, Source)
- Many companies have been known to sell your data to or work exclusively with law enforcement agencies without your consent. In 2011, GPS data was sold to local police in the Netherlands so they could issue traffic tickets. In the US, Ring Doorbells are a common surveillance tool for police around the country. In another case, the US military purchased location data from popular apps that track weather, exercise, and even Muslim prayer to help targeted drone strikes. (Source, Source, Source)
- Financial institutions penalize people financially, because they don’t like their shopping habits. In one case, American Express lowered a person’s credit limit because they shopped at “deadbeat” establishments like Walmart. (Source)
- In Australia, data breaches from rogue employees were up 52% between 2019 and 2020. Data breaches are in everything from general identity theft to harassing people who left negative reviews. (Source, Source)
- Sextortion scams cost $8 million USD in the first half of 2021. (Source)
Attacks on privacy don’t just happen to people in the public eye, they happen to everybody.
Thanks to The New Oil for providing research for this subject.
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