In this digital age, your privacy far too often becomes a tradeoff for convenience. After all, user data is the most sought-after resource for tech companies, offering resale value, ad revenue, and more.
But do you even know all the companies that stalk you?
A Bloomberg report confirmed that Amazon employs thousands of full-time employees, as well as outside contractors, to listen to conversations recorded by its Echo smart speaker. The idea was that this data would be transcribed and used to improve the Alexa assistant.
Google raised some concerns recently when it emerged the company was buying people’s face data for Rs 350, in order to train its facial recognition AI. But even before that we’ve seen how much it tracks us online, especially when it puts up ads relevant to our search history on every website we access.
The iPhone maker was also revealed to have hired contractors to listen to users recorded by Siri. They were responsible for grading the responses by Siri to user questions, gauging their accuracy, and more.
Facebook hired contractors to listen to audio clips recorded by its Messenger app. This is used to train the app’s feature that lets you transcribe voice messages to text. It’s off by default, but even one person giving this permission in a conversation allows data collection for all the others too.
Microsoft was also recently revealed to have contractors listening to both Skype calls and audio recordings from Cortana. One contractor described hearing people look for porn, enter in their full address using the assistant, and even having phone sex.
Snapchat’s violation was probably worse. An employee revealed that certain unscrupulous coworkers had spied on users “multiple times”. They abused internal tools to look up users’ email addresses, phone numbers, photos, and other personal data.
7. Uninstall trackers
Many apps use something called “uninstall tracking tools”. These are meant to help companies figure out if users that leave their apps are going to competitors, as market research. But many smaller developers began abusing this to find users that deleted their apps and send them refreshed ads.
8. Russian and Chinese apps
Aside from these, there are a number of apps on the Google Play Store at the top of the download lists. Many of these are based in Russia or China, meaning that’s where your data is going where it gets stored on their servers. And you have no way of knowing what happens to it after.
Of course, we won’t be so naive as to say these are the only means by which you are being spied on, but these are the most popular ways you are being tracked and eavesdropped upon.