How Much Are You Worth Online To Companies Like Google & Facebook

It is no hidden fact that Google keeps a tab on what all you are doing on the Internet. From your searches to links you click to websites you visit to the IP address you logged in from and other personal information – everything is available with Google. If anyone wants to “become you”, he just needs to hack into Google servers… Isn’t that scary? Following Google, Facebook has also entered into the market of selling your data.

FOR SALE: YOU! Location: Internet! Your data is available through these sellers: Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more! Cost: Unknown!

Ever wondered how much you are worth online?

We’ll talk about methods used to collect your data – both personal and browsing data – that might help you determine your worth online.

You Are Being Tracked!

I call them spybots and adbots. They follow you everywhere you go on the Internet. They record your activities:

  • What links you click,
  • What pages you visit,
  • Which pages retain you,
  • What kind of pages repel you,
  • Which part of pages do you spend more time on,
  • What are you searching,
  • Where did you log in from,
  • What is your gender,
  • What is your age and more!

You might wonder what Google or any other company would do with the data it collects. Why would any company spend time and money on tracking your online activities? Fine, there are some so-called customer improvement programs that allow you to opt out from being monitored. These are generally the ones you get when installing any software saying “Help us improve by sending us anonymous usage statistics…” An example is the image below.

Unchecking such boxes gives a sense of satisfaction – Google or any other company is no more tracking you. But that is an illusion: you are being tracked. You are being tracked not only by search engines and social media sites but also by different online ad agencies and third-party companies.

What Happens To Data Related To You?

Google, Facebook and others like them say that tracking you, helps them provide you with more targeted adverts. The same applies to the other social media sites. Ever wondered why Twitter shows you promoted tweets on topics that interest you? Did you notice LinkedIn shows you material relevant to your activities on the Internet? I am not being a skeptic. This is the truth.

And that is why Internet Explorer has a list of Tracking Protection in Internet Explorer (TPL). These lists help prevent tracking your activities when you are online. You need to install these TPLs manually. I would recommend adding the ones from Abine.

Example TPL

How To Protect Privacy On Chrome And Firefox

While Internet Explorer has the TPLs, there are some other extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Most of such extensions are developed by the same companies and are customized for Chrome, Firefox and even for other browsers like Safari and Opera. Easy List is one such company. Abine too has extensions for Chrome. I am not sure if it has any for Firefox, Opera and Safari as I do not use these browsers. I use an extension from Abine for tracking protection on Chrome. Check out the screenshot of what the extension displays when I visit Microsoft website.

How Do Websites Collect Data?

This is such a complex topic that a research paper can be written on it. To summarize it, most websites have mini codes that they place on the site for different purposes – not essentially for tracking you.

For example, if a website contains share buttons, the buttons are collecting information on what all are you sharing from that website. The website owner may or may not know about data being transferred to third parties. In some cases, there are codes that keep a watch on what you are doing on the website and when you navigate away, where do you go and how (by clicking a link or by typing a URL in the browser). These companies collect data about you and sell it off to different online advertising companies that then use that data to provide you with targeted adverts. And since you are looking for similar material, you are more likely to fall for the adverts they present to you.

The network is huge and present all over the Internet. In fact, the Internet cannot function properly without these snippets and share buttons. If you have a website, you will want to put up share buttons so that people can share your posts easily. It is a different matter that these buttons also store data about what all you are sharing. As I said earlier, the process is complex and I can’t imagine how it works. All I could grasp is that you, as a customer, are an ID. All the data pertaining to your usage of Internet is grouped under that ID. This data is then sold or used for profits.

How Much Are You Worth Online?

I would rephrase the above question as how much does Google and others earn by using your Internet usage data. There is no definite figure but experts say it can be anything between 7 cents to few dollars per annum. The more you use the Internet, the more is your value. And in case it sounds like a very small amount, try to imagine how many people use the Internet daily or even monthly. Based on that estimate, you can try to calculate how much does Google and others earn by collecting and using your data.

If you are getting worried now, there are several tools to fix and prevent data collection. One of them is PrivacyFix.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN