Who Are the Most Egregious Violators of Privacy?

First, allow me to apologize for the delay in new content for this blog. As my fellow adults of society might appreciate, time is always against us and often life tends to get in the way of our favorite hobbies. I don't believe I have committed previously to a strict schedule of any sort in previous posts, so allow me to say now that my readers can expect new content on a bi-weekly schedule...time permitting, of course. Where this is not possible, my readers can expect a monthly post at the very least.

Now, let's get on to what you came here for and have likely been looking forward to, shall we? In my previous blog posts, I briefly touched on who would be considered our adversaries when it comes to us defending our rights to privacy. These adversaries can be anyone from an ex-significant other, your employer, your health care provider, a physical or digital retailer, a hacker or, perhaps of greater worry, a state-backed entity, world governments, big tech companies or data brokers. Of these, who would you say are the worst? If your first thought gravitated towards big tech companies and data brokers, you would be correct. Think about it. State-backed entities and world governments are not going to actively pursue you unless you are engaged in highly-suspect or criminal activities. Conversely, big tech companies and data brokers want to know and share everything about us even if we are innocent, non-threatening, average citizens of society who simply want to live our lives.

Which “Big Tech” Companies and Data Brokers?

Whenever you hear mention of “big tech” companies in the news or in a podcast, see the term in an article or hear it in casual conversation and wondered what it refers to, simply, it is a name given to the five largest and most dominant information technology companies of the United States. These consist of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. Each are dominant players in where they compete most strongly. Apple in the consumer electronics space. Google in the online advertisement, search engine and cloud computing space. Microsoft in the Operating Systems, personal computer, gaming and Software as a Service space. Amazon in ecommerce and cloud computing. Facebook in the social networking space. Each of these companies own and provide us with some of the most common hardware and software that we use in our everyday lives, such as:

Scarily, in our use of the aforementioned hardware, software and services, a variety of data is collected on us. It can consist of everything from our contact information, people we may know or who may know us, the content of our messages to others, what we searched and when, time spent in certain applications, the things we type, locations we visit or have visited to interest in consumer products and purchase history. This can all be verified by visiting the privacy policy and terms of service pages of each of these companies. I must advise you, however, that reading through these can take quite some time. Therefore, I instead invite you to visit the following links which are from a website known as ToS;DR (short for Terms of Service; Didn't Read). ToS;DR presents the information from the privacy policies and terms of service, that some of us never actually read through, of these companies in a convenient, simplified manner. These companies are then provided a grade based on the severity of the concerns their respective privacy policies and terms of service raise. Strangely, I wasn't able to find a ToS;DR page for Microsoft or its services. As such, I will be linking directly to their Privacy Statement page instead.

Apple – ToS;DR Google – ToS;DR Microsoft – Privacy Statement Amazon -ToS;DR Facebook – ToS;DR

As for data brokers, these are individuals or companies who specialize in collecting personal data or data about other companies, mostly from public records but sometimes sourced privately. You may have heard mention of some these, namely Spokeo, PeekYou, WhitePages/YellowPages, Nuwber, BeenVerified and Houziz. Data brokers sell or license the information they gather to third parties for a variety of uses. Sources, usually Internet-based since the 1990s, may include census and electoral roll records, public phone books, social networking sites, court reports and purchase histories. Ready for an awful fright? Search for yourself on your favorite web search engine or at one of the data broker's websites and see what results are presented to you. How accurate are the results? Are we wearing a tin foil hat yet? While there are varying regulations around the world limiting the collection of information on individuals, privacy laws vary, and the United States has little protection for the consumer. In recent times, however, states such as California have enacted statutes such as the California Consumer Privacy Act intended to enhance privacy rights and consumer protection for residents of California. Arguably and rather unfortunately, this effort in protecting the privacy of residents of California is not as broad when compared to the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union.

What Can we do to Protect our Privacy From Big Tech and Data Brokers?

Fortunately, I have found some easy to follow guides for my readers that wish to immediately dive into protecting their privacy from big tech and data brokers. Although I might argue that there are better options when it comes to protecting your privacy, I must keep in mind that my blog is geared towards the average person who simply wishes to regain some control over their privacy without having to completely sacrifice convenience and device usability.

Until next time, fellow users!

Signed – He Who Fights for the User