Top Companies that Collect Your Data

Top Companies that Collect Your Data

Due to our lives mirroring in the digital world, data has become an extremely valuable resource.

Due to our lives mirroring in the digital world, data has become an extremely valuable resource.

Businesses all over the world have prioritized the collection of data as they have the opportunity to analyze, draw insights and monetize it.

Data is important for businesses as it can be a huge source of money. And besides, they are able to track you at any time. They can track your browsing history through cookies, recognize your face through a camera, record your transactions with every purchase. With all this data, they can create detailed profiles of a customer, being able to predict their preferences and how they will spend their money in the future.

So let's see how companies collect data and which are the top companies that know more about you than you think.


What type of data do companies collect?

Big companies collect a vast amount of different types of data. This collected data includes personal information (such as name, phone number, email address, locations, birth date, age, gender), technology data (such as devices used, operating system, language, internet provider, level of usage), social media data (friend connections, profile information, uploaded media, likes, shares), browsing history, purchase behavior (types of purchases, buying activity).

These are only a couple of examples of the most collected data. The complete list of the different types of data companies collect about users when browsing online is way longer.

You can learn more about all the data companies collect from our guide:


How do companies collect data?

Every time you connect to the internet, some type of data starts being shared with companies. There are ways in which big companies can follow you online everywhere you go and gather all the information about your online behavior so they can build a detailed profile of your digital footprint.

The main ways companies collect data about users are:

Websites and cookies

Companies can pull your data directly from their website using cookies. They can track everything you do on their website - what pages you visit, how much time you spend on each page, what products you add to your cart. Cookies also allow companies to follow your behavior around the web, even after you left their websites. This means they are able to track users browsing histories overall.

To learn more about how cookies work:

They ask for it

Almost every company asks for some kind of user personal data at some point. Think about when you're subscribing to a service or making an online purchase. You're required to provide at least your name and your email address. Some even ask for information such as the home address, age, and gender. To collect more data from users, companies often conduct surveys that are used for customer profiling.

Social Media

Companies can also look at users' social media profiles to pull out more personal data. Especially when it comes to services where you can use your social media profile to log into a third-party application (e.g. Spotify).

Third-party trackers

According to research, more than three in four Android apps contain at least one third-party tracker. These trackers are used to get an insight into users to better target them for advertisements and services.

Email tracking

Tracking your email doesn't only mean companies know you've opened the email, but they also know what device you've used, when you've opened it and from where. According to Wired, over 40% of emails are being tracked.

The content of your emails is also a great source of information. Google Ads scans emails and use algorithms to send targeted ads based on common user topics. Say you email a friend, using a service like Gmail, and tell her about your new plant. Chances are, there won't be long until you'll start seeing ads related to plants all around Google services.

Data companies

Companies can buy customer data from third-parties. There are companies designed to collect, analyze, and sell customer data for advertising campaigns. Examples of such companies are IBM, Oracle, and Alteryx. These companies acquire data from e-commerce sites, smaller data companies, and many other sources.


Top companies that collect data

Now let's see which are the top companies that collect more data than you might realize.

Amazon

Amazon has changed the game when it comes to big data for the masses, changing customer service all across the globe. With so many products on their platform, how could you choose the best options and have an easy purchasing experience without a personal assistant to guide you through? With this problem in mind, they started tracking users browsing history and behavior on their platform so they could recommend accurate suggestions instantly.

Amazon tracks your every move from the moment you accessed their website. Besides knowing all the personal information you provide on your profile, they know everything you do on their platform. What products you're looking at, what you're searching for, and all your previous purchases. They also know details about your Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Music Unlimited such as what movies you watched, what music you listened to, for how long, where you were located when you used their services. Not to mention that if you have the Amazon Echo smart speaker in your house, they have access to even more information.

Facebook

I believe there's no surprise to see Facebook on this list. With more than 1.5 billion active users, Facebook is the world's largest social network at the moment.

Facebook has changed the way we interact with our friends and family. It invited people to create a digital directory of aquitences, the biggest one there's out there. And almost everything on the platform is public (depending on each one's Facebook privacy settings. There are over 30 billion pieces of content users upload on the platform every day. That's a lot of information!

With this in mind, there's no wonder Facebook has built one of the biggest databases of personal information that ever existed. The total Facebook revenue generated from advertising in the fourth quarter of 2018 reached $16.6 billion (helped by Instagram Stories).

Google

Google collects a mindblowing amount of data about users, but I believe we're all aware of it by now.

If you're still not sure about how many information Google collects about you, this article might help shed some light:

Google has introduced a great business model on the market that allows them to make tons of money on users' data. They offer a wide range of services for free. But, given that nothing is free, we pay for those services with our personal data. Google collects data from users when using their services and sells this data to third-party advertising companies.

The main Google service is the search engine. And Google tracks everything about your browsing behavior. From the keywords you're using to the pages you're accessing, how much time you spend on each page, and many, many more details.

But let's not forget that Android is owned by Google. And we're also using many more Google services such as Maps, YouTube, and Gmail. If you're using all these services, especially if you run them with the default privacy settings, then Google knows everything about you - what apps you have installed on your device, your contacts, photos, messages, browsing history, when and where you've been all day. By tweaking the privacy settings, you can limit the amount of personal data you share with Google, but you can't completely stop it from tracking you while still using their services.


What companies do with the data they collect?

There's a huge and profitable market around data collection. Users receive free services in return for their personal data that will be further monetized. Think about Facebook and Google. They provide a wide range of services for free. In exchange, they are allowed to collect personal data from users using their services. Then they take big money from advertising companies for targeted ads.

Reference: What companies do with the data

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