Have you ever wondered why Facebook, Google, and other Internet services are free? How do they make their money? Most of us probably understand that they make their money from advertising. But did you know that the real money these services make is by selling your personal data?
Of course, one line of thought is that since the Internet is a largely free service, the price we pay for using it (and using free services) is our personal data. But some are not happy with this arrangement, arguing that companies using our personal information without our explicit permission is a violation of our privacy. They argue that we should have the right to choose what we share with companies and opt out if we want to.
Regardless, Google, Facebook, and other online companies know an awful lot about us, and they’ve been able to turn this information into literally billions of dollars a year.
Okay, So How Much Is My Data Worth?
Determining your exact yearly worth to companies such as Google and Facebook is a little hard to determine. Your personal data is probably worth somewhere between $50 and $5000 to Google. For Facebook, you are probably worth $45 to $190.
Luckily, there’s an app for that. Privacyfix is an add-on that you can use to help determine your approximate worth to companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook.
For Google, Privacyfix looks at the searches you’ve made the last 60 days, and then extrapolates that amount to a year. Of course, how much you are worth depends on what you search on and how valuable that is to advertisers.
Privacyfix also lets you know how many of the websites you go to send data back to Facebook and Google. It’s not unusual to find out that Facebook is tracking over 90% of the websites you visit.
What Google Knows About You
You might be surprised at just how much these free services actually know about you. Let’s take Google as an example.
If you use Gmail, Google tracks and stores every email you send, every search term you look up, every Google chat you participate in, every conversation you have with Google Voice, every appointment you enter into your Google calendar, every YouTube video you watch, and they even track you for up to six months even if you are not logged into Google.
Google stores all this information about you in giant databases so they can mine it, target ads with it, and run various algorithms with it.
Combine this information with information gathered from data brokers, and the amount of information companies gather about you is exponentially multiplied. Data brokers are companies that compile information such as your age, race, sex, weight, height, marital status, education level, political beliefs, buying habits, household health, vacation dreams, and more. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.
Combine this with other public records (births, divorces, arrests, speeding tickets, etc.) and you have the ability to know quite literally everything about someone.
How You Can Decrease Your Worth
The more you use these social network sites and free services, the more valuable you are to them. That’s because you are compiling more and more information that these companies can turn into user data about you and turn around and sell to advertisers.
One way to stop doing this is by simply not using these free services. Remember, if you can’t figure out how these companies make money, it’s safe to assume that you are the product that they are selling.
Another way you can decrease your advertising net worth is to use a VPN like PRIVATE WiFi. PRIVATE WiFi anonymizes everything you do online, and makes it harder for Internet companies to figure out who you are online.