The Information Major Tech Companies (Including Google, Apple, Facebook, TikTok) Are Collecting From Their Users (infographic)

Data privacy is a growing concern among many consumers as tech companies are becoming more transparent about the information they are collecting on their users (and ultimately selling to third parties and advertisers). We all have a right to know what information these major tech companies have been collecting on us, which in some cases even includes information about their users’ imported contacts. Another right we now have is the right to ask these companies to delete our information or opt out of having it collected at all. These newfound rights are thanks to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect on the first of this year, and as this law’s six-month grace period has come to an end, tech companies have enacted sweeping changes to their privacy policies to remain compliant with the new law.

So what kinds of information do these companies readily admit to collecting on their users? Since reading through a long and complex privacy policy for a major tech company can be confusing and quite frankly not that fun, TruePeopleSearch did the dirty work for us. They combed through the privacy policies of 11 major tech companies to find out what sorts of information they have been collecting on their millions, and in some cases billions, of users.

Included in this list of giant tech companies are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, the five most valuable brands in the world, in that order. These companies have been valued at more than $100 billion, with some even reaching the $200 billion range. You will be able to compare the information collected by these tech giants to what’s collected by social media sites Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok, popular social news site Reddit, and the widely used ride-share apps Uber and Lyft. While these other six companies may not have made the list of the most valuable brands in the world, rest assured that they are also valued in the billions. With some of these companies offering their services for free, such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, TikTok, and Reddit, the profits they make from selling user information account for a large portion of their revenue. As for the others tech companies that do sell a product or service, you have to wonder how much of their revenue can be attributed to collecting and selling user data.

As for the types of information being collected by these giant tech companies, some of the information included on this list is to be expected, while other entries may raise a few eyebrows. The list starts out with personal information about users, like their name, age, and gender. The privacy policies of a few of these companies showed that even if a gender wasn’t provided, it was inferred from other information the user provided, like their name or pronouns used. A majority of the companies also collect location and contact information as well as the information of a user’s contacts if they have been imported in some way.

As you scroll through the list of the various types of information being collected, you begin to reach the bread and butter of user information. Information about the device and mobile carrier you use, the websites you visit, the searches you make, and your interactions with things like apps, browsers, and ads is incredibly valuable to tech companies. How often have you searched for a product on Google only to see an ad for it on Facebook not long after? That is your information being collected and sold to a third party right in front of your very eyes. All 11 of the tech companies included were found to collect information on devices used, browser information, IP addresses, websites you’ve visited, ads you’ve clicked or interacted with, date and time of use, and your interactions with apps, browsers, and devices with their services.

With almost 60 different types of information commonly found in the 11 privacy policies, some time will be needed to really delve into this infographic and see which pieces of information these tech companies have admitted to collecting on their users.

One of the pieces of information included in the list has proven to be a controversial topic lately, and for good reason. Facial recognition data is only collected by a handful of these companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, TikTok, and Uber, which states that they use the data to verify the identities of their drivers and delivery partners. Microsoft is only able to collect this information if “People” is enabled on a user’s photo settings, and the president of the company recently announced that they will not be selling their facial recognition technology to police departments in the U.S. unless a federal law has been implemented to regulate the use of this technology. Amazon has taken a similar stance on police use of their facial recognition software, Rekognition, but they have only implemented a one-year moratorium on police use of it.

On the flip side, Facebook and TikTok have been found to be less ethical with their use of this powerful software. Facebook had to pay a massive $550 million settlement for violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires that companies get users’ consent before they can collect and share biometric information like facial recognition data. It ended up being one of the largest cash settlement payouts ever reached in a privacy lawsuit. TikTok’s collection of facial recognition data may be the most worrisome of all, though. Governments across the world have expressed growing concern that the Chinese government can access TikTok users’ data for their own use. Due to fears over national security issues stemming from how this information is being used, the list of countries, companies, and organizations that have banned TikTok is continuing to grow.

Which of these giant tech companies collects the most information on their users? Out of the 11 included on this chart, Facebook was found to collect the most information, with just ten out of the 58 types of information left unchecked. While using Facebook costs nothing for consumers, the social media giant harvests as much information as they can from their 1.7 billion users to help earn a large portion of their profits. Amazon was the runner-up for the most information collected, with 17 boxes left unchecked. On the flip side, which of these giant tech companies collects the least amount of information on their users? Reddit was found to be the least invasive company on the list, with just 23 of the 58 types of information collected. Uber came close, with just 28 of the different types of information collected from their users.

What are these giant tech companies doing with all of this information they collect? With quite a few of these companies offering their services at no cost to users, the massive amount of information they collect is then used to create revenue for the company by selling it to third parties or advertisers. Google is said to generate up to 80% of its revenue from advertising! With the potential to reach millions of users and to target them based on things like demographics or search history, advertisers will spend a pretty penny to get their product or services in front of the right consumers.

If the amount of data being collected by your favorite social media app or search engine worries you, just remember that you’re now able to opt out of your information being collected thanks to the CCPA going into effect this year.

Read next: Profit Per Employee: The tech companies making the most profit per employee
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