Facebook, Google, and the Terms of Service

There have been a lot of major data breaches recently. Facebook is the most recent one in the news, and for good reason.

"I am really sorry that happened," said Mark Zuckerberg, referring to the Cambridge Analytica data mining scandal. I can’t help but wonder if we would have received this apology if a whistleblower hadn’t stepped forward and brought the situation into the public eye.

Since this story came to light, there have been newspaper articles detailing how you can download all your Facebook and Google data, and the amount of data these services have on you is in the Gigabyte range (which is a scary amount of data).

Google probably has a lot more data on you than Facebook. Remember, their business model is essentially the same as Facebook’s. You are not paying for any of the services they provide you; Gmail, Maps, Photos, Calendar, News, Drive, YouTube, Docs, Hangouts, et cetera.

What does this mean? It’s very plain. You are the product. All your data is compiled into a detailed consumer profile, so you can be served relevant ads. You exchange your data and personal information in exchange for access to these free services.

Have you ever read Google’s terms of service? Here is an excerpt:

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services […][1]

If you’re not careful with your privacy settings, Google will track your GPS coordinates and will have a detailed list of everywhere your mobile device has been (everywhere you have been). They have access to all your Gmail communications, your search history, your YouTube searches, and so forth.

Facebook, on the other hand, might be tracking all your call logs, and may or may not be listening to you at all times via your phone’s microphone (if you have their app installed), and so on.

Most people will say, “I have nothing to hide, so I’m not concerned about it”. Perhaps. There may never be any repercussions for you in accepting the terms of service these tech giants have made you agree to. Some prudent advice would be to spend some time exploring what permissions you have enabled on various platforms, so at the very least you know what you’re agreeing to.


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