Facebook and Google betraying the trust of its users?

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By Hannah Hale | hhale3@radford.edu 

After Facebook went under fire due to the misuse of user information, some social media users are questioning just how much data websites retain on their users.

Google is a website many people rely on every day for searching, email, and more, especially those with Android cellphones.

NBC News reported that a Twitter post by Dylan Curran, an information technology consultant, demonstrated how Google closely tracks users, and many users do not realize exactly how much information these settings give to Google.

Curran states in his Twitter thread, “Google stores your location (if you have it turned on) every time you turn on your phone, and you can see a timeline from the first day you started using Google on your phone.” He also found that Google stores your search histories from all of a user’s devices even if you delete your search and phone history.

Curran goes on to say, “Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight, and income.”

“Google stores information on every app and extension you use, how often you use them, where you use them, and who you use them to interact with.” You can find all of your YouTube watch, search, and comment history on your account.

The most startling piece of information in Curran’s 31 part tweet says, “includes your bookmarks, emails, contacts, your Google Drive files, all of the above information, your YouTube videos, the photos you’ve taken on your phone, the businesses you’ve bought from, the products you’ve bought through Google.”

Curran continues, “Your calendar, your Google hangout sessions, your location history, the music you listen to, the Google books you’ve purchased, the Google groups you’re in, the websites you’ve created, the phones you’ve owned, the pages you’ve shared, how many steps you walk in a day…” Curran’s report was a whopping 5.5GB file, which is around three million word documents.

To see what information Google has retained about you and change your settings, you must go into your account, security, and privacy settings.

Curran also found that Facebook also has an option to download all your information. He states, “This includes every message you’ve ever sent or been sent, every file you’ve ever sent or been sent, all the contacts in your phone, and all the audio messages you’ve ever sent or been sent.”

“They also store every time you log into Facebook, where you logged in from, what time, and from what device.” Facebook stores all the applications that have ever been connected to your account and these applications may have access to and the ability to store your Facebook information depending on the amount of access you allowed.

It is scary to think about how much information is stored on internet users, and basic security precautions, like making a profile private, seem insignificant if this much information is available in a website’s database. Hackers could gain access to this information from merely having your login information.

Be sure to check your privacy, security, and account settings on every online account or device you use, and pay attention to the permission you give to apps and websites.

Photo credit: (Thought Catalog on Unsplash)