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Do you know Which Data your Favorite Social Networks Collect from you?

On a daily basis, social networks obtain data about us, the why and what for is usually unknown to most of its users

Cellphone with social media

Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Ángel Hernández Liborio

The use of social networks usually seems innocent: posting photos, videos, telling how your day was, what you ate or playing with some filters. However, there is one side to which most users pay little attention: the collection of their data by social networks and worse still, the handling they give to it.

Why do social networks need my data?

In general terms, social networks need your data and the information that you generate mainly for commercial purposes, that is, through your data and the technology that each network has, they can know your tastes in various areas, this allows them to place advertising, products and services according to your profile. There are also companies that use social networks to get to know their consumers better, conduct surveys and market research, among other uses.

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The problem is that the user is not always aware or informed of what data is collected, which lends itself to discretionary use of this information. For example, in 2015 Facebook was sued in the United States for illegally collecting user biometric data, which cost the company $650 million to compensate 1.6 million users, according to El País. Finally, there is also the use that governments can give, an example is TikTok, which is of Chinese origin, which has been singled out by Anonymous for allegedly espionage for the government of the Asian giant.

Can I use social networks without giving my data or private information?

You can open an account on social networks with false data (something that generates controversy due to network security) or omitting your sensitive information, but there is also information that the user cannot avoid putting in the hands of these companies. In this category are the hours of use, searches, time on the network, tastes and everything that gives a precise profile of the user. Hence, there are attempts around the world to regulate social networks, a fact that has not yet come to an end.

The data that each social network collects:

TikTok (1 billion users): This social network is one of the most controversial, it is one of the ones that collects the most data from its users and also shares it with third parties, according to CNBC. Being on TikTok "costs" users to share their real-time location, their search history, videos watched, IP address and time in the app, and they continue to obtain information even if you have already left the application. Once the data reaches the servers in China, no one knows what happens.

Facebook (2.9 billion users): This network is the most widely used in the world. Pressures in the United States and Europe on the use of information have forced the company to show what it knows about you. In your app's privacy settings you can review this data and, in theory, you can request that it be removed from Facebook. The company collects your private information that it requests when you register, your preferences, activity on Facebook, searches, pages that you follow and that profile your tastes, gender, age, etc. The real unknown with Facebook is if the information is actually deleted when requested, the mistrust of the users remains.

Google (2.5 billion YouTube users): Along with TikTok, it is the social network that collects and shares the most data. The famous video network has access to your physical location, phone number, email address, contacts, search and browsing history, purchase history and data usage, according to information from El País. Against this, Apple has been one of the companies most interested in avoiding this "leakage" of information, which is why it incorporates tools in its products to see what is shared and that the user has the possibility of choosing not to do so.

Twitter (436 million users) and Instagram (1.478 million users): Being part of Meta (Facebook), Twitter and Instagram also obtain in detail the information they collect from users. The data you get is the same as on Facebook. Both platforms assure that it is only for advertising purposes, but they have not been without scandals. In 2019 Twitter “accidentally” shared the location of thousands of users to third parties. Meta continues to be subject to fines and regulatory attempts for the dubious handling of information.