Have you ever felt like the ads on your phone are a little bit too personalized to your needs? You’re not alone. In 2017, the data collected through websites like Facebook and Google surpassed oil as the most valuable resource in the world. Data, which is sold to marketers and analytics firms to be used in advertisements and campaigns, is used to create highly specific ads toward virtually every demographic on earth. If you’ve ever gotten an ad for one of these on Facebook, you can thank the company for selling your data. Luckily, you can find out how to get a copy of the data profile that these websites have made for you—right down to what you googled last night at 3 am.
Why Download Your Data?
In the wake of massive data scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, organizations are urging consumers to understand how their data is being used to advertise to them. Cambridge Analytica, the U.K. based data analytics firm, sparked one of the biggest conversations surrounding how data is used in marketing and campaigns when it was revealed that the company was using data as a means of political communications warfare.
For this reason, companies such as Google and Facebook have made it possible for users to download a full profile of the data that is collected about them. A recent Reddit threat asked users to share the most startling information collected about them in their data profile. Users responded, describing finding that their profile revealed that Google had been listening in on their conversations, location data, and things that users had forgotten they looked up online in the far past.
Downloading your data profile can give you insight into how ads are formed to target you as a consumer or voter. While many don’t mind that these companies harvest private data and sell it to be used in advertisement campaigns, the danger is that it has the power to sway political opinion and incite fear among the masses—as we learned through Cambridge Analytica. By understanding what data is being collected, consumers can get a better idea of how to unpack the ads and information they’re being targeted and decide whether they want to tighten their privacy options in social media sites and through Google.
How To Download Your Data
To get a detailed report about what kind of data Google is mining from your internet use, go to myaccount.google.com and sign into your account. Under the ‘Data & Personalization” option in the left menu, select the option and look for the “download, delete, or make a plan for your data” option. In that menu, you’ll be able to select which aspects of your data you want to download out of a menu. Things like search information, mail, location, Google Drive data, Youtube history and searches, calendar information, voice recordings, bookmarks, contacts, and other information.
Depending on how much information is in your report, it may take a couple of days for Google to compile it (mine was a whopping 2 GB of data, for example, and is still downloading). Once you read your report—or before, if you feel so inclined—you can change what type of information is mined through Google. The same type of data can be accessed from Facebook by messing with your settings option in Facebook’s account settings menu.