If you use the internet or carry a phone, Big Tech is watching.
It’s no secret that the nation’s technology behemoths are constantly working to gather as much data on their costumers as possible. In many cases, consumers are happy to hand over that data in trade for the convenience new technologies provide.
But based on the information provided in a couple of new reports, Big Tech is tracking you even when you don’t realize it, or when you specifically take steps to block companies from monitoring your connected activity– and the level of intrusiveness involved may surprise you.
For instance, Quartz reports that Americans using Android phones are constantly sending physical location data back to Google, even when they turn off location services in an effort to avoid being tracked.
From the report:
Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location services, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card?
Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed.
Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.
Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice.
In short, Google is following you everywhere you carry your Android phone.
And even with robust security measures in place, this means that third-party bad actors could potentially gain access to every detail about your whereabouts.
Another report out from ArsTechnica focuses on the growing intrusiveness of technology designed to track your online activity, detailing how corporations are now following your every keystroke and mouse movement in real time to gather information about you.
From the report:
If you have the uncomfortable sense someone is looking over your shoulder as you surf the Web, you’re not being paranoid. A new study finds hundreds of sites—including microsoft.com, adobe.com, and godaddy.com—employ scripts that record visitors’ keystrokes, mouse movements, and scrolling behavior in real time, even before the input is submitted or is later deleted.
Session replay scripts are provided by third-party analytics services that are designed to help site operators better understand how visitors interact with their Web properties and identify specific pages that are confusing or broken. As their name implies, the scripts allow the operators to re-enact individual browsing sessions. Each click, input, and scroll can be recorded and later played back.
A study published last week reported that 482 of the 50,000 most trafficked websites employ such scripts, usually with no clear disclosure. It’s not always easy to detect sites that employ such scripts. The actual number is almost certainly much higher, particularly among sites outside the top 50,000 that were studied.