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Privacy is a major concern in a technology environment dominated by the major information technology (IT) companies (see this list). Many users have resigned themselves to giving up a measure of privacy for the convenience provided by modern smartphones, tablets and computers. When confronted with making privacy decisions there are basically three areas of concern: device, application, or web service privacy settings. The major IT companies use operating systems (OS) that have configurable privacy settings allowing you to opt in or out using Android, iOS, macOS, Windows or Linux.

Applications also have separate privacy settings that you can also opt in or out of before installing or in its settings. When you sign up for a web service on the cloud you opt in or out of its own privacy settings, i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay. In some cases, if you opt out of a privacy setting (or a permission setting) the application will in certain cases not install or you may not receive the particular web service depending on whether it is free or paid.

For example, “When you install an app on an Android smartphone or tablet, it asks for access to data such as your location or address book. If you say no, you can’t install the app. Apple handles things differently. On its mobile operating system, iOS, apps don’t ask permission when they’re installed. Instead, iOS takes some permissions as a given—internet access for instance—but for more sensitive data, such as your photos or location, the app has to ask for access when you use it. That more closely relates the decision to grant access to the reason for asking for it.” Quartz

Personal Information
“Even though the companies have different business models, they collect most of the same information and use it the same way. They all collect personal information such as name, email address, credit card number and telephone number for use in their storefronts…..All companies collect exact location data using a combination of your phone’s GPS, triangulating your location with cellular towers, and the location of any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices you are connected to…..Apple and Microsoft outright state they share your data with other companies, without explicitly asking permission. Google’s site states that they also share your data with other companies, but only if you consent to the sharing.” DecentralizeToday

Reading Privacy Policy Statements
The major IT companies all have their different policy statements for the public to read. In the past you would need a technology attorney to explain the policy but since 2012, IT companies have attempted to make the wording easier to understand, but, nothing really has changed, it is tedious and arduous to understand these privacy policies. You can read the major IT company privacy policies yourself here:

Apple Privacy Policy
Google Privacy Policy
Microsoft Privacy Policy
Amazon Privacy Policy
Facebook Privacy Policy
Twitter Privacy Policy

Data Mining
Data Mining “is the computing process of discovering patterns in large data sets involving methods at the intersection of machine learning, statistics, and database systems.” Wikipedia

All the IT devices, application and web services ask you to opt in or out of this practice since it allows these companies to “gather data to figure out what features consumers are using most, to make their products easier to use, and to find out what went wrong when the system or an app crashes.” DecentralizeToday

The computer world is no different from the advertisement model that has been around for a long time. Data mining is used to target advertisements to particular users sometimes using non personal data but also personal data depending on what privacy settings you opt in or out of when using a computer device, application or web service. Usually, free downloads and web services come with advertisements and this is generally accepted by the public. When paying for applications and web services usually advertisements are kept to a minimum or there are settings to opt out of seeing advertisements. For example, when you sign up for Netflix you accept the privacy terms and expect that other than Netflix recommending a movie you won’t see any other advertisements.

Follow the Money
When you understand how an IT company is making money you better understand what data mining each company wants from you by following the money. For example, as Quartz puts it, “Apple on the other hand is less reliant on user data. It needs the stuff as much as any other company operating online today—but to improve its services, not as the basis of its business, which relies on selling hardware, not mining data to sell ads.” Google and Facebook need our data to better target us with advertising by knowing our likes and dislikes so they can offer us ads that we’re more likely to click. In return, we get to use these addictive and/or useful online services free of charge, since Facebook and Google make their money directly from advertisers hoping to sell their products to us after luring us in with their ads.

FastCompany explains, “Companies such as Google, Amazon, and even Facebook want to know everything about you, and then use that information to present you with ads for products that you might like to buy–good or bad, those are their business models. Apple, on the other hand, is focused on selling hardware to consumers, and it’s less interested in monetizing where you go and what you do afterwards.”

When you download an app or sign up for a service you either opt in or out of allowing the app or service to use your device or other applications on your device. As Sarah Kessler, Mashable, writes, “There are more than 130 Facebook app developers with access to my profile. Sixty-eight apps have permission to post to my Twitter feed, eight of them can access my LinkedIn data and another eight are connected to my Gmail account. You don’t have to be an online privacy expert to understand that’s probably too many, but how many apps have permission to your account?” You can go into your device and opt in or out of permissions for each application. MyPermissions has an app you can download that makes this simple.

Tim Cook
The New Yorker quotes Tim Cook as saying, “I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be. We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your e-mail, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is.”

For more information read the following links:

Apple Can Afford To Mess With Annoying, Snoopy Ads–And At WWDC, It Did, BY DAN MOREN, 3 MINUTE READ, TECH FORECAST, FastCompany


APPLE VERSUS GOOGLE, By Om Malik,  June 15, 2015, The New Yorker

What privacy settings tell you about the profound differences between Google and Apple, by Leo Mirani, PERMISSION TO CHANGE, Quartz

Columbia law professor argues that ‘privacy has been privatized’, by Joe Avella, Business Insider

Why Facebook and Google mine your data, and why there’s nothing you can do to stop it, by Chris Smith, BGR

Apple vs. Google vs. Microsoft: which company handles your data better?, by Tom Westrick, DecentralizeToday

Your privacy and Apple, Microsoft and Google, Ms Smith, Network World