when apps sell our data, what exactly are they selling?

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Is it my search history? My Instagram pictures? If so what exactly is useful about this to the people they sell to? I was thinking they might sell to scammers but idk

In: Technology

8 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

If you are running a business of any kind, you always want more customers. Advertising to customers is expensive. One option lowering the cost of advertising is narrowing your target audience. Apps can identify the geographical area someone lives or even the specific locations that consumers frequent. The app itself can identify someone’s interests as well. So as a business owner, you might want a list of email addresses in a particular geographical area (people who use an app near your business). Or you might pay for a bunch of data that provides zip codes where there is a proportionately large number of people who enjoy outdoor things (people who use a hiking app for example). Or a diet and nutrition app might have some great data about people who are looking to lose weight (a very lucrative set of data). The data doesnt have to necessarily have your actual name and address, just details about consumer interests, locales, and buying preferences.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It is all of your activity. Let’s take Instagram as an example.

Instagram tracks a lot of behaviour you might not realize. How long you watch certain videos. How long it takes you to get bored. What sort of faces you watch for longer. What posts you like or comment on or repost. How often you make posts. Who you follow.

Instagram has computer programs to track all of these types of behaviours in order to build a picture of you so that they can give you more of the content you like (this is what people are talking about when they talk about ‘the algorithm’, many websites do this). For instance, they might notice that you watch a lot of nature videos. So, they show you some cute animal videos too, to see if you enjoy those. You liked those videos, you watched them or reposted them, etc! So they now know that you like animals. If you like animals, then maybe you have a pet! Now, they can sell that information to someone like Purina Pet Food, who can use it to target ads to you to try and get you to buy their brand of pet food.

All of this is on top of whatever information they can glean from the things you actually post. If you make lots of posts about places you would like to travel, they can sell that information to a travel agency who will send you coupons for flights or hotels.

Everything you do can be recorded and used to figure out details about you, which can be valuable to a business trying to sell you something.

Anonymous 0 Comments

For the most part when apps “sell your data” they are simply gathering massive amounts of innocuous info about what sites you go to and what you look at and selling it off to “advertising partners” who try to target advertising to the people who are more likely to buy particular products. You search for Adidas shoes and you get advertisements for Adidas shoes.

Selling your private data like your passwords, credit card information, even your instagram pictures is illegal and apps that do that get discovered and shut down quick enough it’s generally not even worth it.

Apps do far more annoying things than selling your data though. They can send you to websited that will infect you with viruses and many, many of them use your devices to do crypto-mining for their corporate owners. I think that’s my personal pet peeve. The McDonald’s app about overheats my phone doing that.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The idea that sites sell your data is largely a misnomer. Facebook isn’t selling your personal information to other companies, they are targeting ads based on that data. If I want to target an ad on Facebook towards middle-aged men they won’t give me a list of middle-aged men, they’ll just promise to show it to that demographic. Facebook retains all the data themselves.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Most apps that sell your data are selling behavior and preference information about you to marketing companies. It’s useful for anyone who’s trying to convince you to take an action like buying a product. Most of it is harmless in the sense that if you watch fitness content, you’ll get ads for fitness products.

But the problem arises when it is used for social engineering. This happened several years ago with the Facebook – Cambridge analytica data scandal. Advertisers targeted people with the information that Facebook had collected to manipulate people to vote a certain way.

Some apps also collect a greater anonymous data, meaning they can see their users are made up of 60% this and 30% that, but they can’t pinpoint who exactly is in each group. Other apps do collect data tied to you specifically. These are the more dangerous ones as they build your profile with every action you perform and data collecting companies harvest data from many sources to build a very accurate model of who you are. If they know you are a sucker for animals, they can get you to take action by catering to that internal need you have. Perhaps to donate to a cause, or to join a group.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s your online activity and interests, so that ads can be targeted.

If you are a vegan, you typically visit websites about vegan lifestyle and recipes, follow vegan chefs on Instagram, buy vegan foods *and no meat or dairy foods* etc etc

This is the data that is sold. Your online activity, what you see/view/buy etc *and also what you don’t*

Why? Because advertisers want to target their ads at people who will buy their products and services, and NOT show those ads to people who would not buy their products and services.

It would be a waste (of the advertiser’s) money to show ads for leather goods or meat products to a vegan person.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s all that, but also little things you don’t really realize are data. Like your location, or the wifi you are on.

If you go on WiFi for a restaurant, your apps will know you’re on the WiFi for that restaurant and may target ads. If your location shows up at a gas station every 1 weeks, or every 3 weeks, your apps can estimate about how frequently you’re driving.

If you have 1, 2, or 3 people with unique Instagram accounts regularly using your home WiFi, then Instagram can guess your family or living situation, and target ads appropriately.

If you spend the night at a new girlfriend’s place and get on the WiFi, or your location matches her, your apps can guess that you’re in a new relationship and target ads appropriately.

Have you ever been talking about something, not searched it, but often ads, thinking that your phone is listening or spying on you? It’s not, but maybe someone else in your group searched for whatever you were talking about, and because you’re at the same location or on the same WiFi, now you get ads for it.

If your WiFi also hosts a smart refrigerator, or smart TV, or other shh mg art decide, then your data collected from your phone can be combined with data from those devices to gather more info on you.

If you use a rewards card grocery shopping linked to your phone number, then every grocery purchase you make can be tied to your phone number, and data on what you buy can be sold to different customers, and combined with other data.

If you order online through your email, the same data can be identified and sold.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I work for a company that uses Big Data.

In one instance we bought data from yelp to help a city find companies that weren’t registered. So, if Barbs kitchen has 10 yelp reviews for her food but she doesn’t exist as a legitimate business, that’s a problem. Her kitchen isn’t being inspected.

Most of the time the data is aggregated. Who’s visiting Bob’s hot sports take blog? What their ages/incomes/ethnicity or anything else that can be used to finely tune marketing.