Blog Posts

Is my Information Private?

Tuesday, May 31st

5:45am: I woke up early because I had an early shift at work. I grabbed my phone and scrolled through Instagram. I know Instagram has my name, birthday, email, phone number and they have my location but only while I’m using the app.

I’ve read through the privacy policy because it was actually part of an assignment for a different class I was in last semester. Surprisingly, in Instagram’s privacy policy, they claim they do not sell your information unless you give them specific permission. They also claim that they do not sell the information they catalog to third party owners.

iPhone Screenshot of my TikTok feed depicting a person filming their friends as they tube down the side of a mountain.

I switched to TikTok and scrolled for a bit before getting ready for work. Unfortunately, TikTok’s privacy policy is much worse compared to Instagram’s. They own all the information you post stating:

“you further grant us a royalty-free license to use your user name, image, voice, and likeness to identify you as the source of any of your User Content.”

TikTok’s Privacy Policy

Additionally, I provide TikTok’s algorithm with all of the hobbies that interest me. This particular morning I only saw the promoted content that you are first greeted with before you start scrolling down through the abyss of content. 

Next, I jumped on gmail real quick to see if there was anything urgent. There wasn’t, so I left the app. I use gmail, which is linked to Google, and therefore anytime I’m using their services it falls under their privacy policies.

Google states that they collect information you choose to provide, and the information they collect when you use their services. Apparently, I have the ability to control what google saves or doesn’t save in regard to my privacy and information. I can just change that in settings, which I may end up doing. 

They claim that they share non-personal information “publicly and with our partners — like publishers, advertisers, developers, or rights holders.” 

6:00am: I start getting ready and turn on some music on Spotify. I looked up their privacy policy and you may ask, what personal information could they be sharing? Well, they have my profile name, email address, phone number, date of birth, gender, street address and country. That’s not even addressing all the playlists, friends, followers, search queries, browsing history, and “your use of third party services, devices and applications in connection with the Spotify Service”.

Screenshot of a Spotify playlist showing three songs : This love (Taylor's Version) by Taylor Swift, Little Freak by Harry Styles, and 305 by Shawn Mendes.
Spotify Listening

6:45am: I went to work and didn’t use or create any media for the next 6 hours. 

2:00pm: I drove home and stopped by the grocery store to pick up some food. One thing I hadn’t thought about before was the connection my phone has with my car. I hook it up to bluetooth and I know it has the ability to track my location which is very scary. 

3:00pm: I got home and checked some snapchats from my friends. Snapchat, which is operated by a company called Snap Inc., retrieves and uses my name, username, password, email address, phone number, and date of birth. In addition to your Bitmoji and the information you provide the app which includes snaps (pictures) and chats (messages), they collect your contact phonebook, location information, and camera roll. However, you don’t need to have those settings on, but I do. 

3:15pm: I started on some homework which took me pretty much the rest of my afternoon. I mainly used Google to search up random information while I worked on a discussion post for a different class. 

8:00pm: I made dinner and then enjoyed watching the first episode of Stranger Things 4 on my TV. Netflix collects both information you provide and information from the use of their services, which includes your name, email address, address or postal code, payment method(s), telephone number, and other identifiers you might use.

9:00pm: I showered and headed to bed. 

Throughout my entire day, I wasn’t fed much promotional content, but the advertisements I did see were tailored to me, my interests, and location. Here are two examples of some ads that were shown to me on Instagram.

  1. The first one was a Hulu advertisement which was was targeted at me for two reasons. First, I am a student and this campaign was targeting students because the discount only applied to them. Second, I don’t have a Hulu account so they are trying to change that.
  2. The second advertisement was shown to me because of my location and because I tend to look up things to do in Chicago. I always save Instagrams that have Chicago adventures and cool places to visit. I honestly may check this museum out because it actually looked cool.

My activity was pretty typical. The ads I saw and posts I interacted with were pretty basic. I didn’t post anything today, just liked and shared funny or cool content with my friends. I am definitely going to reconsider how I use my media because of all the information they share with third parties.

I want to go through each app’s settings and look into what I have them set on in addition to my general settings. I also have the urge to share this information with my friends and family because I know they don’t know how much of their information is being used, analyzed, shared, and sold.