Who are the biggest data harvesting organisations?

Google, Amazon, Facebook & Microsoft.

These organisations harvest your data on an industrial scale. They go to extreme lengths to manipulate their users into sharing every aspect of their family’s life. The first step to claiming your privacy back is to remove these data harvesting organisations from your online life. It is possible and I will discuss how to do this in a later blog posts.

Google is the king of data harvesting as it harvests vast amount of personal data from its users. Its software is cleverly designed to get access to every aspect of a user’s life. Virtually every mobile phone (apart from Apple iPhone’s) run Google operating software giving Google access to user’s personal information on their mobile phones. Google has trackers on virtually every website so it can track which websites people view and its search engine is designed to harvest every search query entered. All Google products are designed to invade the user’s life and gain access to their personal data. From its smart (surveillance) speaker, smart watch, Chromebook etc., it has access to virtually every aspect of a persons and their family’s life. People naively trust Google with their personal data with no idea of how this corporation profits directly from its user’s data.

Amazon is quickly becoming the third most successful data harvesting corporation on planet Earth. Amazon also has trackers on virtually every website to spy on you, but amazon acquires most of your personal data for its smart (surveillance) devices like Amazon Alexa. You are encouraged to link your amazon Alexa to other devices in your home so all your personal data will flow through Amazon Alexa and onto Amazon’s servers.

Privacy facts about smart (surveillance) speakers and smart watches:

  • In 2020 a Google update to its smart speaker products caused them to start recording when any sound was heard in the room.
  • In 2020 Imperial College London researched the privacy of smart speakers’ eavesdropping on conversations. They found the devices were activating without the wake word being uttered between 1.5 and a whopping 19 times a day.
  • Amazon & Google has spent billions on making its personal assistant sound more human so we will trust it and share more personal data.
  • Remember these tech companies directly profit from the voice conversations from smart speakers.
  • John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy and technology project director, said: ‘Google and Amazon executives want you to think that Google Home and Amazon Echo are there to help you out at the sound of your voice. ‘In fact, they’re all about snooping on you and your family in your home and gathering as much information on your activities as possible.
  • When connected to other devices in the home allow more data to be shared with third parties. Also, ability to track a person’s movements. Data collected through smart speakers can be combined with data from other sources, creating fine-grained user profiles.
  • Amazon Sidewalk now connects Amazon smart devices to each other using the 900MHZ range so they can communicate with each other over a wide range. This allows Amazon to track people who are not running any Amazon smart devices. Users are automatically opted into this by Amazon. Users are aiding Amazon to spy on their neighbours.
  • The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has signed a deal for medical advice to be provided via the Echo. At face value, this simply extends ways of accessing publicly available information like the NHS website or phone line 111 – no official patient data is being shared. But it creates the possibility that Amazon could start tracking what health information we ask for through Alexa, effectively building profiles of users’ medical histories. This could be linked to online shopping suggestions, third-party ads for costly therapies, or even ads that are potentially traumatic (think women who’ve suffered miscarriages being shown baby products).

These smart devices are designed to record your conversations and add these to your social profile. Ask yourself, would you be comfortable for everyone to listen in on every conversation you have at home or outside your home? To have all those conversations recorded and available for anyone to listen to. Most people would not like the Government to mandate that they must have a tracker in their home or attached to their wrist, yet people purchase and install these devices in their home or on their wrist.

The Amazon ring doorbell is another way Amazon can spy on your neighbours. As one expert from US privacy org the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it, “Ring has steadily been becoming one of the largest surveillance apparatuses in the nation”. There have also been reported data leaks and concerns that the Ring Doorbell app is full of third-party trackers (including google and Facebook) tracking a good amount of personal information that Amazon Ring doesn’t disclose.

In October 2021 A judge ruled that a doctor’s neighbour’s Ring smart doorbell cameras breached Dr Mary Fairhurst privacy in landmark case. She told court that Amazon-owned Ring cameras placed her under ‘continuous visual surveillance’. Judge Melissa Clarke found the Ring camera breached provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018. Remember the Ring camera doorbell also has a microphone that can record all conversations. Over the past few years there has been many security issues found where hackers can gain access to the Ring doorbell’s data and access the home’s wireless network and gain access to all the devices connected to the house Wi-Fi network.

The more devices you connect to your home network the greater the risk of attack. These devices have poor or no security and are an easy target for cyber criminals.

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