I was aware previous to this assignment of the tracking techniques and information both Google and Facebook kept of their users. With that being said, I did not know how expansive the amount of information was and to what degree the companies kept information. I am a daily user of Facebook and just recently created a Google account strictly for the email account and ease of video chatting with more than one person simultaneously.
My exploration into Google was a rather easy one. Google advertises to me when I use search, Gmail, Youtube, and Maps. It has acquired that I am a male between the ages of 18-24. The interesting fact is that Google believes my interests are in the recording industry and Reggaeton music. I am not sure where this has been acquired, because although I am extremely passionate and interested in music, my favorite genres are R&B and Rap. I do not ever listen to Reggaeton music or search for information about the genre. If this is the information Google is using to advertise to me, it is going to be highly ineffective. Google gets paid off of the amounts of clicks on their advertisements through search engine optimization, but they will be unsuccessful targeting me this way.
On the other hand, my exploration into Facebook yielded more results. Facebook had an extensive list of posts to my wall, all of my photos and events, and message correspondence with people dating back about a year and a half. I had assumed they kept track of all of that data seeing as anyone who is friends with me could do the same. What I did find interesting was the fact that Facebook kept a record of my contacts in my phone through using their app. Even more surprising was that they track every time I login, log out, what browser I am using, what type of computer, my IP address, and the coordinates of where I am using my computer at. To me, this information was far more startling because although I understand why they track my use of their website, having my contacts from my phone and tracking my location I found to be an borderline invasion of privacy. Facebook also uses my interests and pages I have liked on Facebook at one time to target ads towards me. Things like Beyonce, Rap Music, Buffalo Wings, Sports, and College basketball were just some of the buzz words used to target advertisements towards me.
In all, I cannot necessarily say I am extremely surprised by discovering these things. Website tracking is nothing new – the reason for inventing cookies – and should come as no surprise to anyone after the NSA’s leak on tracking phone conversations and Internet use that was broken by Wikileaks. The NSA had to get their information from somewhere, which can be reasonably deduced that the information came from the websites themselves. I think it will be interesting in the future to see how, if at all, tracking and privacy changes.