Students: from dating apps to social media, here’s how you can find out what companies know about you.
Ever wondered what information companies collect, store and sell on about you? Us too. As it turns out, it’s an awful lot.
Being able to find out what companies know about you, what they're doing with that information and how you can delete it is increasingly important in the modern-day. Rightly was started as a way to allow you to do all of that for free, and make data fairer for everyone.
How do companies collect my information?
Every time we search for something, visit a new website, buy something or even decide not to buy something, that information is collected via cookies and other technologies to build up a picture of who you are. And these ‘profiles’ are pretty detailed - most people are surprised and worried to find out just how much of their personal data is bought and sold. By personal data, we mean:
- Name, address and contact details
- Gender & sexuality
- Income bracket
- IP address & cookie identifiers
- Relationship status
- Body measurements and suspected weight
- Sleep patterns, habits and tastes
We did mention it’s a lot. Of course, the type of information that’s collected about you varies from company to company as well as whether or not it’s sold onto third parties, who use it to target you in different ways, alter prices and so on.
How can I find out what companies know about me?
Companies collecting your information may seem invasive, and it is, but you’re not powerless in this - you can find out who has your data, and what they're doing with it for free here. In fact, it’s your legal right to find out. The process of sending a written request to a company for your personal data is called a ‘subject access request’.
Sending a subject access request can help you make your data work for you. You can:
- see what information companies have stored about you
- understand why certain decisions were made about you
- make sure that your data is being handled properly
If once you know who has your data, you’d like to delete it from their records, you can also do that easily.
Can I get my data back from dating apps?
Absolutely. We’d recommend it too. Apart from curiosity, dating apps have quite a bad reputation when it comes to what they do with the personal information of their users. Almost all of them share personal data with advertisers. Grindr, for example, only stopped sharing users' HIV status with other companies in 2018.
Similarly, the Norwegian Consumer Council reported that the Android versions of OkCupid and Tinder, which are also owned by the owners of Match.com, have shared information about the political views, ethnicities and location of their users with a 'customer engagement service' called Braze.
Can I get my data back from social media?
While social media has undoubtedly offered us new ways of staying in contact with loved ones, pursuing interests and hobbies and much more, the way that it harvests data is worrying. Facebook for example doesn’t just collect your economic, cultural and social information, your family size and income bracket and who you talk to, it also collects to name but a few:
- Your biometric facial data (facial recognition material)
- Your activity on other sites and apps, and continuously tracks this
- Your categorised behaviour, like politics and spending habits
While the social media giants can be resistant to you getting your data back, they are legally obliged to show you what they know about you and what they’re doing with that information. They are also required to delete all of it if you ask them to.
What about all of the people they sell my data to?
Ah, the third-party question. This is something that our team at Rightly are in the process of sorting out. We’ll shortly be trialling an addition to our tool that allows you to delete your data from third parties at the same time as sending a request to the main company. If you’d be interested in this, keep an eye on our blog for updates, or follow us @rightlydata.
Remember, you’re in control of your data
The sheer amount of data that companies collect can be overwhelming, but if you take anything from this piece, it should be that you can be in control of your data and it’s your legal right to tell companies what to do with it. That includes dating apps and social media companies, but also gambling and adult sites, online mental health resources, online retailers and internet browsers: it’s up to you.
If you have any questions, concerns or would just like to get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.