Is Your Personal Information Being Sold to Advertisers?

How Companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are Selling Your Information Under the Guise of Being Helpful

privacy online

Normally when we think of companies who use our personal information to sell to online advertisers, Microsoft is the first to come to mind. This less than flattering reputation is more than likely because the latest version of Windows (similar to previous versions) is continuously asking you for information, or maybe it’s because their privacy policy clearly states that they can and will read your emails. But before you demonize Microsoft for being the leaders in leaking your digital privacy for profit, there is something you may need to know – They’re not the only ones – and by no means are they the worst.

There are numerous companies who feel that the personal information they request from you – and then sell to advertisers, is a perfectly fair trade for providing you with free online services such as:

  • email
  • operating systems
  • connection with friends via social media

Companies who use your digital information for profit hide behind the lame excuse that it is being used to better enhance your online experience, and although that may be partially true, it’s mostly just so they can sell your information for money. Here are a few major online companies who may be selling your information to advertisers.


Have you ever searched a topic on Facebook and then poof, an ad appears that specifically pertains to what you were looking for? This isn’t a coincidence. Facebook uses your activity to attract online ads to your page (which is great if you’re the advertiser) but this is just a mere glance into how your personal information is used.

Facebook practically knows you better than you know yourself, they know who your friends are, what your friends are saying about you, what sites you frequent (if they have a Facebook “like” button which the majority do nowadays), what you purchase (or have purchased), what causes you support, the devices you use to access Facebook, and much much more! That’s an awful lot of info, and the majority of it is shared with advertisers.

Facebook Broadens Range of Reach for Advertisers

Facebook recently pitched a program that allows advertisers to market their products and services across Facebook and TV as a unified whole. For example, if you “liked” a certain movie genre on Facebook, movie trailers within that genre may be played at halftime during “Monday Night Football” as well as appearing on your newsfeed. Not only that, advertisers will be able to have the means to even poll you about what you thought of it.

Can I Delete/View My Information on Facebook?

If you think that deleting your Facebook account will also delete the information that Facebook has collected about you, you’ve thought wrong. In fact, Facebook’s policies make it crystal clear that it’s entirely the opposite; Facebook reserves the right to keep any and all information that others have shared about you. As far as Facebook is concerned, any information that you have shared or has been shared by others about you on Facebook is the property of Facebook, and can in turn be used however they see fit.


Google provides a virtual buffet of free online services, including Gmail and Google Maps, making them our go-to for virtually all of our online needs. These “free” services, however, come with a hefty price in the form of your personal information being given to advertisers to design a personalized and targeted experience.

Customer Match

Recently Google launched a program that links your profile to your email address called Customer Match. Customer Match promises advertisers that their brand will be displayed “with the right message” when customers are “the most receptive”. In basic terms this allows companies who have been asked for information by you to sign up for Customer Match – allowing them to continuously place ads via your email and/or YouTube about new and additional services that they are providing.

What Information Does Google Collect?

Like Facebook, Google collects a virtual dossier of detailed personal information on its users to better serve them -It also helps to create targeted marketing advantages for advertisers. In addition to Google storing information in your browser via local browser storage, there is a ton of personal information collected by Google including:

  • your name
  • your email
  • your home address
  • your telephone number(s)
  • how you interact with other websites that use AdWords or other Google Technologies

Google’s privacy policy clearly states that “If other users already have your email, or other information that identifies you, we may show them your publicly visible Google Profile information, such as your name and photo”. In all honesty there is no real need to have a public profile, if you really want to get your name or brand out there try utilizing sites such as LinkedIn. Having a public profile anywhere basically provides an open invitation to everyone and anyone into your private life.


Although Apple claims transparency on how it is using your data, how it’s actually used is far more obtuse than the other aforementioned companies. The press surrounding Apple on this issue isn’t so much based on how they are using your data, but more how they are preventing their competing companies from having the same level of access.

Apple’s Privacy Policy

By most accounts, Apple does a fairly good job of anonymously linking your preferences to an intermediary series of incognito ID numbers (often linked to Siri) rather than using your identification specifically. This doesn’t mean however that your information isn’t being passed on to advertisers, it’s just not being passed on in the same manner that other companies do.

Apple admits that it does collect information such as your name, contacts, and songs stored in your music library to be sent to Apple’s servers using encrypted protocols, including your location (if you have that service turned on). In addition, Apple Music will link your preferences to an anonymous ID, while the News app uses your reading preferences to supply appropriate ads within the ap. So really, it’s just a craftier approach to information sharing, just slightly less intrusive.

iOS 9’s Ad Blocking Technology

The latest version of iOS 9’s controversial ad blocking technology has caused its share of incommode within the advertising and media world, but  has had minimal damaging financial effects on Apple considering they make the bulk of their profits from hardware and app sales as opposed to advertising. Allowing Apple to play “the good guy” without feeling any real financial loss.

Do you have concerns regarding how your information is shared and would like to learn more on steps you can take to protect it? Contact CAT-TEC at (416) 840-6560 or email us at {email}.

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