Here's the Truth About What Google and Facebook Know About You


As the nation’s top tech firms face increased scrutiny regarding their management of personal data, a burgeoning movement of startup analysts are attempting to determine just how much companies like Facebook and Google actually know about their users.

One such investigator is Dylan Curran, who recently leveraged his Twitter account to display his research into the type of information he — and others like him — give up on a daily basis in exchange for the services provided by these influential corporations.

Identified as a technical consultant and web developer, Curran has booked numerous media appearances and launched an effort to turn his passion into a full-time job in the days since his series of tweets reached a wide audience online.

He began by teasing his followers that performing a search on Facebook and Google for their own scraped personal data is a good way to “freak yourself out.”

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The tweets that followed pointed to a number of ways these and other companies use popular products to track users, including their travel habits.

Google also keeps a record of users’ search histories in a database that can survive being deleted on a specific device, he wrote.

While it has been widely known for years that tech firms provide advertisements based on data collected through these methods, Curran claimed the process is deeper than many users realize.

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The sheer size of documents revealing this stored information is staggering, according to Curran’s social media report.

He wrote that Google has the equivalent of 3 million Microsoft Word documents worth of information based on his online activities.

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Facebook has considerably less, Curran found, but still maintains a file on him roughly the size of 400,000 Word documents.

Curran similarly included screenshots of his search for the type of information collected and stored by Facebook.

That data includes “every message you’ve ever sent or been sent, every file you’ve ever sent or been sent, all the contacts in your phone, and all the audio messages you’ve ever sent or been sent,” he wrote.

Facebook also reportedly records the “files you download, the games you play, your photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what RADIO stations you listen to.”

Cullen cited what he found to be a troubling irony about the modern age of tech giants like Facebook and Google. He wrote that we trade away privacy we would never cede to the government because we “want to watch cute dog videos.”

In addition to his tweets and subsequent media appearances, Cullen also wrote an opinion article on the topic published this week by The U.K. Guardian.

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
Professional Memberships
Online News Association
Topics of Expertise
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