- Key issues
Your Data Uncovered: Which Brands Know The Most About You?
By El Blackwood
Thu 29 April 2021
It’s something we are all guilty of doing - we visit a new website or app and automatically click ‘accept’ on a pop-up, without reading the seemingly endless waves of information in front of us. However, do you actually know what cookies give businesses access to?
Well, depending on the specific terms and conditions we (usually blindly) agree to, the simple answer is various aspects of your personal data. From basics like your name, date of birth and email address to more in-depth information such as your hobbies, buying habits, bank details and sexual orientation, with just one click you could be inadvertently handing over a lot of personal information.
Time for a data detox?
Since its introduction in 2017, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has strengthened data protection laws in the UK and across Europe, giving individuals the right to ask any company for any personal data they hold, ask what it is used for, and request for it to be deleted.
This means, if you're being plagued with unsuitable or annoying targeted advertising or you simply aren't comfortable with companies having access to personal information on you, a data detox could be the way to go.
However, before your start, you need to first know which brands know what. Here at Rightly, we've created data maps so you can see at a glance what kind of information different industries and brands may have on you. To help you decide which areas of your digital life you’d like to target as part of your data detox, we have produced data visualisations of what information some of the biggest brand names in twelve of the largest industries store.
Which brands know what
While it will come as no surprise that online retailers use your basic data such as your age, gender, and location as a way to target advertising, did you know that some of the larger brands, including Amazon, eBay and ASOS, even harvest data from other sources, such as social profiles to gain a better understanding of your hobbies, interests and marketing preferences?
Although it may be uncomfortable to think about, the fact is, when it comes to the data you share with social media platforms, it’s almost easier to list data the big social networking brands don’t hold, use and sell for advertising and targeted marketing purposes. From your name, location and hobbies to your relationship status, race, sexual orientation and employment history, the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp have enough personal data to create accurate digital profiles that mirror our real personalities and day-to-day lives, creating new data-based digital commodities. When you think of your personal data being used, manipulated and sold in this way, it’s not hard to understand why British mathematician Clive Humby famously said, ‘data is the new oil’.
Gambling sites, such as Bet 365, Ladbrokes and Betfair, collect a lot of personal data during the onboarding process and as you start to use their services. Everything from your name, age and address to IP information, criminal background status and bank account data is collected. Additionally, as a few large companies own the majority of betting businesses and websites here in the UK, this data is shared easily. This means even the most casual gambler can end up being bombarded with targeted advertising from a range of different brands.
Pioneering money transfer tool PayPal is one of the most popular solutions when it comes to secure online payments. As a straightforward, single-purpose tool, you may assume data-based commercial opportunities are more limited for PayPal. However, in reality, the former Elon Musk-owned vehicle uses everything from your basic details to your site usage history and social media contact list to deliver relevant offers and personalised advertisements on behalf of a whole host of ecommerce businesses for a fee.
For an industry in which so many of its businesses use privacy and promises of ‘discreet use’ as a selling point, you may be shocked to know just how personal data adult sites such as X Videos and RedTube store and use once you’ve signed up. While you would expect them to hold essential information such as name, email address and bank details, did you know that many adult content websites also store data relating to your sexual orientation, religious beliefs, IP address and even the type of device you prefer to use while using their services?
Aside from social media, dating platforms arguably hold and store the most personal data out of any online business. Naturally, in order to ‘get to know you’ and ‘find suitable matches’, these sites ask a whole host of personal questions. Just remember - whatever data you explicitly share, that platform now has on record. From gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and religion, to live location, information on connected social media accounts and medical information, platforms such as Bumble and Grindr share this information with third-party companies for the purpose of studying site usage and to help target ads.
Entertainment and streaming sites
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent related periods of lockdown have boosted this already popular industry into the stratosphere. However, did you ever wonder why the adverts you see/hear on Youtube and Spotify always seem to relate to things you like? It’s creepy, right? Well, not really. The likes of Netflix, Spotify and Youtube store, use and sell everything from viewing/listening preferences and live location data, along other things, to create targeted marketing campaigns.
Food delivery apps
Food delivery apps have become big business in recent years, with the likes of Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats dominating the market in the UK. However, did you know you’re getting far more than just your favourite fast food options when you use these platforms? The truth is these apps make money from sharing your data. Your food preferences, the size of your orders and the dates and times you're most likely to order takeout - all of these valuable pieces of data are stored and potentially shared.
When we think of traditional medical and healthcare institutions, such as hospitals, GP surgeries and support groups, confidentiality and privacy is paramount. However, when using healthcare sites and apps such as Strava, Flow Health, Calm and Headspace, you must be aware that personal and sometimes very sensitive or intimate data, such as information relating to mental health backgrounds, fertility and pregnancy plans, and even private sexual activity data, can all be collected, stored and sold.
NHS Test and Trace
Designed and launched in 2020 to help identify individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19, NHS Test and Trace has been a controversial tool since its launch. Although the app has data privacy built into its design, the manual aspect of the app has been questioned, with critics pointing out that The Department of Health did not complete a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) before launch. In theory, this means all personal data, such as name, age, genger, ethnicity, employment details and more, may not have been as secure as first indicated.*
More than three quarters of people in the UK use supermarket websites to order their groceries, but some of the major supermarkets do much more than deliver your food. ASDA, Morrisons and Tesco, for example, collect a whole host of data about their customers, from names, addresses and ages, to more obscure personal details such as heights, weights, allergy information and even pet ownership statuses.
Work/project management sites
You may think corporate online programmes are less likely to store and use your data than commercial and retail brands. On the contrary, brands such as Slack, Trello and Dropbox, which are used primarily by businesses, all collect a huge amount of personal data. As well as basic employee information, it may also surprise you to know that these workplace brands also gather, store and sell live location data, employment statuses, job titles, preferred device information, personal interests, site usage data, IP address information, and much more.
How to carry out a data detox
Here at Rightly, our mission is to help consumers to easily understand, control and use their personal data, by finding out exactly who has access to it and what they’re doing with it. After all, each and every piece of personal data held by the businesses you interact with is still yours! We have the ability to communicate with over 10,000 companies on your behalf, for free, to discover which brands have information on you. When this information has been obtained, we then help you to either update or delete it - whatever you’d prefer.
What are your thoughts on the current state of data protection law in the UK? Would you consider carrying out a data detox of your own? Let us know on social media using the hashtag #MappingMyData.
*Please note: Here at Rightly, we believe NHS Test and Trace is a vital tool in the UK’s fight against the spread of COVID-19, and we do not advocate deleting the app. However, you may wish to request that your personal data is deleted once the pandemic is over.