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Sanket Dhole
Sanket Dhole

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What extend it is "OK" to be tracked?

We all might have heard this, "Big Tech companies used tracking system to collect users information", "Google, Facebook, Twitter tracks you for monitory purposes", and whole lot....

Recently, I also watched the film from NETFLIX named "The Social Dliemma" It just blowed my mind. It won't be erased easily.

Even before this I encounter this tracking issue while using my phone. I would definitely want to share this with you.

The Tracking Problem

I have been using social media for very long. Nearly from 2009, as its been more than a decade now. With Instagram come into market I have been using it and nearly stopped using Facebook. I stick to it since then. Every thing was fine till now.

I used to share stories, photos and videos. Also never checked with permissions I allowed to these apps. I allowed app to use my microphone, media, camera, location, contacts, etc. I never really cared about it.

Once I was talking to my friend on phone call and with on going discussion he mentioned about the new internet connectivity offered from BSNL(Telecom Company from India) Actually it got mentioned more than twice. It was cool conversation till then. And I slept after that.

Next morning, as usual I opened up Instagram and was scrolling through my Instagram feeds. And I observed that BSNL Ads appear not once but whole lot of time that day.

BSNL AD on Instagram

I felt it suspicious. As I never searched for it on internet nor did I searched it on Instagram or any other platform. But suddenly these ads started appearing with just reference in phone call.

People's Unawareness

There I realised microphone permission that I allowed to Instagram. But how can this app listen to my phone conversation? How do they listed to any of things even though I am not currently using that app? How do these apps monitor me?

To find answers to all these questions I started to play a game. I uninstall the application and started using web version instead. Guess what from that Instagram failed to show me any relevant ads.

And soon after that I started using this app with DuckDuckGo Android App.(Even though its not sponsored) It just keeps me safe from tracking.

Why this happened at first place?

I was the person who allowed Instagram to listed to my microphone when needed. But I also assume that it will be required while going live, recording videos and while using Instagram group calls. Instagram never told me it uses your microphone to listen to your conversation and use it for monitory purposes. Or I never though Instagram will do this.

What needs to be done..

What I think is..

People must be aware of these things. They must be solely aware how ads are shown and how these are changing there lives. But this is most hard thing to do as lot of people tends to ignore this things. (with my experience even though I am Software Engineer)

Should it be regulated?

Definitely law makers should regulate these blind spots along with how data should be used for monitory purposed. As these data is used without peoples concerns. For good of people and the society.

What these companies can do?

People allowed these apps to use Hardware of devices with some purpose. And these companies are betraying those purposes for there own profits. It clear betrayal of people's trust. With more and more smart home devices and more such systems, this might increase eventually.

I talked with couple of people and they observed same issue. I work in software field and know how things worked. But people I talked with they don't. I think with time these Companies must also change their ways to monetise their platform. As this method was "OK" decade before.

With this monetising policy changes they also change attention problem or social media addiction problem in place. Which I would like to cover in next post.

Note: It's not my only experience. You might meet one on your own! Leave comments for more clarification or more information. I would be happy to help you!

Thank you!

Top comments (16)

tonnerkiller profile image

Two things: On a public approach you might wanna join a group like the Free Software Foundation to put pressure on government to implement effective rules.
Personally you might want to opt out of such monolithic networks and join a fediverse server. Or use something like Matrix or XMPp for chat.

sanketdhole profile image
Sanket Dhole • Edited

Thanks I didn't know that!
I would definitely join those also spread awareness towards my friends and family as well.

yellow1912 profile image

I have seen so many small scale social networks come and go. It's not about privacy. It's. It about design. It's not about technology.

It's about the network.

When I received the 10th email from people I know asking me to join Facebook, I know I must check it out.

This is the reason why it's really difficult to build a new thing that compete with them.

Thread Thread
tonnerkiller profile image

Diaspora*, Friendica, Hubzilla are all here for around 10 years, so that is pretty stable.others have gone, right, or have evolved into different networks. The communities are small and narrow (although Mastodon seems to be a bit more - that goes to the design, they're better at that than others, it looks nicer).

In the end it's you to decide. People do poke me to join WhatsApp to stay in Contact. I tell them I use Matrix. They wouldn't use my network, I won't use theirs. For me that's okay. I miss quite some contact but for me that's okay. I know it is not like that for everyone.

phantas0s profile image
Matthieu Cneude • Edited

That's true, but it's difficult not to use a service like Google or Apple if you have a phone for example. The fact that these company are monopolistic doesn't really give a choice to the end user.

About EULA, the real problem is they are way too complex, mainly because of the way they are presented, not necessarily what they mean. They are awfully written, and I suspect that it's on purpose.

About choice: our understanding of choice is less clear than we think. The manipulative aspect of many companies reduce these choices in fact. Of course you can call everything manipulative, like a simple conversation between two persons, but the big difference is in term of impact and manipulative power.

akashkava profile image
Akash Kava • Edited

Its not that people don’t care, most people do not know that’s why they don’t care. And there isn’t strict laws to enforce such privacy.

All laws are created in such way that smaller companies can’t do same to make big money that threatens business of large companies. Large companies get away easily.

And people like you and me do care but we can’t communicate with everyone if we lock ourselves out and we can’t educate all the people how they are used as Guinea pigs to fed false data.

Most advertising platforms offer advertising based on house hold income, i was shocked how they collected and derived that information. GMail reads all credit card transactions/online shopping transactions and knows how much an individual is earning. It’s scary.

Only strong laws to separate data companies (companies that provide free software in exchange of harvesting data) could be treated not as software and tech company and they would need special license to operate just like how tv, news companies needs.

cchana profile image
Charanjit Chana

The cost of using ‘free’ services is very well hidden and how many people really understand what tracking involves or how invasive it is? Even with the EU’s cookie notice rules, how often are they just dismissed or because of dark patterns, the wrong option is pressed?

We’ll start to see a change soon with iOS 14 as one example. Even I, as a seasoned web developer who has plugged Google Analytics into many projects, didn’t know the fonts on my computer were being used as an identifier! To me that is absolutely crazy and only gives me reason to believe that they will find a way around it.

I totally agree that there should be regulation for it but there will be a lot of resistance.

rad_val_ profile image
Valentin Radu

I feel there should be limits to what and when services like Gmail can collect data. It's not about trust or EULAs, the average user doesn't care anyhow, but that doesn't make it right.
The average person doesn't care about trade laws, still we have trade laws.
What I want to say is, in an ideal world the state would correctly regulate these companies, for multiple reasons. (I put emphasis on correctly, for lack of a better word, to underline how easy it is to get this wrong: the most benign example I can think of are the poorly formulated EU's cookies laws, which resulted in the biggest regress in the history of usability, without a single gain - which is what happens when people that learned to use a computer at 60 are doing internet-related laws)

sanketdhole profile image
Sanket Dhole

That's exactly why laws are created to protect people from any mischief that's happening.
Your logic sounds like "Criminal will do crime. People must take care of themself and be home to prevent crimes"
That's ridiculous dude.

yellow1912 profile image

It's difficult to have the best of both worlds. Duckduckgo is a joke. I never found anything useful on it. It doesn't know enough about me to know that I'm interested in this but not that. It will never know enough about me because else that will go completely against what they aim to be.

I moved to Google from Yahoo and never looked back. I can instantly find almost anything I want according to my personal preference and I'm thankful to Google for that. I think I'm okie with Google knowing what I want.

If you don't like one service then just don't use it. I do agree that you should have the power to completely stay anon. I think websites should always ask us that and allow us to opt out of we don't want be tracked. On another hand, we must agree with losing certain features and benefits because we opt out. (For example, you cannot turn off javascript then expect the website to behave exactly the same right? That would be ridiculous)

sanketdhole profile image
Sanket Dhole

Speaking about DuckDuckGo it's your choice. I just recommend that for switching over non-tracking stuff.
And also I am not obsessed with tracking as such. Because it's in companies business model. But at what extend people must be tracked that's my concern.

Due to investor pressure or for generating more profits or what ever reason, these companies entering people's personal lives. That's also fine but people aren't aware of it. Even knowing this there companies are taking advantage of it. That's the real problem.

scroung720 profile image

Even worst than people not knowing they are being tracked or don't care. They don't understand that this systems are super dangerous, this information can be use one day by criminal to hurt people.

pratik7368patil profile image
Pratik Patil

Great content!

sanketdhole profile image
Sanket Dhole

I do agree but I said "betraying of user trust" because people tend to ignore EULA and ToS with assumption that these companies would only use information that user provide.
But when this company is getting information without users concern that's clearly a betray of trust. And it's not like these companies doesn't know that users are uninformed or under informed. Even though they still try to take advantage of this. That's where the real problem lies.
And one more point,

I am not against of tracking that's the reason I titled my post as at what extend tracking is ok. I am against collecting data which in under the hood. Now what I think is there must be some regulations how data is collected and used. That's my only concern.

sunnyraut46 profile image
Sunny Raut

Nice content....and very true!

kharche_arpit profile image
Arpit Kharche

Nice content 👍