We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. More information in Affiliate Disclaimer.
TL;DR: NordVPN gives you the power to avoid Facebook’s massive data collection.
Facebook boasts over 2.2 billion loyal subjects and the average social minion regularly shares their opinions about their favorite cold sandwich meats with their family and 300 other people they once met in a room somewhere.
Their relationship status, snapshots of their every day and the most intimate details of their life, they share also.
Your Facebook timeline is a written and highly detailed history of your life.
And as we all know, a wise man once said “If you can describe your life on one sheet of paper, then you need to turn a new page.”
No one actually ever said that, but I couldn’t find a meanful quote to put here, so that will have to do.
But just how much do Facebook and other internet giants like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple know about you?
How many secret data points have they cherry-picked from your tree of life and what do they do with all those sweet, succulent data cherries?
I’ll tell you what they do, they bake them into a delicious money pie, with a big fat advert on top of it.
And your privacy is the metaphorical pastry, so what can you do to stop it from crumbling to pieces?
Let me ask you, have you ever been searching for something on the web such as toasters, pet food or restaurants in your area that aren’t completely terrible, and then you open up Facebook and boom!
It probably happens to you all the time and you either ignore it, chalk it up as yet another massive coincidence or you start to get all weird and suspicious, and make a tinfoil hat for your hamster.
And suspicious you should be because the truth is that for a long time now, Facebook has been stalking you around the entire web like some kind of benevolent wealthy pedophile.
Yes Facebook attorneys, I’m aware your services have a minimum age limit, please don’t sue me.
Facebook has always been completely free for its users and that’s because its users, you, are what’s being sold.
There’s a well-known saying that I just made up, “If a service is free, then you are the product.”
You are what Facebook sells, all your lovely data.
Facebook sells to advertisers the ability to target their adverts and their products to Facebook users in really specific and creepy ways based on the data that Facebook has on you.
Say a company comes along that makes and sells ice cream, for a price Facebook will allow that advertiser to advertise their delicious ice cream to every Facebook user who is a hetrosexual female between the ages of 30 and 50 who recently ended a long term relationship and has also had a string of previous long term relationships, and also happens to own two cats and isn’t lactose intolerant.
And who also lives in Nantucket, while they’re at it, just because they can.
Now, I don’t mean to stereotype, but this kind of specificity is exactly what advertisers are looking for and Facebook has the ability to offer that juicy data, unlike almost any other company on Earth.
Because Facebook knows secrets about you, things that would make your grandma slap you in your ruddy little face if she ever found out.
There have been rumors spreading around the internet recently that Facebook uses people’s microphones on their smartphones and devices to covertly record their conversations 24/7.
Then algorithms analyse that speech to identify what that person may be interested in and thus show them advertisements for it.
I know what you’re thinking, “whoah slow down there, you’ll be making tinfoil hats, scarves and gloves soon.”
But there have been thousands of reports across the web and even videos of people talking about something out loud in front of their phone, for example discussing their holiday plans to France and then logging into Facebook later and seeing ads for villas in France.
So what’s the deal here?
Is there any truth to this?
Is Facebook a Naughty Nancy, spying on us through our phones’ microphones?
The reassuringly disappointing reality is that the expense, resources and enormous processing power required to record, perform vocal recognition and run an algorithm on billions of audio feeds 24 hours a day is, with current technology, completely impossible, even with the resources of all the big tech companies combined.
So the likelihood that Facebook or any other tech giant is using your microphone to spy on you is really, really small and ex-Facebook employees have said that it’s just not technically or legally possible for Facebook to do that.
But the scary truth and why I’m fairly confident that Facebook aren’t recording us is that they don’t need to.
Seriously, they wouldn’t actually gain much and the potential risks are enormous.
And why wouldn’t they gain anything?
Because they can already find out everything they need to know about you without listening to a single conversation.
Facebook’s algorithms are so sophisticated and their data harvesting net is so unfathomably wide that they can already build a complete history of your life, a comprehensive profile of your likes, dislikes, where you’ve been, where you’re likely to go and what you’re likely to purchase just solely based on your online activity.
And now you’re wishing you hadn’t shopped online for avocado slicers for 4 hours on Sunday.
But what you might not know about Facebook’s data harvesting net is just how wide those greedy data fishermen spread it.
Everything you do on Facebook itself, whether through the website or app is collected and stored – private messages, status updates, likes, dislikes, comments and location data.
But it doesn’t stop at the Facebook app.
What if I told you that Facebook and many other advertising companies, follow you around the entire internet, tracking your every website visit, and interaction.
You know those like and share buttons you see on 99% of websites, that no one uses ever.
And all those sites that use “Login with Facebook”?
For a web developer to put these features into a web page they have to make a pact with Facebook, written in code and blood.
Every time a visitor loads a web page that contains the Facebook pixel — and to be clear that is close to every web page you visit on a daily basis — the pixel lets Facebook know that you’ve visited that web page.
It sends back a packet of data about yourself and your location.
When you log into Facebook it places a file called a cookie on your computer or mobile device.
Most cookies go all bad and rotten and eventually remove themselves from your computer after, 30 days or so but these cookies are baked with whatever Plutonium-based preservative McDonalds puts into their not-burgers, they never expire and unless you find this not-so-delicious radioactive cookie yourself and delete it, it will sit on your device forever.
Now, everytime you visit a website that isn’t Facebook, the cookie alerts the Facebook code that is most likely in that website, in the form of a like or share button, or Login With Facebook integration.
The cookie contains a unique code which identifies your Facebook account.
So the website then reports back to Facebook, behind the scenes, it sends your IP address, your location, the browser and device you’re using, plus other information.
Like a delicious data bento box sent straight to Facebook, that contains bit of you.
Facebook uses all this data to build a detailed profile about you, including all the websites you visit, and yes, even the ones you don’t want them to know about, you sick-o.
Using all this data Facebook can accurately work out what you’re interested in and most importantly, what you’re likely to spend your money on.
This data isn’t sold, but is leased to advertisers who wish to target their products to a very specific audience.
Facebook’s net is wide too, they don’t just use these data collection techniques through the Facebook platform and developer network, the data is also collected through their web of other companies, such as Instagram, Whatsapp and of course Facebook Messenger, the three cornerstones of a moronic social diet.
All this data is funnelled into the same algorithm to build the most complete possible profile on you.
Because today, now more than ever before, knowledge is power and data is money.
So invasive is Facebook’s tracking that they seriously annoyed the country of Belgium and if there’s one thing you don’t want to do, it’s makes enemies with the country that gave the world chips, waffles and more beers than you can shake a nun at.
In 2016 a Belgian court attempted to sue Facebook for shadow tracking its users across the web.
The Belgian court strongly disagreed with how Facebook secretly follows their citizens down every dark alleyway of the internet, wearing a long blue trench coat, wielding those cold, reptilian Zuckerberg eyes that say “we will take your data, you will enjoy it.”
And they argued that Facebook doesn’t do enough to make its users aware when and on what sites they are being tracked and their data is being harvested in a drag-net style and U.S. citizens are just defenseless little tuna fish, flapping from one useless webpage to the next.
It was also discovered that Facebook was also tracking users that have never even visited the Facebook website and don’t have an account.
Using their social sharing plugins that are on every website worth more than a dollar.
Facebook allegendly logs the IP address, the pages they visit and other information of website visitors, regardless if they have a Facebook account.
Thus this data is being collected illegally, according to the Belgian court.
Stoked up on delicious premium beers the Belgian court went full on beast mode against Facebook, saying that until Facebook changes its behavior and stops tracking its users around the web, that it would have to pay a fine of 250,000 Euro a day.
But because Facebook is wealthier than Pablo Escobar’s left thumb, according to estimated revenue figures it takes Facebook 21 minutes to make 250,000 Euro.
Yet it was still enough of a threat to make Zuckerberg’s empty face have an actual expression and he set his best lawyers on the Belgians like some kind of high-stakes Pokemon battle.
Initially Facebook-achu won the battle on a technical clause, but Fast forward a couple of years, until, well now and the Belgians hit back with a new lawsuit due to recent changes in EU law that means any EU country can sue any company that operates or sells services within any other European country.
This time those Belgian beauties won, the court deemed that by anonymously following people around the internet and collecting data on them that Facebook had contravened EU privacy laws.
Facebook was ordered to destroy all the unlawfully collected data which is about as easy as clearing your disgusting internet history in Internet bloody Explorer and they were ordered stop the practice immediately or pay $100 million in fines.
But it’s not just Facebook that knows your prefered colour of swimwear.
For many years now Apple has been building undercover location and ad tracking technology right into their operating systems.
Apple uses what they call an IDFA, a unique identifier that your iPhone sends back to Apple every time you visit a website, download an app or open an app.
Apple shares the IDFA data with app developers and advertisers, so that they can better target their ads toward you.
Oh, and all Apple devices also track your GPS location data and build a detailed private map of exactly where you’ve been, down to specific addresses and businesses, concretely winning stalker of the year award.
Google also does this, on both iOS and Android devices you can actually see a map of exactly where you went and the path you took on any given date.
If you haven’t already, take a look afterwards, it will be the creepiest thing you’ve seen in 36 minutes.
All this covert data collecting makes one think, should we be okay with allowing our personal information to be harvested like meat and sold to the highest bidder?
We all enjoy the many benefits of social networks, apps, free email and countless other services where we, the consumer, are the product.
But when all these tech companies are collecting a permanent and detailed databank of your life, a digital version of your personality, should we be okay with that?
That’s really something for you to decide.
But when our data is the product that generates revenue, if we didn’t allow companies to harvest it then there would be no service.
Your great aunt Mavis will never see that sultry selfie you posted from the toilets of some cheap bar last Friday night, and how utterly tragic would that be.
It’s our personal data that allows companies like Facebook and Google to exist in today’s world, where data is king.
But it only seems fair that we should know when and how our data is being collected.
You’re all very aware by now of the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Our data was harvested from Facebook by data scientists in huge quantities, without our knowledge or direct consent and then that data was analysed to target political attack ads at us online and on television.
The whole thing has blown up into a scandal so big it would make Nixon jealous.
And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was made to testify in court over the whole thing, and even worse, smile.
But what makes Cambridge Analytica so utterly scandalous is that for every user who took the quiz that harvested that user’s data, it also spread into their network of friends and harvested their data too, without their consent.
Resulting in personal data being stolen from 87 million Facebook profiles in total.
Facebook has been on defensive ever since, but to rub salt into their wounds they are now under pressure from a new European Union law that aims to change the way data is collected for good.
On May 25th, 2018, a new law — several years in the making — comes into effect across the whole of Europe.
It’s called GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation and it’s the biggest slap in the face to companies that wish to anonymously harvest our data since sliced litigation.
GDPR basically means companies like Facebook and hundreds of thousands of others that wish to get access to any of our data have to be really transparent and upfront about when and how they are getting that data and importantly exactly what they plan to do with it.
They have to inform us in plain English too, not legal soup.
If you do still use Facebook then you may have noticed this popup appearing recently upon logging in, that’s because the European Court has forced them to do so under the GDPR.
GDPR also gives European citizens the right to write to any company that has collected their data and ask them to delete it permanently.
Unbelievably, up until now, this hasn’t actually been possible with most companies.
You see, the way data storage solutions such as SQL work means it’s so, so much easier for the company to just tick a box that hides your data from the public instead of actually deleting it.
So when you deactivate or delete your Facebook account or any other online account, it and all the data surrounding it, still exists, it’s just hidden, but such companies can still access it at any time.
Unfortunately GDPR only effects European citizens or any business based in Europe.
But hold on, the saviest of tax avoiders out there will know that to avoid billions of pounds of tax each year Facebook is technically headquartered in Ireland.
Yes, they exploit a legal tax loophole called the “Double Irish Sandwich” to avoid paying corporation tax in all the countries they operate in, which is basically all of the countries.
So the totally American mega corporation Facebook is on paper an Irish company.
So shouldn’t this mean Facebook has to abide by the GDPR for all its users across the globe, because technically it’s headquartered in Europe.
Ideally yes, but instead Facebook sat in a room in Ireland and said “Hold my Guinness Paddy, you’re gonna love this…” then did a massive legal magic trick effectively excluding 1.5 Billion of their users who don’t live in Europe from being affected by GDPR while using Facebook services.
And if you want me to explain exactly how they did that I’m going to need five more pints of Guinness and law degree to pass that bar.
But to put it simply Facebook have basically said, if you don’t live in Europe, you don’t have the right control your own personal data, so that’s bloody sly.
At the end of the day, your data is more important than you probably give it credit for.
When some faceless conglomerate knows your most intimate secrets and holds more information about you than your own mother, you should be worried, because that gives them enormous power over you and who knows what the future holds.
Your personal data can be used to manipulate you, brainwash you and sell you plastic frickin vegetable choppers and nobody wants that.
There are lots of ways you can still use these free online services while keeping a firm grasp on your data and online security, but one of the best ways, is to use a virtual private network, a VPN.
That’s why I use NordVPN every time I connect to the internet on every device I own, so I can stay totally private online.
NordVPN has an automatic kill switch, super simple browser extensions and it even blocks ads for you.
NordVPN uses military-grade encryption, seriously, it actually uses the same encryption protocols that are used by the U.S. government to secure classified information and by the NSA to protect national security data!
NordVPN even bypasses the great firewall of China, it also works in Middle East where some other VPNs fail.
NordVPN has an incredible 4,319 servers to choose from all over the globe.
NordVPN is super fast and has no impact on your internet speed while using it.
They have 24/7 customer support, they never log any of your data because they are based outside of the EU and the US, and that’s really important when choosing a VPN.
You can use unlimited bandwidth and they use double layer data encryption for total anonymity online.
The best part – it’s incredible value for money.
I firmly believe that every single internet user should use a VPN, even if it’s just for peace of mind and knowing that your data and internet browsing activity is safe.
And there is no VPN better than NordVPN, I can personally vouch for that.