What social media apps know about us: Inquirer columnist


MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – There are 73 million Facebook users in the Philippines. Indeed, Filipinos are real fans of social networks.

How much data do apps keep about us? I looked at the different permissions requested by the top apps in the Google Play Store and a few Pinoy favorites: TikTok, Grab, Zalora, Lazada, and Shopee.

The most common permissions requested by these apps are network information and access to storage and camera, which means access to images, recordings, documents and our phone’s camera. That’s a lot of information!

These apps already have access to so much information about us because we give it to them freely.

According to a social experiment conducted by ProPrivacy.com, 99% of users “agree” without reading the app’s terms and conditions, even though such an agreement requires the right to name their firstborn.

Some apps have client-server encryption, like TikTok, which means that an unencrypted copy of our messages can be seen by the servers of the Chinese company ByteDance.

Chat apps, such as WhatsApp and Viber, support client-to-client encryption, but backup copies of conversations may be stored elsewhere. Social messaging apps, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, clearly have visible content on their own as platforms.

Shopping apps, like Grab, Lazada, Zalora, and Shopee, have copies of our products’ transactional information and browsing history.

Have you ever wondered if websites and social media can read your mind? For example, I research travel destinations on a search engine.

When I visit Facebook, I get ads about a particular vacation spot I’ve been looking at. What is this magic?

This “mind reading” is made possible by HTTP cookies, a small piece of data stored on our computers by browsers when we visit websites. This cookie contains pieces of information, such as the website visited, transactions and search terms.

Third-party ad tracking cookies, on the other hand, are a special type of cookie placed on our computers by ad tracking services used by online platforms.

So, if we use different platforms that use the same ad tracking networks, we may receive targeted advertisements based on information obtained by the ad network from other platforms; this results in effective advertising.

So in my holiday search example, the search engine and Facebook could be using the same ad tracking network to ensure that I receive personalized ads. The Ad Tracking Network is the glue that connects the different platforms.


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