A new tool shows how the biggest social media companies track you, right down to your device’s battery level and email you’ve sent.
The free tool from vpnMentor, which reviews virtual private network services, lets you zero in on social media companies and online services like Facebook, Google, Instagram and other social media services and immediately identify the ways you’re being tracked.
“Despite the familiar site message asking if you’re willing to accept cookies, many don’t realize what this entails,” vpnMentor said in a statement.
All information in the interactive tool “is based on strict research, which have been clipped from the companies sites,” a vpnMentor spokesperson told Fox News.
For example, clicking on the tool’s “Do Not Track Ignored” brings up sites that ignore the request – which is part of a broader problem of disregarding Do Not Track settings, as search engine DuckDuckGo points out separately.
The vpnMentor tool also gives you a quick view of how major social media companies and online services handle privacy concerns such as “Access To Your Messages” and “Device Information & Usage.”
Other items that the tool shows:
- Of the 21 services within the study, the majority tracked your current location at all times when using the app
- Some companies use the information you share on their messaging services and some openly state they have access to any messages you send on their platforms
- Many services and apps track your device’s battery level, signal strength, nearby Wi-Fi spots, and app and file names
- Google and Amazon save voice recordings from searches
Users don’t necessarily have to have an account with an online service to get tracked. For example, Google keeps track of your activity on third-party sites that use Google features like Ads, vpnMentor said in the statement.
“While the majority of this data usage is benign or necessary for services to function, knowing which companies hold which data about you is the only way to track your privacy and how secure you really are,” vpnMentor Internet security expert Gaya Polat said in a statement.
Major dating sites will share your data with affiliated dating sites, vpnMentor added, noting some also have access to your private messages to potential suitors.
There are exceptions, though. The dating app Happn, for example, states that it does not keep track of users movements. “Instead, it only keeps track of when members are in close proximity and where they were when they crossed paths with another user,” vpnMentor added.