It's insane how life has become so "digital" now that we can throw the word "data" around like it's nothing. Specific laws have been created only to deal with online this, and online that; specially since your data is worth more than you know.
One of your most fundamental (digital) rights is called: The Right to Access. This hasn't been extended to every country, unfortunately, but if you live in the US, Brazil, European countries, and a couple of others, there are laws in place that limit the amount of data a company can collect on you.
In Europe, we have the GDPR. Singapore, the PDPA; US, HIPAA, COPPA. So what's this "Right to Access"? It essentially gives you (the user) the right to obtain a copy of your personal data and all other related information. This is to give you a better understanding of what data x company has on you, why, and how they're using it.
In today's tech-letter, we're going to go over an app that lets you enforce your Right to Access, on two major tech-companies that (pretty much) own your information: Google and Facebook.
P.S. last week's email covered an app that lets you access over 20 apps with 1 command. Check it out.
There's a lot of information you can read up on Rita's website, so I won't start of with that. Instead, I'll jump right in on my experience.
Once downloaded, you're able to connect to Facebook and Google (and soon: Spotify and Instagram). Rita basically requests archives of your data, for you. Note, you can do this yourself, but you have to hunt for this feature sometimes; whereas this app requests the information for you, and stores all your data locally, a.k.a. Rita doesn't save any of your data on their servers.
Say you're done connecting your Google account. What next?
Rita shows you 4 categories of data collected.
Data & Ads. The monetary value of your collected data. Calculated based on how many ads you've clicked on, and how much Google makes per ad. Till date (10+ years), Google has made $16,427 off of me. This section also includes how many ads you've clicked on, and how many companies your information is shared with.
Time Spent on Websites. A list, and an average time on each website. Google learns you, creates a profile of you. Indirectly sells that profile.
YouTube Statistics. Topics you're most interested in.
Audio, location, & other. In my case, no data was collected here. I've disabled location tracking on Google.
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The process with Facebook is similar, but with slightly different categories.
You still have Data & Ads, but they seem to limit it to 2021 and not lifetime, like with Google. So far, my data has been worth $42.72 to Facebook, which is a lot considering I'm barely ever on there anymore. I've clicked on 24 ads (it literally shows you the name of the ads), and you can actually hide certain companies from showing you ads ever again.
It shows you What's Being Tracked. Cookies, how many times every week/month, and how many companies this is being shared with. P.S. This is exactly what Facebook's being scrutinised over constantly— the amount of your data that's sold to third party advertisers. On Google, my number was 14. Facebook? 1682 companies. Furthermore, 8355 websites have recorded my activity, created a profile of me.
What can we do now?
Take control. Create a free account on Rita to access their action-features. These include:
Restricting companies. Choosing from which companies you want your data erased. Here's what that looks like— once you select a company to "restrict", Rita opens up your device's default 'mail' app, and pastes a very long email that goes along the lines of... "We are Rita Personal Data BV (...) we've been authorised by Prithvi (...) request the erasure of personal data concerning Prithvi (...) including age, social security number, passport details, identifiers, (...) if anything, contact us on x email.
I obviously cut off 70% of this email but you get the gist. A very complete email.
Manage emails. This also opens up your mail app and basically tells the company that according to x law, I (Prithvi) am asking to withdraw my consent to receiving marketing emails from them. This might seem like a very "serious" procedure only to "unsubscribe" from a mailing list, but many times you're really not even given an unsubscribe option.
And lastly, Ad management. You get to hide ads from certain advertisers. P.S. This feature doesn't work very well for me on the app, but maybe you'll have more luck.
Technically, today's tech-letter doesn't elaborate on a tech-tool that will help you be more productive. But it's a tech-tool that protects your data better. There's a saying in the tech industry that I'm sure you've heard a million times already: "If you're not paying for the product, you are the product".
Rita is a free app for iOS, Android, and MacOS that lets you request your data from top tech companies and 1) helps you understand what information is being collected, and 2) limits how much of that information is sold/shared. It takes 5 minutes, and it's free. Take care of your data.
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