Most of us go through life oblivious to what companies are doing with our data. You may be thinking "Well, I have nothing to hide, so why should I care?". You should most definitely care. Nowadays, the big money maker is advertisements and big data. Facebook's real business isn't really about social media and providing a social platform, it's about learning as much as they can about their users and pushing the most relevant advertisements to them.
Let's take YouTube for example. YouTube is a free service provided by Google that allows content creators to upload videos to their own channel, and viewers to subscribe to that channel and watch the content. How do they make money? They serve advertisements to the viewer (sometimes up to three at the start of a video, depending on what the creator sets). They get paid per x views of that advertisement, and probably more if the viewer actually clicks through. The creator also gets a cut of the advertising revenue. That's not so bad. However, the creepy/disturbing part comes in when they learn about your interests and essentially monetize it. YouTube can assign a video a category (like gaming) and even go down to sub-categories, like Rust. Once their algorithm notices that you enjoy watching Rust videos, they will push more Rust related videos to your feed. This means that you will watch more Rust videos (because you are interested in the game) and they will earn more money. Here is an example of my "interests":
You might argue: "Well, I can just use an ad blocker and they won't earn any money, right?". You could, however that still does not stop them from tracking what you are watching. For me personally, it feels like an invasion of privacy and the "big brother is always watching" really hits home here.
In reality, this tracking is a fairly common practice among big tech corporations. Even if they do not directly make money from pushing advertisements to you, they can still get you to spend as much time on their platform as possible. Google is not the only company that will learn your preferences and push content to you, for example: Amazon, Netflix and Facebook. Hopefully this makes you think about what companies are learning about you and the profile they are building around you. By saying "I have nothing to hide" you are really a perfect consumer for these organizations. In reality, your mindset should be: "I have nothing to hide, but I also have nothing to show you". Okay, but how do I gain back my privacy?
Gaining back your privacy is no simple task and it can be quite daunting, that is what makes using services like Google so appealing. This post will not have a full guide, but I may write one in the future. For now I will have a list of pros and cons of going to the effort:
Control & Freedom - You have full control over your data. You can choose which platforms you would like to host yourself, and where your data goes. You can still use services like YouTube, but under a proxy like Invidious (example hosted by me).
Maintenance - Learning how to deploy applications for production usage can be tedious and a time consuming process, but you will learn many useful skills in the process. Docker is a very useful tool to use for deploying these services.
Expense - Running your own server can be expensive. There are relatively cheap and good hosts like Hetzner. So far, I have found nobody that can beat their Auction prices.
Hopefully this gives you some food for thought. Are you ready to take back your privacy?