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Why Facebook and Google mine your data, and why there’s nothing you can do to stop it

Published Feb 11th, 2016 2:50PM EST

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It’s no secret that Facebook and Google, and pretty much every company that sells connected devices or online services, tracks their customers to some extent. Internet companies have repeatedly been scrutinized and even taken to court for mismanaging users’ private data, and customers have become more interested in protecting their digital data in the past few years following Edward Snowden’s leaks.

So why do these companies mine your data? And is there a way to prevent it?

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Exposed author Bernard Harcourt spoke to Business Insider about privacy in the digital age, explaining that Internet companies need our data to better target us with advertising. By knowing our likes and dislikes, Facebook, Google and others can offer us ads that we’re more likely to click.

In return, we get to use these addictive and/or useful online services free of charge, since Facebook and Google make their money directly from advertisers hoping to sell their products to us after luring us in with their ads.

But Harcourt also looks at the darker side of the story, the fact that the NSA used Internet companies to gather massive amounts of data about consumers. Of course, Internet companies nowadays often promote encrypted products and fight for our privacy and security, so they often aren’t so willing to share data with governmental agencies — at least not without a warrant.

The only way to escape data mining is to ditch these services completely. But for many Internet users, access to Facebook and Google products is part of their daily routines. There’s simply no way they can completely stop using services like Facebook and Google. That said, there are ways to protect your privacy while surfing the web: Check this link for Facebook tips, and this one for general Internet privacy tricks.

Harcourt’s video interview with Business Insider follows below, and his book is available at this link.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.