6 Common Ways Companies Collect User Data

Data is the most important currency in today’s world. Companies that control data exert enormous power, as evidenced by the likes of Facebook and Google. Mark Zuckerberg is now worth a staggering $83 billion, and this figure grows almost daily. Facebook has grown from a niche social networking site into a global behemoth, thanks to the power of data.

Harvesting customer data is now a big priority for most businesses. The right data makes it easier to implement targeted marketing and draw valuable insights. In turn, this drives profits. We are all relatively used to handing over our email address when we shop online, but there are many other less obvious ways that companies collect our user data.

If you run a check on your name, address, email, etc. on Nuwber, you might be shocked to discover just how much of your personal information is out there in the public domain. A lot of this information you were blissfully unaware was being handed over.

Here’s how companies collect your data.

They Ask for It

Companies frequently ask us to hand over an email address in return for a newsletter or discount code. They might also send us a survey after we make a purchase or use their service. Any data gleaned from sources like this can be used to build a customer profile or make changes to customer service, etc.


Cookies are sneaky little bits of code that track us across the internet. Each time we visit a website, the site leaves a cookie in our browser. This lets companies track our activity as we go about our business. It’s the reason why you see targeted ads when you look at a product on one website and then visit another site later. Annoying, much?

Facebook Pixel is a good example of a tracking cookie. The Facebook Pixel ensures the right ads are placed in front of people who use Facebook. Google uses similar technology to show targeted ads to customers.

GPS Tracking

When you download an app for a company, chances are it asks for access to your device’s GPS function. This is not such a benign request. If you say “yes” the company can then locate you and show you targeted promotions and ads when you are near their store.

In-Store Wi-Fi

Public wi-fi is not safe. Everything you do can be watched or monitored by a third-party. If you use the free wi-fi at your local restaurant or in a store, companies can harvest data from the social media account you use to log in, as well as track your activity while you are on their premises. This data is used to help build customer profiles.

Social Media Activity

Make no mistake – social media is a massive source of data for companies. Many businesses encourage users to “like” them on social media and use data from social media log-ins to third-party applications. Any publicly accessible data on social media platforms is fair game to savvy marketers.

Data Brokers

Data brokers are another source of information. Some sell segmented lists to companies for marketing purposes; others are a lot shadier and deal in more valuable data via the dark web. Most companies deal with data brokers from time to time, so any data in the public domain will end up in their hands eventually.

Treat your personal data with the respect it deserves. Don’t overshare and always watch out for tick-boxes that let a company automatically harvest your data. Remember, data is more valuable than most people think!