Do you really think all the “free” services that you use on the Internet like Facebook, Gmail, Google Docs etc. are actually free? This article on Venture Beat explains in detail how you help these big companies make tons of money by handing them your personal information on a platter.
Recently I met a guy who was encouraging me to join a Ponzi scheme. Although his intention was not right he explained to me how Facebook makes money (because he wanted to draw a parallel between his business and Facebook). Once you have logged into your Facebook account and until you log out, you remain logged in. No matter where you go, all the advertisers that have partnered with Facebook are tracking your moments. With the help of information you have entered in Facebook (in which school you went, recently which movies you have seen, which books you have read, what sort of job you have, whether you’re single, into a relationship or married, how many kids you have got, what are your favourite colours, which political parties you support, which causes you identify with, where you live, etc.) these advertisers are able to display ads to you accordingly. If you click on one of these ads and when you make a purchase, Facebook shares the revenue. Considering that more than 1 billion people are using Facebook right now, you can easily make out how much money these 1 billion people must be making for the social networking website.
Something of the same sort is explained in the above-linked article.
Information is power and precise information is greater power and this is what empowers these big companies. They have massive data about you and they have the most advanced algorithms to analyse and interpret that data so that advertisers can tailor their ad campaigns according to your online behaviour and maximise their sale and even when they are maximising their sales, they are paying these companies. So these companies don’t just make money selling information, some of these companies also make money when actual sales happen.
Do you want to opt out of these tracking mechanisms? One way is to log out as soon as you’re done with Facebook and Google. You can also use a browser like Tor to make your browsing habits anonymous. There are browser add-ons available that let you block advertisements but I don’t know how much that can help.