American companies are no better (I’ll explain at the end). I work for a renewable energy company owned by a large oil and gas company.
I, for one don’t care about my privacy that much. In fact, I let google track my every movement in real life and online, just so it can pay me 10 cents to a dollar several times a day by asking me more in depth questions about my actions- sometimes I even provide it with my shopping receipts.
Various smart objects in my house? Sure. That sounds pretty neat. A Wi-FI enabled toothbrush that records me while i’m in the bathroom and sends pictures of me in the shower or on the toilet to a nameless face in a big corporation (or more likely and AI)? Whatever. As long as I get a few seconds of amusement from it.
It’s not that I’m unaware, in fact I’m probably more aware than most. I work as an engineer that develops A.I. software that mutates online content based on people’s online actions- whether it’s through the site the software is installed on or not. What is the company I work for going to use this for? Who knows. They will probably sell it to Facebook or Google, even though they have something similar and more efficient.
My team is working on creating and linking fragmented “shadow profiles” in a meaningful way. For instance, if you’re using a VPN, and a browser that doesn’t track your history or cookies- but there’s a pattern in different I.P.'s (hour, search content, frequency, any pattern that the A.I. can link) that indicates it’s the same person, then we create a shadow profile that we apply to that user. People are creatures of habit, even when we purposely try to avoid routines we just create new ones. One fascinating aspect is that even if a person stops using one computer, on one network and switches to a different computer on a different network- our usage patterns are so unique that it takes almost no time at all to accurately indicate that it’s the same person. Combine that with the other factors and it’s scarily accurate.
We have even gotten accurate enough to link a person’s cell phone “profile” to computer “profile” and indicate that they are the same person.