Whether you realize it or not we hand over our data every time we visit a website, use social media, or buy things (both online and in-person).
Now new research is showing us where in the world our data is being sent and why.
A new study by MacKeeper, a digital privacy software company, looked into 56 websites to see where your data is being passed on to.
It found Instagram does it the most by sending its user data to six different places including Kansas, Virginia, Ireland, Kenya, Brazil, and Taiwan.
Following Instagram, Microsoft Excel, Amazon, Pinterest, and Wells Fargo round out the top 5 culprits for sending user data to other countries.
Thierry Ngutegure, a Data Insights Manager with Rise At 7 said, "The end goal for a lot of these companies is to build the clearest picture of their individual customer or customer base."
The data insights manager suggests treating your data like currency because you tend to give it to companies in exchange for things like discounts and offers.
Examples of the data most people tend to give out to companies include your name, email address, phone number, home or work address, birthday, and gender identity.
"Once that’s been pinged around and shared with third party people and sent to other countries where their data privacy laws may not be as stringent as the origin of said data it means they can package that up and create a really holistic view of that individual, far greater than their individual entity that they were collecting, to begin with," said Ngutegure.
If one of the companies tracking and storing your data gets hacked, your preferences, online search history, previous purchases, and location data could all be revealed, which could lead to problems like identity theft.
"At a micro level it seems very insignificant, but I think long-term we’re very aware of how our societies can be shaped and manipulated with that amount of data," said Ngutegure.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, said this would impact its business because it gathers user data to provide personalized ads, which support small businesses and help keep apps free.
Facebook went on to say in a blog post, "It will force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, meaning Apple will profit and many free services will have to start charging or exit the market."
Ngutegure said, "It will be super interesting to see that once we give the power to the consumer what that will do in the next decade or so."
The push for transparency from some tech companies like Apple & Google and consumers could encourage lawmakers to regulate what data companies can track without express permission.
But until then, it's up to you to adjust your own privacy settings to what you're most comfortable with.