Everyone who uses the Internet to browse, use email, or for Social Media leaves traces behind. A high-value industry, led by Google, has grown up around analyzing, processing, and collating those traces. Some people consider it an invasion of privacy. Cyber Security has been slow to provide counter-measures.
Who tracks You?
Not to put too fine a point on it, one of the serial offenders is Google. Do not believe the old phrase “Google is my friend”. It isn’t. It is frightening just how much Google knows about you. Through Android, Google Maps, and Google itself, it reaches from Gmail to your Android devices, your YouTube viewing habits, and much, much more. They then auction off this information.
You can deliberately avoid using Google products, but they will still get you. If you look carefully at the bottom left of your screen as a web page loads, you will often see a reference to Googleads. This is because the site uses a Google service to populate the advertisements you see on the site. Google chooses the ads you see based on what they know about you.
In return, Google tracks your visit to the site and any use you have made of it. About 75% of the top 1 million websites use GoogleAds.
Did you know Google owns YouTube? Google tracks every video you watch on YouTube. Add that to their recording every search you have ever made on Google, and they have a very comprehensive view of you and your lifestyle.
It’s the same with Android (Google owns them too). Overall, on Android smart devices, Google track:
- where you’ve been, how you got there, and how long you stayed. They use Google Location Services, even if the app is switched off.
- what apps you use, how often you use them, and where you use them;
- whom you interact with using an app like WhatsApp or Messenger, or Telegram.
- All your text messages. iOs encrypts them; Android doesn’t.
- All your photos, sometimes even deleted ones.
On all platforms, they track
- Gmail – all your emails.
- Google Calendar – your schedule
- Your use of all other Google products – Hangouts and so-on.
- Voice commands through Goggle Home. See all your recordings on your Google activity page. And that’s tracked too.
Bottom line, if you let them, Google will track your entire Internet activity. Telling them to stop doesn’t work. You can’t stop them from tracking your location history, for example.
Bottom Line, Google is not just a Search Engine; many industry gurus consider them a tracking company.
Why do they do it?
They make money. Lots of it. They have advertisers making bids to serve you ads based on the sensitive personal data they have collected about you. You are the only one not profiting.
How to Leave the Google-Verse
Like “Hotel California,” you can never really leave. Cyber Security software doesn’t help except in very specific areas. Things you can do include:
- Don’t use Google search. Use a non-tracking search engine like DuckDuckGo.
- In the browser settings, switch off tracking cookies and set a no response to tracking requests as default.
- Set your browser to clear its cache when you close it. You’ll lose automatic sign-on to some sites, but not recording your credentials in your browser is probably a good thing.
- Regularly run, ideally daily, a product like SpamBot that sweeps your device to track software and cookies and remove them.
- Clear your Google Search History
- Don’t sign In to use Google services if you can use them without signing in. Only sign into things like Gmail or Google Docs.
- Replace some apps with non-Google Apps
Back in June, Google reacted to its critics by saying they will now automatically delete private data for you. But hold on, only after eighteen months and only if you are a brand new Google user. Not much use for the existing 1.5 Billion Gmail and 2.5 Billion Android users.
It is almost impossible to get out of Google’s clutches completely. Their tentacles reach everywhere. Lose Google, and you lose Uber, Spotify, and Lyft. There is currently no way to make your account entirely private, but you can restrict most of it to your eyes only.
Coming next – Google Artificial Intelligence Services powered by whatever they have on you.