The internet is a beautiful thing. It entertains us, provides us with valuable information, and connects us with people from all over the world. However, it’s also uncharted waters in many ways, as it is still very new, with much still being figured out. Unsurprisingly, there are aspects of the internet that make many a little bit uncomfortable. Data collection is one of those things, and Google is guiltier than almost every other company. For a better idea of what internet privacy looks like, we are going to explain the different ways Google tracks your online activity.
Although a very convenient feature, searching on Google can also be intrusive. Google saves every voice search that you make through their engine. They do this to serve you better-targeted ads. Your searches are recorded, and you can even go back and listen to them. However, you can delete them through the Voice and Audio Activity page.
Google also saves all of your text-based searches (even if you type in a search and don’t actually click search). These searches are semi-anonymous. For example, if a company doesn’t know your specific name, it can still track your searches by reading codes such as your IP address. They then can use this information to check against other information to find out your name, location, and phone number. Google also places an identifier ‘cookie’ into your computer to make it easier to track you.
Gmail, Google’s email service, essentially tracks every move that you make while using it. The company scans all of your ingoing and outgoing messages, no matter what company those emails are coming from.
You can also rest assured that Google never deletes anything. This includes messages sent, messages received, drafts saved, and even drafts that you typed but never saved. It’s all there on Google’s servers forever.
Why did Google enter the browser market when there were so many other competitors? One of the biggest reasons was so that the company could consolidate its tracked information into one place. Even if you are someone who doesn’t use Google as a search engine, they can now track all of your information through the Chrome browser.
The tracking does not stop at the Chrome browser either. Other browsers, such as Firefox and Safari, use a resource that Google has compiled (think of it as Google’s blacklist). These are sites that Google has identified as dangerous. When you use Safari or Firefox, those browsers check Google’s blacklist before completing your request. When you do that, Google is notified about the sites that you visit. Firefox also received a vast majority of its income each year from Google, and that is why Google is their default search engine.
When Google acquired YouTube, you better believe that they also gained significant amounts of customer data. So, when you go down the YouTube rabbit hole, Google is right there with you. They know what videos you like and what videos you’ve watched.
Google Analytics, Adwords, and Adsense
Over half of the world’s most popular websites use Google Analytics to track site visitors. Although you may not know whether you are being tracked by Google Analytics when you visit a page, Google is taking all kinds of information from you and passing it along to the owner of the website.
Website owners use this information to monetize their sites through Google Adwords and Google Adsense. The collected data is then used to show targeted ads to you on various websites.
Google Street View
Google Street View is pretty convenient when you are trying to find a location, right? Years of in-person mapping has created the most in-depth maps man has ever known. However, Google has used this service for less savory means as well.
In 2010, Google was caught stealing information from unencrypted networks while driving around under the guise that they were collecting information for their maps program. They were stealing passwords, emails, browsing histories, financial information, and more over the course of three years in 30 different countries. Their penalty? A $25,000 fine.
Although this may seem like a lot, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the kind of information Google has been collecting on you over the years. However, there are steps that you can take to protect your information. Different search engines, browsers, and email providers are available to encrypt your data.
What do you think? Has Google gone too far? If so, will you be switching to non-Google services?