Whether you’re talking about search, Android, or Chrome, even Google’s new Home devices, collecting data is an integral part of how Google does its thing.
Google uses the data it collects to improve its products, to give you better search results, and, of course, to target better adverts in your direction. This is not conjecture, either. This is fact.
Google is an ad company, always has been – selling ads is Google’s key business, everything else is just a medium through which to improve the dissemination of adverts across new mediums.
There have been a couple of big stories recently that concern privacy with respect to Chrome and Android, with the former’s Incognito Mode not actually being private and the latter tracking your location wherever you go, even when location-tracking is turned off.
Understandably, people are freaking out about this. But are they right to? Are Google’s methods of collecting data nefarious? Or is it just part and parcel of being plugged into the world wide web?
Yes and no – and the role you play in this is largely determined by the technology you leverage when browsing the web. However, there are plenty of security/privacy action groups that have A LOT of beef with Google.
Some are scarier than others, however, like this one:
“Google’s Chrome browser automatically installs a secret script enabling the company to listen in to conversations through a computer’s microphone, according to open source code advocates and security researchers,” reports PrivacySOS.
It then cited a post made by The Guardian: “First spotted by open source developers, the Chromium browser – the open source basis for Google’s Chrome – began remotely installing audio-snooping code that was capable of listening to users. It was designed to support Chrome’s new ‘OK, Google’ hotword detection – which makes the computer respond when you talk to it – but was installed, and, some users have claimed, it is activated on computers without their permission.”
So what can you do to combat this kind of thing? Simple, don’t use Chrome and/or Google apps and services. But for many, myself included, this just isn’t possible – they’re just too useful! And this, for me, is where the real issue resides.
Google has made its services so good that we kind of can’t live without them, which is why it can get away with things like this – people just love the convenience and what they’re familiar with.
You could use Firefox, for instance, which offers TRUE private browsing, though how many people will actually do this? I don’t know, probably not that many. Not when you consider the number of Android phones in existence or how popular the Chrome browser is.
“Firefox private browsing with tracking protection is great at protecting you from invasive trackers and keeping your browser history secret,” notes Mozilla, “but when you surf the web, you leave footprints that Firefox can’t erase — your IP address is logged at the sites you visit and your ISP may keep records. That usually isn’t an issue, but the sites you visit could expose you to unwanted attention from government agencies or even hackers. A VPN can hide those footprints from prying eyes and add an extra layer of security against hackers.”
I take precautions online, always have done. And you should too. For instance, a VPN can keep your connection secure and anonymous, while an ad-blocker can stop annoying pop-ups. For most people, though, these will not be something they’re willing to implement simply because they cost money.
“A VPN is a secure connection between your computer and a server,” added Mozilla.
“All your Internet traffic and browsing data goes through that remote server. To the outside world, the anonymous server is doing the browsing, not you. ISPs, government agencies, hackers or anyone else can’t track your activity online.”
But even with a VPN in place, you’re putting your trust in a VPN company and they could, of course, get bent over the table by the government and/or the Feds. This, again, is just a fact of life.
Essentially, running technology in your home, a thing we all do, is a double-edged sword. Data is one of the most valuable currencies in existence, the more a company has on record, the more power it has. This is why social networks like Twitter and Instagram are worth billions despite not having any real, tangible revenue streams.
Which Brings Us To Facebook…
Plus, it’s not just Google that is doing this. Facebook MINES your data, for instance, which is why I removed the application from my phone about five months ago.
Not only does it MINE the data, but it then sells it on to advertisers – this is why the ads you see on your timeline are always so specific. Facebook wants to know EVERYTHING about you so that it can sell the data on to advertisers. The more specific it is the more it can charge.
And then there’s this:
On its website, Facebook states: “We use your microphone to identify the things you’re listening to or watching, based on the music and TV matches we’re able to identify.”
Or, this: “You don’t even have to “like” a page for Facebook to recognize what kinds of bands, products, etc. you enjoy. Using cookies, Facebook can track what sites you browse. What does this mean for your Facebook ads? Basically, if you once visited a website to look for thigh high socks for your Halloween costume, then you’re most likely going to get ads for socks for months,” according to Entity Mag.
Time to go offline?
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