If you are an avid internet user, you must have experienced this: You are surfing sites about fairway woods and suddenly you change the topic to iPad applications but are still being bombarded by ads about golf. If this has indeed happened to you, then it’s no coincidence. You are just another victim of Google’s absurd policies.
Here is another scenario that will show you how Google is literally cheating its users. You enter a keyword into Google to check out where your site ranks. And what do you see? Number 1! And then you are brought back down to earth when you search again later, this time not logged in to your Google account, and find out you are nowhere in the search engine reports.
We all know Google dominates the world of online advertising. They are the big Daddy and you can’t do much about that. But are they going too far? Do we need to raise a voice against them? I think we do because a lot of people around the world are getting angry at Google’s policies and have been complaining that Google has gone a bit too far in its domination. You may actually be surprised when you find out how much data Google keeps on you!
Cookies? Cookies Don’t Scare Me!
A person who doesn’t know much about computers will wonder how Google can get so much information about a user. For them, the answer is: Cookies. Harmless as they may sound, they are in fact a very dangerous part of your internet browsing and can pose serious security risks. Most of us do not bother about it and hence let websites create these on our computers. But in the long run, they can be harmful.
A cookie is actually a message that the browser sends to the website you are viewing. It tells the website information such as saved passwords, your identification, whether you have already bought something on the site and things like that. In this way, the websites identify your behavior and many big sites use this behavior to present you with a different part of the website, not the one they would normally show to a person coming to the site for the first time. These cookies are installed on your computer automatically when you submit forms on any website.
The duration for which a cookie may stay on your computer varies. Some are destroyed as soon as you close your browser, some when you turn off your computer while some stay on your computer forever, until you delete them yourself; a task most of us do not bother to do.
The cookies that stay on your computer forever keep monitoring your online activities, the sites you visit and how long you stay on such sites. They sell this information to potential advertisers or companies that can then sell you their products.
Cookies do not harm your computer by themselves. It is the purpose they fulfill that can harm you. They are just there to make your browsing easier. Did you ever wonder who remembers your passwords and who keep you logged in to your yahoo account for two weeks? Yes, the Cookies.
Someone’s Reading your eMail
While Cookies can be harmless, if you use Gmail, you should be particularly concerned about what they are doing to your privacy. Google actually reads you emails. Yes, surprising as it might sound, it is actually true. It searches your mail for keywords and then places ads accordingly.
And it’s not just about your privacy. Your friends that send you emails are also at risk, regardless of whether they use Gmail or not. Google not only scans but also stores the data from your emails. Ever wondered what they might use this data for?
And then they say that they store your data for 60 days and then delete them. However, they have no obligation to keeping their word and according to Electronic privacy Information Centre can easily keep your emails forever and cross reference your cookies indefinitely.
Total Google Integration
At the launch of Google+, you must have signed up for the service to check it out. Were you surprised when you saw all your contacts already added? They actually find the people you chat with often and suggest them to you. Since Google+ is a social network, other people can find out whom you are connected to, and most of you will not like that. Keeping friends on a social network is one thing, but showing people you email often is another. There is a clear line between emails and social network, Google it seems is crossing that line.
This is pretty much the same as that happened with Google Buzz. Google Buzz automatically added your email contacts to your Google Buzz profile. This meant that anyone could see the list of your email contacts. Would you want that? No. And most others also don’t which is why this caused a huge uproar. Google, as always, instructed people to guard their privacy themselves. However, the anger did not subside and Google had to pull out the feature.
Another issue was the re sharing problem on Google +. The problem was that you had no control over what you shared once you had clicked on the share button. This again caused concern among users and Google had to pull off this feature too. While this was not as serious as the Google Buzz debacle, it did clearly show that Google had little to no concern about your privacy.
Google + is pretty clear on its disclosure policy:
‘We will record information about your activity – such as posts you comment on and the other users with whom you interact – in order to provide you and other users with a better experience on Google services.’
Does this concern you? Share your views in the comments below.
Google Street View
As if the Google Buzz and Google + fiasco wasn’t enough, Google came up with the Google Street View. It actually showed a view of your street that could have been taken at any time. Maybe when you were going out for office, maybe when you were receiving your guests outside your home or maybe when you were walkig with your family in the street. This causes concerns to all of us. But what was Big Brother G’s response? They simply said that if you had any privacy concern, you can report it and we will take action. Once again, this response clearly showed that you have to take care of your privacy, Google does not give a damn about it.
What To Do?
So after all this, how do you protect yourself from all this? The truth is, you can’t, unless you cut yourself off from the online world that is simply not possible. I know this sound’s scary, but that is the truth we have to live with.
Regarding Cookies, you can regularly delete the cookies on your computer – here is how you can do that.
Your browser can help you out with cookies as well. There are different settings you can use to make sure your browsing sessions are safe.
Anyone got a better idea on how to protect privacy?