Over the past few months, I’ve been researching how I’m being tracked while using the internet. My research included the use of tools such as Ghostery, Disconnect, and No Script. These tools expose all the trackers that are tracking users as they surf the internet. In addition, they also allow you to block the trackers and scripts that track you if you so chose.
As part of my research, I began to realize all the ways Google track us and how much Google knows about us.
According to privacy experts here’s what Google knows about us.
Google has every e-mail I’ve ever sent or received on Gmail. It has every search I’ve ever made using Google search. It holds a record of every telephone conversation I’ve had using Google Voice, it knows every Google Alert I’ve set up. It has my Google calendar with all content going back as far as I’ve used it. It knows my contact list with all the information I’ve included about myself and the people I know. It has my pictures and my news page topics I’m most interested in.
Using Google while logged in to my account to search for a person, a symptom, a medical side effect, a political idea and etc., all of this is on Google’s servers. Google can even track searches when I’m not logged in. With Chrome, Google can track every website I visit directly without first passing through its search engine.
In addition using an Android device allows Google to track my location, call logs, SMS messages, and everything asked on Google Now.
Google says they collect this information to improve our experience using their services. That’s true but they’re also collecting this information to serve advertising to us and to sell to other advertisers. By the way, this is how we are paying for using Googles free services.
I’ve decided this is no longer acceptable.
I’ve stopped using all of Google’s services. I’ve moved my email, calendar, and contacts from Google and onto Fastmail a service that respects my privacy. I use Firefox and or Safari browser instead of Chrome. And I traded in my Android for an iPhone.
So here’s the kicker. Unfortunately even after quitting Goggle Google is still able to track us via Google Analytics, AdSense, and AdWords. You’re probably asking, what is Google Analytics, AdSense, and AdWords?
Google Analytics. More than half the world’s most popular websites use Google Analytics to collect data about who is visiting their pages. Most people have no idea that Google Analytics is even present, but Google is tracking every one of them.
Google AdSense. In an attempt to monetize their web pages, millions of website owners now use small ads provided by Google throughout their legitimate content. The moment you load a page containing an AdSense ad Google is tracking you.
Google AdWords. Google also now allows website owners to embed targeted Google ads into words scattered throughout their textual content. When you load a page that contains any of those words Google is tracking you.
These trackers track us without us having to do anything. Let’s take Google Analytics for example. As I mentioned earlier more than half the world’s most popular websites use Google Analytics to collect data on who is visiting their website. According to Ghostery Google Analytics collects the following privacy information:
“Anonymous (Ad Views, Analytics, Browser Information, Cookie Data , Date/Time, Demographic Data, Hardware/Software Type, Interaction Data , Page Views , Serving Domains) Pseudonymous (IP Address (EU PII), Search History, Location Based Data, Device ID (EU PII))”
Google doesn’t disclose how long they store this information nor who they share it with.
Whether you know it or not, there are over 2000 other trackers that are tracking our every move on the web. Online behavior is valuable data, and companies are collecting it all the time. Online vendors have tags on web pages and apps that write out scripts, and these scripts write out cookies that send information back to the company about how we use the web.
I’m taking back my privacy. How about you?