Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons why Google has developed a poor reputation when it comes to privacy matters. Google’s entire business model revolves around taking your data and using it to sell advertisements. If Google does not have enough private data for selling ads, they will not earn any money.
The code for Google Analytics is a part of about 75 percent of the top websites in the world. This means that Google is going to collect your data whether you are actually using their search engine or not. Anytime you go to a website that uses Google Analytics or a number of other Google products, the tech giant will collect private information like the content of your emails, your location, and your browsing history.
Google Tracks Your Location
Whether you like it or not, Google is probably tracking your location right now. In one Associated Press (AP) investigation, reporters discovered that many Google services on iPhones and Android devices would actually store your location data. This would make sense if you gave Google permission to do so, but the search giant was actually doing it when people deliberately changed their privacy settings to stop it from happening.
Later, the AP had researchers at Princeton University confirm the investigation’s findings. Normally, Google Maps and similar apps use your location for navigation purposes. If you allow the app to collect your location history, Google Maps will even show a timeline of where you went during each day. Previously, police officers in North Carolina even served a warrant on Google to find devices that were near a murder scene at the time of a murder.
In theory, you are able to pause your location history through changing your settings. While Google says that this stops the apps from remembering your location, it does not actually do so. Even when you pause this setting, Google automatically stores all of your location data anyway. Weather updates, Google Maps and some searches will automatically cause Google to pinpoint your longitude and latitude. Then, this information is saved to your Google account.
Google Collects Your Travel Plans
If you care about your privacy, you should be wary about what you send in your email messages or what you search for. Try typing this into your browser: google.com/travel/trips. Underneath the heading for potential trips, Google has already compiled different cities, countries and destinations you have searched for in the past.
Basically, Google uses machine-learning capabilities and artificial intelligence to make sure you are paired with the right travel offerings. The megalithic corporation now offers flight searches, destination guides, hotel searches and more. Unlike an actual travel agent, Google can personalize its recommendations based on the things you type in your emails and your search history.
Google Determines Your Age Based on Your Browsing Habits
What you search for and the things you buy can tell a company a lot about you. For example, Target has had a lot of articles written about its algorithms because of their ability to tell if customers were pregnant. In some cases, Target’s algorithms could tell if a customer was pregnant before the customer had even found out. The box store used information like lotion purchases to determine if a particular shopper was pregnant or not.
Google uses the same kinds of algorithms to determine how old you are. In recent years, it has made the news for being able to tell your age, gender and interests based on your browsing patterns. As long as Google can see your search history, it can make educated predictions about your personal details like your age, income or gender.
Google Tracks the Sites You Visit
Google tracks everything from the sites you visit to the movies you watch on YouTube. Google Analytics and Google’s display ads need this information to show you relevant advertisements. Otherwise, a young woman might get an advertisement for beard oil, and an elderly man could end up with an ad for bikinis.
While this might help Google target its advertisements, it is definitely a violation of your privacy. Google has tried to allay these privacy concerns by offering a Google Incognito option, but this is not enough. You can try going through a list of settings and changes to keep Google from storing all of your personal details, but it will take a while. Worse still, Google will keep collecting some of the information after you change your privacy settings.
Google Coerces You Into Sharing Your Contact Data
It is already hard enough to trust Google with your data and personally identifiable information. Are you ready to trust unknown, third-party businesses as well?
Google actually allows third parties to access your data. Third-party apps can scan and share data from user accounts. The developers can actually scan the information in your Gmail account as long as they promise that they will follow Google’s rules.
Today, more than a billion people use Gmail. An unethical developer could easily exploit your personal data. All they have to do is tell Google that they will follow the rules.
Even if Google discovers otherwise and kicks the developer out of the program, it will be too late. This is not even a hypothetical issue anymore. Recently, Cambridge Analytica made headlines around the world for improperly using private data from Google.
Google Has Been Linked to PRISM
More recently, Google has even been linked to PRISM. This clandestine program is run by the National Security Agency (NSA). It involves collecting user data from companies like Google.
After the Washington Post and the Guardian revealed the existence of PRISM, additional reporting also uncovered how tech companies provided unfettered, direct access to their servers. Through a classified PowerPoint presentation, Edward Snowden leaked the fact that PRISM collected data directly from the servers of online companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook.
Google’s Search Algorithm Is Full of Biases and Causes Filter Bubbles
Other than privacy concerns, you also have to worry about filter bubbles. As Google learns about your interests and browsing habits, it learns what you like and dislike. Then, it recommends things to you based on what it knows.
While this might mean you get excellent recommendations for hotels and flights, it can lead to a filter bubble. When you are trapped in a filter bubble, it is because personalized searches from website algorithms selectively show you things based on your interests. If you do not like a belief, product or fact, the filter bubble will not show it to you.
This can end up reinforcing current biases. For example, imagine someone who believes that the sky is red. Because they search for topics about a red sky and enjoy reading about red skies, Google will only show them information about red skies. The search engine will stop showing them anything that contradicts their current biases.
Whether you are concerned about the future of privacy or getting stuck in a filter bubble, tech giants like Google control too much of our information. Worse still, we already know that Google has shared our data with third parties and the federal government. What other ugly truths are they hiding?