Most people using the internet use Google as it is one of the best search engines around. While it makes our tasks easier, it also collects crucial information about us so that it can serve users the best. Yes, that’s true.
However, there is another side to this. The information which Google collected from users is pretty sensitive. Remember the saying there is no free lunch! Likewise, Google’s free services come with conditions like giving away our privacy and browsing behavior.
Now, let’s see what Google really knows about you.
1. Google knows your age and gender
Google being a business wants to know about your age and gender so that it can know its customers. This implies that you are grouped to a demographic slot based on your gender and age. Every successful business has profiles of their target market and they send out relevant material to them based on age and gender.
Rather depressingly, demographics are ranked, so one classification is more important to aim for than others. For instance, The Sun newspaper in the United Kingdom claims to have over 6 million readers in one day, and 32% of them are classed as ABC1. This is the key demographic, comprising of the upper and the lower middle classes; their careers are mostly high-paying – and that’s what makes them so very important. As such, their huge disposable income makes this group a perfect target for prospective advertisers.
2. Google knows your interests
It wants to know more about you so that its engineers can tailor adverts as per your needs, to convince you to purchase their promotional goods. You should also know that your interests also become Google’s interests.
You need an account with Google but your web browser is equipped with scripts that store cookies – a detailed information about websites you’ve visited so that retrieving data the next time from the same website becomes quicker and more relevant. For example, if some sites allow you to read just one article a day, then you can be sure that that website is using some form of cookies. Google then uses this data to know you better. It knows what websites you are on, what you clicked and even the amount of time you spent reading an article on that particular website.
Why is Google doing this? It is for advertising, of course. It helps you but it helps them make more money using your information. Sounds sly… but that’s how market works. Knowing the customer is key to making sales.
3. Google knows your address
Do you remember the time Google sent its big van around your street and took a photo where you live? It is also doubtful that you haven’t checkout your street on Google Earth and that you found your home.
But, that’s now how Google exactly learnt about your address. It uses your unique IP address, which is a code sent from your ISP to any devices you are using to go online through the router. When Google stores these data, it can pin-point location-specific results.
And if you have tried out My Location on Google Maps to get directions from your home to your office or maybe a shopping mall, Google can tell exactly where you are spending your time in the world.
4. Google knows what’s in your emails
If you are using Gmail, I’m sure you have read their T&Cs that allows the company to automatically scan your emails for keywords so that it can serve you ads accordingly. Google recently updated their T&Cs last year. It says:
Our automated systems analyse your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customised search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.
The National Security Agency can also file a request application for accessing this info from Google, in the guise of combating terrorism, just as the UK government can do (under the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill). But, it is unlikely that terrorists will actually use emails to send information about any planned terror campaigns or blasts.
5. Google knows when you are using the internet
This fact may be quite an obvious one. However, when you stare at things you can easily miss the real point. Remember, the big brother can easily analyse user’s search results and draws up trends so that it can ascertain when is the good time of the year or month or week or day to advertise a particular product or service.
What can you do?
If you use Google account, go to Dashboard to change your settings. This step may not stop the company from collecting data about you, but it can still limit what info they sell to third parties.
Another way of addressing this issue is to delete your cookies, alter your privacy settings on social media, and disable personalization. In extreme cases, you can even avoid using Google and any of its products like Gmail. There are search engines that don’t track users. The most notable being DuckDuckGo.
However, since Google is the biggest internet company, it may be hard to completely avoid using one of its services.
Protect yourself easily with best VPN
Ask yourself the all-important question – what is more important for you, convenience or privacy? The best option for internet users to protect their privacy is by using VPN services. But it can be confusing to dive into so much tech details about different VPNs just to find the one that suits you best.