Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Technology and Research and a PhD in psychology, spoke to U.S. News about how IT giant Google is following us. What technologies does it use and what data does it collect? Here are the key messages from Dr. Epstein’s article.
When Dr. Robert Epstein began to investigate the subject of surveillance and identity leakage using Google products, he was a little dumbfounded. Almost everything that the company produces observes us in one way or another. Below we will see a list of products that are actually impressive. Dr. Epstein is confident that it is far from complete and that there are many more tools that we don’t even know about.
Everything that you search through the Google search engine, whether it is a route from work to home, where to buy a new gadget, what to give a girlfriend for her birthday, and even your most intimate queries, is recorded on the company’s servers and analyzed. Thus, the company can draw up a psychological portrait of almost every person on the planet, because almost everyone has used its search at least once.
Are you now wondering how a company can track or find out something about me if it doesn’t even know my name? In fact, everything is simple. The company doesn’t need to know your name. When you enter any query in the search, the search engine determines your IP, calculates the individual number of your device, the approximate location. Using various algorithms and cross-references, the company can easily find out your first name, last name, and even your phone number. Do you think that “incognito” mode will save you and using it, you can go to any site and search for anything? No matter how it is. You are a blank slate for the company.
Why does the company need your personal data?
For example, in order to broadcast targeted advertising to you, one that matches your interests. We can say that this is how Google makes money on us. The company itself says that its search engine is so far the most profitable and break-even product from the entire line. We will not give other examples, try to guess for yourself where and how the company can use your personal data?
If you use Gmail, know that all of your sent and incoming emails go through a special scanner that reads them. Any information you receive or send is already known to the company. Goodbye privacy. Even if you delete the letter immediately after reading it, this does not mean that it was really deleted. All deleted copies are stored on Google servers and will never be deleted.
Google’s browser was introduced in 2008 to compete with the likes of Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Very quickly, it bypassed them all and became one of the most popular browsers in the world. This is largely the merit of the company, which is constantly developing its product. But it is also a user experience that is closely monitored. On the one hand, this is good, we have an almost perfect browser with powerful functionality that is pleasant to use. On the other hand, all our data is completely open to the company. Even if you’re not a Google search fan but use Chrome, the company will still know which sites you visit, what you like, where you go most often. All your searches are monitored and analyzed. Again, in order to capitalize on our interests, sell data about us to other companies that will display their ads.
Sounds a little strange. How can Google track our interests through a browser owned by a completely different company? In fact, it can. After you enter your request into the browser, Firefox checks if it is blacklisted by sites that distribute illegal content or viruses. It already has more than 600,000 sites and is constantly updated. This list is owned by Google and Firefox also uses it to keep its users safe. It’s also rather disturbing to realize that Mozilla, the company that developed Firefox, gets 85% of its revenues (about $ 163 million) from … right – Google. Instead, they set Google search by default in their browser.
In 2012, Google was fined $ 22.5 million by the Federal Trade Commission for tracking Apple user data. And it seems like the problem was solved, the loophole was closed. But not really. Safari, like Firefox, uses a website blacklist to keep its users safe.
Why do you think Google would invent its own open source operating system? This is to maximize the reach of mobile users around the world. Android is now the most widely used mobile operating system in the world. This system owns 86% of the market. All your gestures, actions, calls, SMS, email, search queries, everything is sent to the company’s headquarters for further analysis. Not a bad idea, isn’t it?
Google acquired YouTube in 2006 for $ 1.65 billion. Now, when you watch any videos on this service, you transmit to it data about your preferences, which can be used both for advertising purposes and for others.
More than half of popular websites use this tool to collect statistics on visits to their resources. Visitors to these sites cannot even imagine that the company is following them. But it is so.
To monetize their sites, millions of users use AdSense to broadcast ads from the company’s affiliate network to them. By now, you’re probably thinking that, by analogy with other products of the company, Google tracks your data when you click on an ad. But it is not so. The company receives information about you as soon as you visit this site. Clicking on the banner only clarifies your preferences.
This is the other side of the coin. In this tool, site owners themselves place keywords, thereby forming advertisements. You see these ads both in Google searches and on the company’s partner sites. As soon as you enter a keyword, you are hooked on Google.
They are everywhere and “multiply like bacteria”. These are such small icons that allow you to share the content of a web page with your friends on Vkontakte, Facebook and other social networks. As soon as you click on the G + icon … that’s right, Google is following you.
Google street view
Every year, several thousand Google cars ply the streets of more than 48 countries and take street pictures. In these pictures: people, cars, shopping and business centers, signs of various organizations. All this, with the help of a little decryption and cross-references, provides comprehensive information about business owners and individuals. But the photos taken by the company are not the worst. In 2010, it turned out that the company’s cars are equipped with special devices that collect data from unencrypted wi-fi networks, which they pass by. All your passwords, correspondence, all confidential information may end up in the hands of the company when you just sit in a cafe, drink aromatic coffee and scroll through your Facebook feed. After the world learned that Google collects information in this way, the US Chamber of Commerce fined the company … $ 25,000. More recently, the company lost a $ 7 million class action lawsuit from 38 countries.
The google maps code is embedded in millions of websites. And when you follow them … that’s right, the company is watching you.
This product was released not so long ago. According to the company, this device will help its owner with everything: navigation, finding various places, performing voice commands and much more. In other words, Google will receive information about where you are, who and what you are talking to, and even sleeping.
The future has already arrived. Anonymity is a thing of the past. The time has come when we have to choose: entrust ourselves and our lives to other companies that will use all the information for the benefit of their products, or not use computers and technology at all. Google already knows as much about us as we do not know about ourselves. The company watches us around the clock, knows where and with whom we go, what we like and what we don’t, our place of residence, our psychological profile. The surveillance tools the company already possesses are amazing. If you think Dr. Epstein is exaggerating and you shouldn’t worry so much, then think about this. Any business is aimed at making a profit. Money is the very first goal a company pursues. Without money, there will be no development, there will be nothing. Google derives most of its revenue from advertising products, not from things that make the world a better, cleaner, or greener world. For advertising to be more effective, you need consumer information. The more there are, the greater the profit of partner companies, and hence Google.
How legal is it?
As they say in the company itself, all these actions are spelled out in agreements that the user is free to accept or not before installing any product. In other words, we ourselves give our consent for Google to follow us. This is perfectly legal. Of course, Google isn’t the only one tracking our data. All big IT companies are doing this. However, Google has succeeded most of all.
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