Hey – can you do something for me?
Can you guess a number? No, c’mon, just do it…guess the amount you think you’re potentially worth to Google per year. It’s really interesting to find out how much Google values you and what your sticker price is.
I’ll leave you to ponder on that for a bit, while you continue reading.
I hope you know that Google’s products and services are not “free”. The company loves to fool users into thinking that they can use Google at no cost to them whatsoever. Well, newsflash: you are paying to use Google.
Sorry to break it to you, but you pay Google by giving the company your personal data. Google couldn’t care less about your dollars – please! Keep the change, no thank you!
They rather have your personal information so that they can then sell that information to third parties (i.e. advertisers) for huge profits. Google’s business model is largely advertising based; they make over 90% of their revenues from advertising. You’re not Google customer, you’re Google product.
There is now this mutated form of advertising which tailors and specifically targets ads at you. Advertisers believe that consumers will be more likely to purchase something from them if consumers receive ads directly related to what they assume you would want to buy. They can deduce what your interests are by analyzing the private information you hand over to Google, and don’t think twice about. Google is on a mission to create “the faceless web” and you unknowingly help out to accomplish that mission by signing up to Google services.
In January, the European Commission decided that it was time to overhaul its already stringent data protection laws. They felt that they needed to do this because their laws needed an update. As we move deeper into the 21st century and technology continues to rapidly change the way we live our lives – laws occasionally need to be kept up to speed and renewed. One of most important plans to their updated privacy laws is something called the “right to be forgotten”.
This right will allow users to demand Internet companies (such as Google) to permanently delete their personal data when requested to do so. This right is designed to give Internet users back control of their personal data. Google, as you might have already guessed, is against this. They will lie to your face and tell you they are in favor of it, but they’re really not. The only think they will be in favor of is a watered down version of this legal right in hopes of rendering it completely useless.
Let me tell you of a man named Richard Falkenrath. He used to work at the White House as a special assistant to the President and has expertise in cybersecurity and counter-terrorism. In a piece he for the Financial Times, he spoke very honestly about the dangers of using Google’s services and the need for a right to be forgotten law for Americans. He writes,
“I learnt to appreciate the power of electronic data integration as a White House counterterrorism aide, working to enhance government electronic surveillance powers. But Google, by gaining the consent of its users in the form of a quick tick, has secured the power to build an electronic surveillance apparatus that far exceeds anything the Bush administration tried to do.”
I don’t know about you, but this a chilling statement. He continues,
“My support for [the right to be forgotten]…comes from my recent experience as a parent. Last year my children’s school shifted to a system called “Google Apps for Education”. It works brilliantly, and cost the school little or nothing. But as Google’s policy makes clear, even though the school retains ownership of the students’ content and may demand its deletion, Google intends to integrate data derived from students’ school activities with data from any of its other digital services – and use this to make money. Forever.”
Earlier, I wrote more about how some schools (kindergarten all the way up to college) are putting their students’ privacy in jeopardy by implementing Google Apps for Education into their systems. To read more on that – please click here.
Mr. Falkenrath stresses that in order for a right to be forgotten law to be truly effective it needs to also demand that metadata be permanently deleted. It isn’t enough to just get rid of email messages, photographs, or videos from Google’s servers – but, in addition, Google needs to delete the underlying information embedded into all those larger data. Metadata is basically data about data. So a photograph’s metadata may include – when the photo was taken, who it was taken by, at what location, what camera was used, what was the exposure, etc.
This metadata is just as revealing as the actual larger data it’s describing. You can deduce a lot from metadata.
Google has the ability to create a digital identity for you that is uniquely tied to you. Your online fingerprint is all over Google and each time you use Google you give more of yourself away!
So…have you guessed how much you’re worth to Google?
Well, according to new research by privacy experts, you are potentially worth as much as $5000 per year to Google. The personal data Google gradually builds about you over time forms your identity. The more precise the identity is, the more valuable you are. Google is raking it in – to the tune of $40 billion yearly. Ka-CHING!
To help you wrap your head around everything, I’ll leave you with this excellent video (at the very bottom of this post). It’s produced by Michael Rigely, a San Francisco based graphic designer. His fascinating video shows how the personal data Internet companies collect of us is utilized to paint a perfect portrait of us. The cloud of information knows more about us than what our closest friends know. A real eye-opener:
For more information:
Financial Times, “Google must remember our right to be forgotten” – click here
CNET, “How to prevent Google from tracking you” – click here
SmartMoney, “Who would pay $5000 to use Google? (You)” – click here