One of the most talked about days since late January, when Google announced to the world that it will be changing its privacy policies, is finally here for some and will soon arrive within a few hours for others. This much dreaded day has really made people think more seriously about their privacy on the Internet and the steps they need to take to protect it.
I have read through countless news articles over the last several weeks and I can say that I have definitely learned a lot. If there is anything good that came out of Google’s lack of respect for their users’ privacy, it certainly is the fact that it woke more people up from their blissful slumber – myself included. I’ve always had this romantic image of Google as being that cool company that builds brilliant products for us to enjoy. For some reason, I always thought Google was different, that Google had a culture that subverted the ways things had always been done. I always thought Google was on our side.
But, I was thinking foolishly. I’ve found out that Google is like any other company and, in some cases, even worse. Its number one priority is raking in the tens of billions of dollars it earns yearly by selling our personal data to advertisers. There have been many voices that shouted and demanded to be heard these past several weeks. They demanded Google to listen to their concerns and stop its harvesting of our personal information. In response, all Google has done was give use disingenuous statements and lies – come to think of it, it seems like Google actually became even more smug and resolute about their plans.
They refused to hear our pleas and refused to give their loyal users the respect they deserve. Nope! Instead, Google sneered and spat in our faces. They couldn’t care less about their users – because for a company that makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising, the average Google user will always, always come in second. The advertisers come in first. You are not Google’s customer, you are Google’s product!
Yet, it is the average user who made little ol’ Google the global juggernaut it has grown up to become! We are the ones who watched your videos in the billions, we are the ones who entrusted our queries by plugging them into your search engine, we are the ones who flocked to your email service to chat with our friends, we are the ones who spent hours building you up! Now, how did Google repay us? By ignoring us! By vowing to change its privacy policies to create a new more intrusive one that will combine all our personal data across all of Google services so that Google can create “the faceless web”!
Well, Google, we’re not gonna take it anymore! It’s over! You have fallen in the hearts and minds of millions of your users who once placed you on a pedestal – but not anymore. No more! And don’t you dare think that we’ll return, you already took us for granted. You’ve fooled us once, you won’t fool us twice.
The past couple of days I have seen traffic on my site skyrocket like never before. People are obviously concerned and are hungry for knowledge. They desperately want to know how they can better protect themselves. I’m glad I can be a very small part of the Internet revolution as more and more people demand greater online privacy protections. One person here and one person there might not stand a chance against Google – but, collectively, we have strength in numbers. Google doesn’t stand a chance! Google gains and retains power by promoting ignorance, by keeping the masses in a pacified state. However, consumer advocacy groups and individual privacy protection activists gain and retain power by spreading knowledge! We tackle the juggernaut head-on by taking the opposite approach.
So, Google can continue on its stubborn destructive path, but we won’t be silenced. The fight will continue on. It’s still full steam ahead for us too and we’re willing to fight toe-to-toe. March 1 might already be here or soon to arrive, but our work does not stop here. It’s only the beginning. We can’t be complacent with our privacy. We can’t just throw ours arms upwards in frustration and say “I’m done! It’s futile to resist! I’m tired!”. That’s exactly what Google wants you to do. They think people will eventually, at the very least, forget if not forgive too.
But we need to send back a message to Google, in no uncertain terms, that we will neither forgive nor forget. No way! Personally, I will continue keeping an eye on Google and giving you as much information as I can gather so that you can know more about this company.
In the meantime, we can all take the necessary steps to limit the damage to our privacy by deleting our search history on all Google services. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), illustrates how you can do this – click here
I highly recommend you disable third-party cookies on your web browser. If you follow the links on EFF’s website, you will find an illustration on how to do that too. Make sure you to double-check your browser’s security and privacy settings and increase it to its maximum level.
Uninstall Google’s chrome browser and toolbar – don’t ask the fox to watch your henhouse.
For added security use an anti-tracking add-on tool for your browser. Google owns many tracking devices which track your movement all over the web on literally millions of pages. So you’re not just vulnerable on Google owned websites, but on all websites that Google has a tracker on. An anti-tracking tool will prevent Google from spying on you. I wrote about this before – click here
Finally, share privacy and security knowledge with your loved ones. Make sure they are protected too. Also, keep the fight alive by urging your representatives in government to pass stringent and comprehensive online privacy laws to protect you. Americans have barely any laws to protect them – but there is now an initiative by the White House to protect your privacy. This initiative will only become successful if Google doesn’t strip it of meaningful protections. Americans, get your voices heard on this one.
For more information:
NPR, “Google to ramp up online tracking” – click here
NPR, “Google and privacy: is it time to give up?” – click here
NPR, “Protecting your privacy amid Google privacy changes” – click here
CNN, “How to prepare for Google’s privacy changes” – click here
Wikipedia, a full list of Google products – click here