Google Has The Ability To Know More About You Than Your Closest Friends

Big Brother 2001 (UK)

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.

Google’s new privacy policy, which took effect on the first of March, means that you’re a much more attractive product to advertisers than ever before. Why is that? Well, that because advertisers can now access even more information about you than ever before – and the more information advertisers can gather to know exactly who you are, the more they are willing to pay Google.

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.

Google knows a heck of a lot of information about you already. This new privacy policy will open the flood gates so that they can extend their greedy hands to violate your privacy even more. Now that Google can combine all your information from all of Google’s services, they are creating a clearer image of you. You can no longer separate your YouTube identity from your Gmail identity, and you cannot separate your Gmail indentity from the searches you plugged into Google’s search engine. Everything will be combined together.

Think of it this way: Google previously could only see your leg here, your arm there, and your head somewhere else – without ever matching them up with one another or cross-checking. With its new privacy policy, Google can now shine a spotlight on your entire body and see you completely. You’re totally naked to Google now – there is no more hiding, no more fragmentation of your identity, and no more privacy.

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.

Europeans take their privacy very seriously, but Americans are exposed to privacy violations. There are barely, and I mean barely, any laws to protect Americans online. For crying out loud, companies are not even required to post a privacy policy for their websites. Americans are desperately in need of something like the European initiative. A “right to be forgotten” law would help Americans enormously.

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.

“In counterterrorism, metadata often give us the crucial first lead that allows deeper scrutiny. In commerce, metadata make huge databases indexable, searchable, connectable, useful and valuable. Google’s privacy policy, like those of many internet companies, stresses the protections it affords customers’ content, but treats metadata as business records it can retain and manipulate indefinitely”

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

Washington Post, “New privacy policy lets Google watch you — everywhere” – click here

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