Tag Archives: ITWorld

Google Wants You To Enable Search History Again – Just Say No!

Remember how everybody was warning each other that you must clear your Google search history and then completely turn it off for good? Well, Google doesn’t like that very much. They want you to turn your history page back on so that they can record everything you do.

Yesterday, in Google’s official blog, they introduced a new “search experience across your devices”. What this means is that if you did a search on your personal desktop or laptop computer at home, that search detail will be available to you on your mobile smartphone anywhere you go. Google’s new privacy policy allows it to now combine what you do and share it across all Google products and services.

So let’s say you’re planning to go out to a restaurant later in the day and you searched the address of that restaurant on your desktop computer. Later in the day, as you’re traveling to get to the restaurant, you forget the address of that restaurant that you recently just searched for. No need to worry. Just pull out your smartphone and go to Google’s homepage. From there you can click on the “Recent” icon and it will pull out your search history.

Wow! I’m blown away by this new search experience…hmm, not really. Anyway, Google says that in order to take advantage of this, you must enable search history again and you must be logged in when doing your searches. Give up your privacy to Google so that you can remember restaurant addresses – sound fair and reasonable to you?

If you insist on using Google, try to protect yourself and keep Google at a safe distance. I would recommend never enabling search history and never doing searches while logged on to a Google account that has your personal information on it (like your name, address, and pictures).

You can even make multiple accounts for Google – a serious account and a frivolous account. You can create a fictional persona to attach your searches and just lie to Google.

Kevin Fogarty, who writes for ITWorld, wrote an amusing article on what you can do to better protect yourself against Google. If you’re not going to stop using Google altogether, if you’re not going to turn off tracking cookies on your browser, if you’re not going to install free add-ons to your browser to block tracking companies – you can, at the very least, just lie.

“It’s not a crime; it’s not an ethical violation. It’s not even particularly rude, considering how intimate, complete and unwanted a profile Google is building of you. Protect yourself a little without hurting anyone; be someone else for a while. If it confuses anyone trying to keep track of you online, it serves them right. No one has the right to follow you all the time without your consent. No one has the right to know everything you do. No one has the right to insist you always tell the truth when they’re asking intrusive, manipulative questions without answers to which they won’t give you the free service they promised when you hit their site in the first place.”

And if you’re really creeped out by Google, then you still have the option to back up your files stored on Google and ditch Google for good. It is possible for you to download your data from Google and then permanently delete your account. You can follow the illustration on how to do this by going to CNET “How to” page about this – click here.

For more information:

CNET, “Google saves searches across devices with ‘recent’ icon” – click here

Google’s Blog – click here

PCWorld, “Protect your online privacy: Lie” – click here

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Will Greater Internet Privacy Protection Result In The Loss Of The “Free” Internet?

Alright, look – I have a bone to pick.

Yes, I do! Something makes me uncomfortable – it actually ticks me off.

I’m uncomfortable about some of the stuff that’s being written to defend Google’s spying; some of the nonsense that’s being published to fend off legitimate criticism of Google. I have read through countless news articles since I started this site and, let me tell yeah, I think it’s a disservice to your readers if you do not give them the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

First of all, I’ve seen some really great articles published, which have done the correct thing to fully inform readers of all the implications of using any of Google’s products or services. I’m glad those articles have been written and if you are responsible for those articles – I want to thank you for doing a great job these past several weeks.

On the flip side, and very much in the minority these past several weeks, are people who for some reason can never see Google as doing any wrong. There is always a defence for every Google lie, for Google tracking users, for Google collecting even more information about us, and pretty much anything Google says or does. Sometimes the arguments they use to defend Google seem so outrageous to me that it leaves me to think that these people must be paid by Google one way or another (although some have included disclaimers that they actually have family members who work for Google).

Anyway, I’m not going to speculate on the reasons why some people will always defend Google’s actions – they might be in denial. However, I must offer a rebuttal against two of the most repeated arguments used to defend Google:

The first of which is that the burgeoning Internet revolution to demand back our privacy from Internet companies (such as Google) and advertisers will only result in us losing the “free” Internet. There is this doomsday scenario that they portray will completely result in the destruction of the Internet as we know it today.

The rationale behind this fear-mongering by Google and their partners in crime is that if Internet users do not allow their personal information to be harvested, combined together, and then meticulously analyzed by these companies – we will only be hurting ourselves in the long run. They blackmail us into forfeiting our information so that we may use their services – yes, I’m gonna go there – I think it’s a form of extortion!

They demand grossly unreasonable amounts of personal information from us so that we may have the privilege of using the Internet. But the Internet is not a privilege – it is becoming increasingly a way of life. As more and more of our lives become intertwined in the virtual world – it is almost impossible to not have some sort of online presence if we want to be an active member of society.

Demanding we sell our souls to these companies in exchange for entry in the necessary global community is unethical and should also be legally reprehensible. A blogger named Max Tatton-Brown who had a piece published on Wired UK wrote:

“It’s also another fascinating example of the sense of entitlement people feel to free online services (news, search, maps, encyclopaedias) — and how that is at odds with their understanding of how these companies make money…Google [has] recently done an excellent job of including unmissable banners for their users that explain how they make money and where privacy fits with that.”

Excuse me, Max, but Google’s services are not “free”. There is definitely a price we pay for using those services. We pay with our privacy and the forfeiting of our personal data – this is the currency that Google greedily accepts and will never willingly settle for less. This price we pay is exorbitant! Frankly, Internet users are being gouged and ripped-off by Google! We pay through the roof to use their services. Every time we plug-in our unfiltered thoughts into their search engine, it’s recorded by Google; every time we send and receive an email on Gmail; it’s read by Google; every time we watch that silly YouTube video, it’s noted by Google! Everything we do is constantly tracked all over Google and even on websites not owned by Google via their tracking devices!

I demand a refund from Google, ASAP! I also want them to give me a receipt of my purchases, chop-chop! I want to know exactly how much they took from me and if their charges on my online privacy credit card is a reoccurring expense! Come to think of it, if we had to choose between paying with our privacy or paying with cold hard cash – I rather pay with cash thank you very much. At least this way, I can more easily keep track of just how much Google is really costing me and hold them accountable.

Right now, we know very little about how much debt Google is putting us through. Recent surveys have shown that, although the vast majority of people are deeply concerned about lack of privacy on the Internet, a very small percentage actually know just how damaging it is and what exactly to do about it. Google has people in the dark about what it’s truly costing Internet users to continue using Google products and services – this to me is a form of theft.

Furthermore, isn’t it ironic that Google now has the audacity to lecture Internet users for demanding “free” service? Wasn’t Google the same company, just a few weeks ago, that so publicly denounced anti-piracy bills that would have enforced copyright laws on the Internet? It was Google that was accused by other companies of aiding and abetting Internet users to download free material. It was Google that was trying to fend off copyright owners who wanted to protect their material from mass consumption without any monetary compensation.

My oh my, haven’t the tables turned on Google? If anybody is responsible for this supposed culture of entitlement for free material, Google has nobody to blame but itself. It is Google who fueled, led, and cultivated this culture from the ground up. Now that this entitlement for free stuff has the potential to hurt Google’s bottom line – it’s suddenly a bad thing. Ha! Well, tough luck! You reap what you sow, Google!

Oh and by the way, there are many great services on the web that have been designed to be completely free. It’s amazing what a community of people can do when they pull together their talents to create wonderful free content and services for people, without any hidden costs.

The second argument, and is closely related with the first, is that advocating for greater online privacy protections will ultimately result in the stifling of innovation. Max wrote,

“Bearing in mind that we as a society are receiving tools from these companies that are pushing our civilisation to entire new levels of sophistication, what cost should we be prepared to pay for this? Is it really outrageous to meet that by being shown even more relevant adverts more unobtrusively than ever?”

I categorically reject this argument. Google has used this argument to blackmail governments around the world to permit the company to continue their tracking of Internet users. It’s ridiculous to say that online consumers have to give up everything of themselves so that Google can continue doing what it does.

There are many successful companies that have been built around the concept of free content because people got together to make it happen. Also, keep in mind that because Google’s business model depends on over 90% of its revenues to come from advertising, it will always side with its number one customer – which is the advertisers. The average Google user is not Google’s customer, you are Google’s product!

Google makes enormous profits from advertising – about $40 BILLION every year. If governments demand Google to stop tracking users so that it protects their personal data, gives them greater online freedom, and puts a halt to creepy mutated personalized advertisements – then we will all be better off for it. And guess what, Google will still earn huge profits. Perhaps it won’t hit the same gigantic number it has become accustomed to, but I guarantee you that you certainly won’t be seeing Google at an Internet company food bank any time soon. Google might experience a bit of withdrawal pains from its addiction to gigantic profits from selling our personal data without our full consent, and Google might throw a hissy fit – but it’ll eventually get use to it.

Demanding stringent and comprehensive online privacy protection laws will not throw the baby out with the bath water. Installing free anti-tracking add-on tools to your browsers will not damage the “free” Internet. Adopting a “Do Not Track” button on all browsers and requiring default settings on all web browsers so that it automatically blocks third-party tracking cookies will not result in the bankruptcy of Google.

Therefore, for heaven’s sake, stop the fear-mongering and misinformation coming from Google and their minions. We have a right to privacy and Internet freedom. We shouldn’t have to choose between two extremes: it’s either you have zero privacy or you have zero Internet. C’mon! Whatever!

Google seems to love forcing users pick between two extremes – they don’t believe in a middle option. Just like how they refused to listen to several consumer advocacy groups and US Attorneys General to give users an opt-out option from their new more intrusive privacy policy – instead Google said you either fully embrace their new policy or hit the road. It just shows how arrogant and confident they are in their position that they could muster up the gall to tell users to quit using Google services altogether as form of an ultimate opt-out.

Well, Google better be careful what they wish for because it might just come true. As more and more people educate themselves on the damaging consequences of using Google services, many will eventually completely opt-out for good.

Greater privacy protection laws will not damage Internet freedom, quite the contrary; it will only increase freedoms and privacy.

You can read Max Tatton-Brown’s full article by clicking here

For more information:

ITWorld, “Will Do Not Track kill the ‘free’ Internet?” – click here

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Make Sure To Clear Your YouTube History Too Before March 1st!

 A few days ago, I informed you on how you can better protect yourself against Google’s more intrusive tracking, which starts on March 1st. If you want to know how to clear your search history before Google’s new privacy policy kicks in this Thursday, please look at my other post about that by clicking here

Okay– so what I forget to tell you is that you have to clear your history with not only all different Google accounts you own, but, also, all accounts you have on all of Google’s services. The link I gave you above only shows you how to clear your Google search engine history. But – if you want to clear your history for your YouTube account, you have to go onto the YouTube website and find the relevant page to clear your history there too.

To clear your YouTube history, go to YouTube.com then sign into your account. Then, click on your username located in the top-right corner. Select the “Video Manager” link.

On the left-hand side of the screen you will see the following options: “Uploads”, “Playlists”, “History”, “Search History”, “Watch Later”, “Favorites”, and “Likes”.

First, click on “History”, then click on the gray button that says “Clear all viewing history”. That should clear your page and a green button should come up that confirms that you have cleared your history. But before you exit that page, make sure you click on “Pause viewing history”. This will stop Google from keeping track of your history in the future.

Next, click on “Search History” and do the exact same thing you did before in this section too.

Furthermore, if you really want to, you may also clear your saved Favorites and the Likes you made to videos. Just place a check next to the video and click on “Remove” – this will prevent Google from permanently storing your Favorites and Likes after March 1st.

You’re done! That’s how you clear your YouTube history. If you have an account on the Google owned photo sharing website, Picasa, clear your history there too.

One last thing – in my other post, which showed you how to clear your search engine history, I gave you guys this link: http://www.google.com/history

The link was not hyperlinked. You had to actually copy that link into your address bar and go to it yourself. The reason for that is because Google won’t allow people to be referred to that history page. If you got referred to that page, the link would not direct you to your history page. Instead, it would take you to Google’s homepage.

I guess Google is attempting to stop a mass of concerned people from deleting their history. For more information on this and more, please read this article – click here

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Use Anti-Tracking Tools To Boost Your Browser Security And To Ward Off Google’s Spying

 Okay, so we all know that Google tracks your every move on the millions, yes millions, of websites all over the Internet. Google has the following tools to make this happen: Google Analytics, Google AdSense, doubleclick, googleapis, googlesyndication, etc.

It is almost impossible to escape Google. Almost every site you visit has a Google tracker on it and Google knows exactly what you did on that site. They will know what you looked at, how long you looked at it, what you bought – they even know what ads you simply hovered your mouse over without actually clicking on the ad.

We all know users of Chrome, Google’s web browser, are the most vulnerable of all – but, when it was discovered that Google deliberately circumvented security settings of Apple’s and Microsoft’s web browsers this got me concerned. Both Apple and Microsoft have now been made aware that Google bypassed their security settings and are now working to protect their users from Google’s spying eyes.

All of this got me doing a little more research on these trackers Google is so dependent on to keep an eye on all of us. As you already know, the privacy settings of responsible browsers like Apple’s and Microsoft’s make it so that it blocks third-party cookies from being placed on your browser. These third-party “cookies” are often the type of cookies advertisers use to track you.

First party cookies are usually used by the sites you visit and they do make the online experience better. For example, these first-party cookies remember some of your preferences like what language you use, it keeps you logged on so you don’t have to keep logging on when you leave the site, and they help with online shopping. So not all cookies are created equal and not all are maliciously tracking you. Also, one should obviously expect that a site you visit is tracking your movement. For example, The New York Times wants to know how many times a particular article was clicked on to determine how popular it is.

So, we expect that we will have this sort of relationship with websites we agreed to visit and we’re well aware of this relationship. However, on some of these websites there are mini-sites within those websites that also track you. Many of us are not aware that third-parties impose themselves on us and track us. There are literally hundreds of companies that track Internet users – and many of them are in business solely to collect personal data to sell to others. These are the guys we want out. They are the uninvited nosey guests who are snooping on us, and we don’t even know it. One particular page on the Internet can have dozens of trackers on it.

The good news is that there are organizations that counter these tracking companies. They build add-on applications that you load to your browser; it then blocks all sorts of trackers. Also, believe it or not, those social networking buttons you see everywhere (even on my own blog) are tracking you too. Those “Like” buttons from Facebook, Google, and Twitter – to name a few – are tracking your visit. You don’t even have to have an account with them or be logged in for them to know you have visited a page where their button is on.

Anyway, it’s definitely worth spending some time researching some add-ons to use to block these trackers. It’s great to have your browser security to its maximum level, but the add-ons give you an extra layer of security. You can find add-ons for Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari browsers. One add-on I like to use is Adblock Plus, which blocks creepy personalized advertisements on the web – it even blocks ads embedded in videos. So you can watch videos on the web without annoying ads playing in front on it.

PCworld published an article yesterday on “Do Not Track Plus”, which does a great job blocking tracking. You can read it by clicking here

CNET also has an article on stopping the “tracking paparazzi”, click here

ITWorld published four great articles – these two are on tracking on the web (click here and here)

This one discusses the popular anti-tracking add-on called Ghostery. Many of you might already be aware of Ghostery or already use it. Well, you probably want to read this article then. Ghostery is owned by Evidon, formerly known as The Better Advertising Project. (Click here)

Of course there will always be those who criticize anti-tracking add-ons by claiming that they will destroy the free Internet because ads pay for the content you see. I don’t buy this argument one bit. The last article by ITWorld discusses this further (Click here)

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