I have made the claim that the media doesn’t give Google enough scrutiny and that the company often gets underserved favorable press. This is a major reason I started this blog in the first place, so that the average person out there can see what Google is really all about.
I remember seeing articles recently claiming that Google currently has the best reputation among any company in America. This is very disturbing considering all the sordid details I have been posting about Google’s lack of privacy, their pitiful ethics, their lies, the incessant lawsuits, and even criminal investigations. It’s disappointing and saddening that so many Americans put so much trust in this company – it just leaves me shaking my head and I think to myself “if only they knew better”.
I came across three really great articles comparing Google to Microsoft. I want to share these articles with you, but please don’t view this as me trying to sell Microsoft to you. I’m just using the articles to illustrate media bias and to show you how much Google has changed over the years.
The article published by InfoWorld’s J. Peter Bruzzese is excellent and lays out evidence to argue that the media unfairly bashes Microsoft way too often while Google’s errors are conveniently overlooked. He writes,
“I’ve noticed an unfair, ongoing trend: If Microsoft does something a little off, it gets bashed into the ground for it. But if Google… missteps, it generally gets mild reprimands and even support from the media and those drinking the Kool-Aid.”
You can read the rest of his article – titled “Microsoft in the media: Unfair and unbalanced” – by clicking here
Ever since I started this blog earlier this year I have been reading about the comparisons people are making between Microsoft and Google. These comparisons argue that Google has really changed for the worse over the years. As some of you probably already know, Google’s infamous unofficial motto is “don’t be evil”. In the early idealistic days of Google the company didn’t want to be like other established tech giants (i.e. Microsoft) because they perceived them as representing negativity and as being old-fashioned. But now people are starting to notice that little ol’ Google ain’t all that different from Microsoft – actually, some argue, that Google is worse now.
The article published by Forbes gives you 7 similarities between Google and Microsoft – perhaps now the pot should stop calling the kettle black– to read the Forbes article, please click here.
Finally, a very interesting article appeared on The Daily Beast website by Dan Lyons. The author spent 30 days using nothing but Microsoft products to compare it with Google’s products. He wanted to see if Microsoft can win him over and if Google’s products are really worth keeping. To find out what he concluded you gotta read the full article for yourself – click here
Google is currently enjoying much of the general public’s trust– but what is most hopeful is that this is slowly changing. As more people become knowledgeable and fed-up with Google’s antics, their arrogance, their invasion on our privacy, and other wrongdoings we will finally see Google fall off its throne. As any good business person will tell you, the most important thing in business is rightfully earning the trust and admiration of the public – once you lose this you’ve lost everything.
“The browser wars are pointing toward better days ahead for Microsoft (MSFT).
Netmarketshare shows the company’s Internet Explorer browsers taking back some of the share lost previously to Google (GOOG) Chrome, returning closer to levels it achieved in September. It’s the third straight month of gains.”
Jan 26:Eight American lawmakers, consisting of both Democrats and Republicans, send a letter to Google saying that they are concerned about Google’s plans to change its privacy policies and terms of service. In a separate strongly worded letter Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D- NC send a letter to the CEO of Google to ask him to appear before Congress.
Feb 1:Rival Microsoft Corp. runs full-page newspaper ads slamming Google and its new policy. Microsoft uses the opportunity to tout its own Web-based alternatives, saying for instance that users of its free email service, Hotmail, don’t have to worry about the content of their emails being used to help target ads.
Feb 2:CEO, Larry Page, declined to appear before Congress, but he sent two of his executive minions to appear instead. After being grilled for two hours, the Google executives failed to ease the concerns of the members of Congress. In fact, they made things worse. Rep. Mary Bono Mack said that the Google executives were not “forthcoming” and that she left the meeting even more confused and concerned than she had going into it. She suggested that Americans should stop using Google services “if Google goes too far”
Feb 3:The European Union’s data protection authorities release a letter to Google asking the company to delay the new policy until they have verified that it doesn’t break the bloc’s data protection laws. Google says it had briefed data protection agencies beforehand and had heard no substantial concerns then.
Feb 8: A consumer watchdog group sues the Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to prevent Google from making its planned changes. The Electronic Privacy Information Center contends Google’s new policies would violate restrictions imposed in an agreement reached with the FTC last year.
Feb 16:The Wall Street Journal publishes an article exposing Google’s spying. The article revealed that Google deliberately bypassed security and privacy settings of Apple’s Safari web browser so that Google could track those users. Google admitted that it purposely bypassed the privacy setting, which resulted in Apple users being tracked without their knowledge. The following day, several Apple users file a class-action lawsuit against Google for violating their privacy.
Feb 20:Microsoft writes a blog post to reveal that Internet Explorer browser users were exposed to tracking too by Google. Microsoft said that Google deliberately confused a security protocol feature, which resulted in tracking cookies to be set on Internet Explorer browsers.
Feb 23:The White House unveils a consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The proposal is intended to give Internet users back control of their personal data and protect their online privacy. However, these proposed new guidelines are not mandatory for Google and advertisers to abide by and emphasizes self-regulation too much. Immediately after the White House made the announcement, Google finally caved and said that they will include a ‘Do Not Track’ option for their Chrome web browser. Google’s web browser was the only one that did not have this anti-tracking functionality, while everybody else’s did. Google says it will include the Do Not Track by the end of the year. Why does it need to take that long? Who knows…it’s Google.
Feb 24:Google hires Susan Molinari as their head lobbyist in Washington. Ms. Molinari has extensive close ties with the Republican establishment. She was once a Republican representative in Congress herself. Google hired her because they want to influence how lawmakers vote in the coming months. They hope that Ms. Molinari can convince Republican lawmakers to vote against stringent online privacy laws.
Feb 28:France’s regulator says a preliminary analysis finds that Google’s new policy appears to violate European data-protection rules. The regulatory agency CNIL says Google’s explanation of how it will use the data is too vague and difficult to understand “even for trained privacy professionals.”
Yesterday, the Obama administration made a big announcement to help Internet users protect their data from third parties who collect it without your permission. The White House unveiled a consumer Privacy Bill of Rights proposal that is said to be intended to give online users back control of their personal data. Now, this might sound like great news at first, but don’t get too excited just yet. Let’s take a closer:
The Privacy Bill of Rights does not impose any immediate new obligations on online companies. President Obama said it was part of a broader plan to give Americans more control over how their personal data is used on the Internet. It consists of seven basic protections consumers should expect from companies:
Consumers would have control over the kind of data companies collect, companies must be transparent about data usage plans and respect the context in which it is provided and disclosed. Companies would have to ensure secure and responsible handling of the data and be accountable for strong privacy measures. It also calls for reasonable limits on the personal data that online companies can try to collect and retain and the ability of consumers to access and ensure the accuracy of their own data.
The Privacy Bill of Rights has received the backing of major Internet companies, including Google. It has also received the backing of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), which represents over 400 media, marketing, and technology companies. The vast majority of advertisements you see on the Internet are from members of the DAA. Their involvement in this seems like a great thing, so far – but let’s keep digging…
The Obama administration wants the proposed Privacy Bill of Rights to function as a blueprint for future comprehensive legislation that can hopefully make it through Congress. Several online privacy bills have been introduced before and have failed to gain much traction over many years. Americans hardly have any protections online whatsoever – and don’t get me started with the lack of protections on mobile devices, which is even worse! By the way, in comparison, European data protection laws have been developed since the 1980s and are much more stringent.
In addition to the seven core principles of the Privacy Bill of Rights, the DAA has finally agreed to allow a ‘Do Not Track’ button to be added to browsers. The browser-based header will signal, to companies that gather your personal data, your preferences. If you indicate that you don’t want to be tracked, the DAA claims that they will respect your preference – to an extent.
But hang on a second!
This do-not-track button has been resisted for years by the DAA and Google – why the sudden change of heart? Excuse me for being suspicious about this, but why the heck would a known privacy violator like Google be all too eager to participate in this initiative to protect personal data? It doesn’t make sense, folks.
Remember, Google is the same company that is facing a 20 year consent order with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for violating the privacy of users; it is the same company that had to pay $500 million to the US government after being found aiding and abetting a con artist; it is the same company that just recently deliberately bypassed privacy settings on Apple’s and Microsoft’s browsers so that they can collect information of their users; it is the same damn company that refused to have this do-not-track button on their Chrome browser for years, while all the other major browsers adopted the do-not-track technology ages ago!
Now you expect me to suddenly buy into this believe that Google wants to do what is best for our privacy – a week before it is about to change its privacy policies so that it makes it easier to sell your personal data to advertisers? Please! I ain’t buying the garbage Google is selling – not a chance!
Julia Angwin, writer for The Wall Street Journal, brought up something important:
“The new do-not-track button isn’t going to stop all Web tracking. The companies have agreed to stop using the data about people’s Web browsing habits to customize ads, and have agreed not to use the data for employment, credit, health-care or insurance purposes. But the data can still be used for some purposes such as ‘market research’ and ‘product development’ and can still be obtained by law enforcement officers.”
So basically, what she is saying is that this do-not-track button is BS. It won’t do anything worthwhile. First of all, it is completely voluntary for the companies to adopt the do-not-track button and if they end up letting users opt-out of tracking, it isn’t going to stop the tracking. It will only limit the amount of personalized advertisements you see. For many these companies, whose sole business purpose it is to harvest your personal data and sell it, they will still see everything you do.
It was recently reported that the American retailing company Target was targeting pregnant women with creepy advertisements of things a pregnant woman might need. The only problem was that these pregnant women never informed Target about their pregnancy and were creeped out that Target not only knew they were expecting a child, but could actually freakishly guess the due date. When Target noticed that people were starting to get creeped out they decided to still send targeted advertisements, but made sure to not make it so obvious. A Target executive revealed to the New York Times:
“With the pregnancy products, though, we learned that some women react badly…then we started mixing in all these ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random. We’d put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We’d put a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance”
Target was able to do this because they matched customers with an ID number linked to their credit cards or other personal information. You can read more on this by clicking here.
Anyway, the point is that Google and those data analytics companies that say they will respect your information think you’re stupid. They think you won’t know better if they give you a useless button to pacify you, while they continue on doing what they have always been doing. And, unlike Target, the Internet is A LOT more invasive! The Internet is the Wild West, where there are basically no laws to protect you and it’s much easier to obtain personal information. At least Target only collects data on buying habits of customers from their own store – Google collects personal data of you everywhere on the Internet.
Mozilla Firefox, was the first browser to allow users to use a do-not-track button. Internet Explorer followed Firefox’s example soon after, and then Apple’s Safari joined. All major browsers had this functionality enabled, with the exception of Google’s Chrome browser. Mozilla executives released a statement yesterday saying that they were “encouraged” by the news of a Privacy Bill of Rights and felt proud to say that they were first to implement a do-not-track button. However, they made sure to say that while they feel optimistic about the move to increased privacy for users, they will avoid fully endorsing the proposed do-not-track button that the DAA says it will produce in about nine months:
“We want to continue to see Do Not Track evolve through the Internet’s rich tradition of open development and collaborative innovation. Do Not Track is too important to become a product of closed-door meetings rather than through open, multi-stakeholder efforts…If Do Not Track fails to materialize as a productive tool, we’ll look to develop other technical measures to ensure that users’ privacy preferences are respected”
This button will not result in anything good for users and Mozilla already pretty much knows it. This proposed do-not-track button might actually create more harm than good. If people assume that they are protected from tracking, when in actuality they are not, they will let their guard down. People will stop asking for more protections for their privacy online and on mobile devices – while, Google and the DAA will give each other a high-fives for pacifying the public. Phew! No more annoying privacy advocates giving them a hard time!
But not so fast, Google! We’re on to you!
We don’t need a watered-down, meet me halfway, a day too late and a dollar too short privacy bill of rights! We need real change! We need comprehensive and solid protections! We need to completely stop tracking, period; full-stop!
Here is something to think about: even though Mozilla Firefox was the first to implement a Do Not Track button for their users, only 18% of mobile users and only 7% of desktop users activated the functionality on Firefox. It was available for Firefox users for awhile now, and only a small percentage took advantage of it. And guess what – Google and the DAA are well aware of this fact. An opt-in button will not reach the masses, and a useless button will not go far enough to protect users.
When the White House made its announcement yesterday, the true winners were not vulnerable Internet users – the winners are Google and the DAA who were so giddy and self-congratulatory.
For more information, I highly recommend these articles:
The Wall Street Journal, “Web Firms to Adopt ‘No Track’ Button” – click here
The Washington Post, “Voluntary guidelines for Web privacy backed by Obama administration” – click here
Techcrunch, “Mozilla: Welcome Google and Obama, We Invented ‘Do Not Track’ A Year Ago” – click here
PCWorld, “Obama’s Internet Bill Of Rights Will Be Hard to Enforce: Here’s Why” – click here
PCWorld, “Universal ‘Do Not Track’ Button: A Recipe for Disappointment” – click here
Wired, “White House Privacy Bill of Rights Brought to You by Years of Online Debacles – click here
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)
Are you protected on the Internet? What can you do to better protect yourself? What browsers do the best job in protecting your personal data? What is the government doing to proactively introduce laws to protect you?
With so many social networking websites out there and since more of us are spending more of our time on mobile devices than ever before, we need to make sure that we are fully protected from people who want to harvest our personal data.
Google’s social networking site, Google Plus, and its mobile device software, Android, use applications developed by outside companies. When you choose to load these applications (apps) to your profile on Google Plus or to your Smartphone it will allow these apps to gain access to your personal information. These apps can gain access to your phone address book, to your photos, pinpoint your location, retrieve your friends’ contact information, etc. There is a treasure trove of personal data that these apps companies get a hold of – and goodness knows what the heck they do with it all. It’s bad enough that Google is monetizing our personal data without our explicit consent – but it can go further than that.
“Last year, a study by Stanford University graduate student found that profile information on an online dating site, including ethnicity, income and drug use frequency, was somehow being transmitted to a third-party data firm. The data that third-parties collect is used mainly by advertisers, but there are concerns that these profiles could be used by insurance companies or banks to help them make decisions about who to do business with.”
Many people don’t realize what they can get themselves into when they agree to let these companies access their personal data – and Google couldn’t care less about making sure to protect you. Google leaves advertisers to self-regulate themselves and it is often the case that these apps do not even need to ask for permission to access your information. As long as Google can cash its check, it’s happy. You, on the other hand, are left to fend for yourself.
This is why it is critical you arm yourself with knowledge and then take the necessary steps to protect yourself – do not depend on Google to do it for you. Google does not see you as its customer, you are Google’s product! Yes, YOU are Google’s product. Your personal information is gold to Google.
“Personal information is the basic currency of an Internet economy built around marketing and advertising. Hundreds of companies collect personal information about Web users, slice it up, combine it with other information, and then resell it.”
Google’s browser, Chrome, is the only browser that does not block tracking. Google wants your personal data exposed to spying eyes because Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising!
If you use Google’s browser, you are the most vulnerable of all. However, we have already seen this past weekend how Google deliberately exposed Apple’s and Microsoft’s users to tracking too by circumventing the browser security of Safari and Internet Explorer. Both Apple and Microsoft have now taken further steps to protect its users from Google.
If you want some information on tracking cookies and how to protect yourself, CNET has an article on this: click here
So, what is the government doing to protect people from these companies?
“United States has no overarching restrictions. Websites are free to collect personal information including real names and addresses, credit card numbers, Internet addresses, the type of software installed, and even what other websites people have visited. Sites can keep the information indefinitely and share most of what they get with just about anyone. Websites are not required to have privacy policies.”
Americans are the most vulnerable, which is why Americans need to take online privacy more seriously. Contact your representative in Congress and ask them to introduce comprehensive laws to protect your personal data. I have discussed on this site before about several bipartisan members of Congress and the Senate who are especially concerned about Google and want to introduce tougher legislation to protect your privacy.
The Europeans have it much better, though. European regulators have stringent laws to protect its people and they are in the process of establishing a “right to be forgotten“. This right will give users the power to demand companies like Google to delete all their personal information when requested. This is so important.
Of course, Google has been devoting a lot of time and resources in lobbying against this “right to be forgotten”. Google spends millions on lobbying now than it ever did before. In 2011, Google spent $9.7 million on lobbying – nearly double the amount it spent the previous year.
For more information on all this, Reuters published an article yesterday: click here
Today, Microsoft has come out with a strong condemnation of Google for bypassing the privacy setting of its browser, Internet Explorer. In a blog post by Microsoft’s Dean Hachamovitch, Corporate Vice President, Internet Explorer – he exposed Google’s lack of respect for Microsoft’s security setting and how Google deliberately circumvented a security tool put adopted by Microsoft to protect its users from spying eyes.
By default setting, Internet Explorer is designed to prevent tracking cookies from being set on the browser and keep out those who want to track your every move on the web from seeing what you’re doing.
Internet Explorer uses something called P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences) – it works by allowing websites to send information about their privacy policies to the browser, which the browser then reads and makes a judgment to allow or prevent cookies to be set on the browser. It’s a good thing for users because the browser makes sure to check a website’s privacy policies for you before you even have to. This security setting also prevents companies whose sole or main business objective it is to collect personal data of you to sell to advertisers. These companies usually use “third party” cookies, which are the notorious tracking cookies people hate so much. Keep in mind that over 90% of Google’s revenues come from advertising.
However, just like in the case of Apple’s Safari browser, there was a loophole in Internet Explorer’s privacy setting too. As early as 2010, the loophole was known about and could have been exploited by any company which had to will to exploit it. Of course, true to character, Google exploited it.
Since Google neither abides by nor respects the P3p security protocol, it obviously should have been rejected by Internet Explorer. The browser should have not allowed Google’s website from setting tracking cookies. But Google tricked the browser by changing the code the browser uses to read the privacy policies of particular websites.
Instead of Google leaving a certain area in the code blank after the browser asked Google to submit its privacy policies, Google inserted the following text: “This is not a P3P policy!”
The browser does not read human language; it reads code that only computers and technically skilled people can decipher. So when the browser security read Google’s text, it didn’t understand it and so it resorts to doing the same action it would do if that area of the code were left blank – it allowed Google’s cookies to be set. You can read how this all works in more detail by visiting Microsoft’s blog (click here)
Microsoft says that they are actively investigating more ways to protect its users now and has contacted Google to ask for the company to respect the privacy of all Internet users no matter what browser they use. In the same blog post, Microsoft said they come out with a Tracking Protection List available on Internet Explorer 9 that will prevent Google and others from trying to bypass security.
When asked to respond on the latest allegation of privacy and security violations, Google has so far declined to comment.
For crying out loud, Big Google, RESPECT our privacy!
What we need is government intervention to introduce laws to protect Internet users. In the United States, there are hardly any protections for Americans. This is getting ridiculous. People need to demand protection from their representatives before this gets too out of control.
Sometimes Microsoft can really give me a good laugh. Somebody at Microsoft has a really good sense of humor because their most recent hit on Google got people talking about what went wrong with Google.
An update on Valentine’s Day to Microsoft’s business security software, Microsoft Forefront, and it’s free average consumer security software, Microsoft Security Essentials – listed Google as a dangerous website. A minor glitch in their update gave a false alarm whenever users visited Google’s homepage.
The security software listed Google as being infected with the infamous Blackhole exploit kit and that the “serious threat” needed to be immediately removed before it can cause harm to the computer. The only thing was that there wasn’t an actual real threat and when the security software attempted to attack the malicious virus it reported back that it couldn’t locate the threat as there was no threat to begin with.
Although I insinuated that Microsoft did this deliberately, false positives happen to every anti-virus vendor from time to time and this one minor glitch by Microsoft was fairly innocuous – but very amusing. Microsoft immediately responded to notifications about the false positives from users of its software and fixed the issue.
With that said though – perhaps those anti-virus security programs were on to something by raising red flags against Google …HA!
The feud between Microsoft and Google is heating up and Google is getting increasingly short-tempered. Recent mockery of Google by Microsoft triggered an immediate angry response by Google in an attempt to hit back.
Google is most likely getting more and more sensitive to criticism because Microsoft (along with numerous other companies, consumer advocacy groups, state regulators, and many in the news media) are targeting Google with criticism which is hitting Google where it hurts the most. A growing number of people are waking up to the facts and are demanding greater protection from Google’s privacy violations.
As many of you already know, Microsoft has its own search engine called Bing and it’s moving on up. Bing has seen incredible improvements recently and this has got to be making Google anxious. Bing, for the first time, at the end of 2011, was ranked as the number two search engine. This change in rank is really interesting because there was a time when Bing was thought as being completely irrelevant. Bing’s upwards momentum might just be beginning too. There are already articles circulating about how Bing might stand a chance against Google’s current search dominance. A year ago, if anybody wrote about Bing one day dominating Google in search, they would have been laughed at. To read articles now that even give that scenario a real chance, just shows the extent to which Google has really plummeted in the hearts and minds of the public.
The bad news for Google and the good news for Microsoft do not end there. Microsoft’s web browser, “Internet Explorer 9”, is soaring mighty high while Google’s “Chrome” is dropping. You can read an article by Clint Boulton which breaks down the numbers for you, click here
Furthermore, if you use Google’s Chrome to browse the Internet, you really need to think seriously about continuing using Chrome. Christopher Soghoian, a Washington, D.C.-based graduate fellow at the Center for Applied Cyber-Security Research, said in his keynote speech at the Kaspersky Lab Security Analyst Summit that you should be extremely cautious about which browser you entrust with your personal data. He mentioned that companies like Google, which earn over 90% of its revenues purely from advertising by selling your personal information, are more concerned about business than they are about your privacy:
“When their business models and your privacy conflict, only one will survive,” said Soghoian
He made sure to point out that some browsers, like Google’s Chrome, use something that is called “tracking cookies”. By default settings, the browser is made to accept these tracking cookies from websites, which track you as you move around the pages of individual websites and follow you around the entire Internet. If you block these tracking cookies, they have no way of tracking who you are and what you’re doing. If they can’t track you, this means those advertisements cannot function and if a website cannot place advertisements it loses money. So you can imagine that a company like Google, which absolutely depends on advertising money, would never want to get rid of these hidden tracking devices – and Google wants to keep you in the dark about it. Companies like Apple, which does not earn majority of its revenue from advertisers, disable these tracking cookies on its browsers on Apple computers. Mr. Soghioan says that Apple took the “responsible route”.
Mr. Soghioan argues that the advertising-based business model is strongly dependant on users surrendering their personal information in order to gain revenue. The difficulty of changing browser setting to make it more secure against tracking is also very deliberate. In fact, Google’s browser does not have a method to comprehensively disable tracking at all. Google has something called “Keep My Opt-Outs”, which disables tracking only from companies that choose to adopt industry privacy standards for online advertising. Therefore, Google is doing absolutely nothing to proactively protect you; instead it says that it will leave the self-regulation to the advertisers. Chrome users are still exposed to tracking cookies. So why doesn’t Google just do the right thing and just block all the tracking – well, this is what Google had to say about the issue:
“Websites, ranging from small sites operated by individuals to large sites operated by corporations, offer you free content and services because they are supported by advertising. Blocking ads eliminates the primary revenue source for most web publishers. We want to give users control over their privacy while surfing the web, not force small web businesses to shut down.”
It’s blatantly obvious that Google values money over your privacy.
Moreover, I must direct you to an article explaining how privacy advocates in Britain are now accusing Google of heavily lobbying to stop the government from implementing laws to prevent tracking of people on the Internet, please do click here
“The Wall Street Journal last year conducted a thorough investigation into the subject and found that the top 50 U.S. websites installed an average of 64 pieces of tracking technology onto visitors’ computers. The newspaper also uncovered new tools that scan what people are doing on a Web page, and even cull data such as location, income, shopping interests, and medical conditions. The worst part: Some of those tracking tools recreate themselves even after you delete them.”
The quote above was taken from an article by Christina DesMarais, of the technology website PCWorld. It is a fantastic article and gives readers some really important information – including how Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 does a better job at blocking tracking – click here.
More highly recommended reading from the web:
CNET.com article by Dennis O’Reilly entitled “How to prevent Google from tracking you“, click here
Also, his related article entitled, “Do not track, online ads, and the end of anonymity“, click here
Microsoft is holding nothing back with its recent frank comments and public awareness campaign against Google. A week ago, I wrote about how Microsoft decided it was important to finally speak up against Google’s lack of privacy. Microsoft purchased space on major American newspapers for about a week and launched their “Putting People First” campaign. Microsoft informed the American public that Google is collecting private information of its users to sell to advertisers.
Google responded to the campaign immediately after its launch claiming that Microsoft was spreading “myth” and that Microsoft apparently does something similar with its own users. This response is not out of character for Google – they usually always respond to criticism by claiming that another company does the same thing too.
Soon after, Microsoft responded again by saying that they definitely don’t do what Google does and that Google should not try to drag Microsoft down with it. Microsoft said that it never reads the personal emails of its users, whereas Google does this all the time to target advertisements to you and to which Google has admitted to doing.
Then just recently, Microsoft decided to poke fun at Google with a bit of a silly advertisement which resurfaced again. It informs people that Google spies on the personal emails of people who use Gmail, which is Google’s email service. Although Microsoft decided to take a lighthearted and silly approach – the topic of the ad and Google’s privacy violations are indeed quite serious. I will discuss in my upcoming posts just how serious things are getting and the feud between Google and so many other companies (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, New York Times) is just getting started.
To read my article on the feud between Microsoft and Google which I posted last week, click here