Tag Archives: Protection

Google Engineer: “Google Is The Biggest Data Collector In The World, Period”

Big Brother 2007 (UK)

Google is currently struggling with a brain drain as many of its employees are departing the company to found their own companies and to take advantage of better opportunities at emerging companies. Recently, Google’s very first employee, Craig Silverstein, left the company to pursue a more fulfilling career. Some Google employees are leaving because they feel that Google has changed over the years. This is definitely how a former Google executive, James Whittaker, felt when he left Google earlier this year.

In a blog post, Mr. Whittaker said that Google became more about chasing after Facebook and competing for precious advertising dollars – Google became less about maintaining a great internal culture and ethical business standards. Google is now willing to say and do anything to further itself in a competitive industry, which means that the company couldn’t care less about your privacy. Google’s number one customers are the advertisers. Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising – it is by far the world’s most intrusive company on the Internet. Google is able to track our web movements on literally millions of websites, without our knowledge or consent.

However, not all Google employees are happy about what Google is doing with our personal data. Some Google employees refuse to take part in something that is against their personal ethics. Former Google engineers Brian Kennish and Austin Chau founded Disconnect. Their new company’s mission is to give Internet users back control of their personal data.

Mr. Kennish says that Google is the biggest collector of personal data in the world – bar none – and this disturbed him enough that he decided to leave the company to work on a project that limits online tracking. He first got started with the Disconnect project while working at Google. He read an article about the lack of privacy on the Internet and how tracking companies are spying on our web surfing. He went home and created a browser extension that blocked third party tracking on Facebook.

He later quit his job at Google – this eventually led him to found his new company and expand services to block tracking on more websites, including Google. I have written on here several times before that Google is the biggest of the Big Brothers. This means that Google knows a lot about you. Google offers many products and services (YouTube, Gmail, Blogger, Google Search, Android, etc), this company is everywhere. On top of all this, Google has tracking devices all over the Internet – this means that even if you’re not on a Google owned website Google can still track you!

This is disturbing! Google’s new more intrusive privacy policy will allow the company to track you even more closely. At least there are some Google employees who aren’t afraid to speak up and do what’s right. Let’s hope that more Google employees find the courage to do what is right.

The video below is presentation by Brian Kennish – it’s definitely worth watching (pay especial attention at 10:00 – 10:33 mark in the video – this has happened!)

For more information:

ITProPortal, “Ex-Google Staff Working To Disconnect Surfers From Data Tracking” – click here

TechCrunch, “Disconnect: Ex-Googlers Raise Funding To Stop Google…” – click here

Nasdaq, “Google’s VP Of Product Management Leaving To Launch Startup” – click here

ITWorld, “How to get off Google for good” – click here

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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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Are You Sure You’re Fully Protected Against Google’s Tracking?

 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

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Europeans Increasingly Rejecting Google Due To Lack Of Privacy

The Article 29 Working Party, an independent group which represents 27 data protection authorities from the European Union, and an executive from the European Commission told Google to stop what they are doing to harvest personal data of Google users.

The European privacy groups want to examine Google thoroughly before they can give it any approval. In a letter to the CEO of Google, Larry Page, this is what the group wrote:

“Given the wide range of services you offer, and the popularity of these services, changes in your privacy policy may affect many citizens in most or all of the EU member states,”

“We wish to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of these citizens in a coordinated way,”

“In light of the above, we call for a pause in the interests of ensuring that there can be no misunderstanding about Google’s commitments to information rights of their users and EU citizens, until we have completed our analysis.”

Viviane Reding, who is in charge of data protection for the European Commission, fully supports the investigation of Google to make sure that the company complies with their laws to protect Europeans from violations against their privacy and their personal information.

The European Commission takes privacy very seriously. In fact, they recently set out plans to adopt more effective, comprehensive, and stringent polices to protect the data of individuals. Some steps they want to implement are to give users the ability to demand Internet companies, such as Google, to not sell their personal information to advertisers. They also want companies to delete all data they have of people completely if asked to do so because people should have the “right to be forgotten”.

European countries have already been banning Google. The Norwegian public sector agencies have been banned from using any Google applications due to concerns that personal data of citizens is in serious jeopardy. In 2011, a town in Denmark banned Google applications from being used in schools because of privacy concerns. The German government has taken steps to secure its data from Google and France is particularly worried about leaving its classified information on Google computers.

Europeans are especially concerned about the Patriot Act in the United States, which demands that companies operating within America are to hand over all information to the government if asked to do so. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an American organization which fights to protect the rights and freedoms of Internet users, estimates that Google is subpoenaed thousands of times a year. You will never know that your personal data has been given away to government agencies because Google does not have to tell you.

Just how creepy does it get? Well let me give you three examples: last summer a British soccer star named Rio Ferdinand visited the White House and snapped some photos of himself with White House staff. He later posted it on Twitter and within a mere few seconds the photos vanished. This is what the soccer star tweeted after his photos were removed: “Whoa….some1 has got into my phone + taken down my pics off twitter….this is deep…is jack Bauer in Washington?!”  He went on to tweet this, “Training just done in DC….feels kinda weird…feel like I’m being watched by some undercover jack Bauer type dudes…phone hacked into” . Read about the full story here

In another incidence, which happened just a few weeks ago, two British youth were detained by US Border agents because before their arrival one of them posted something on Twitter that was misconstrued as a threat to the United States. It’s all so ridiculous, amusing, and scary at the same time. It’s just another example that everything you do is being watched closely. You can read the rest of what happened by clicking here

And finally, a member of parliament of Iceland named Birgitta Jonsdottir had her personal information on Twitter accessed by the US government because of her involvement with Wikileaks. You can read the full story here

Twitter was forced to hand over this information but, to give the website the credit it deserves, it seems like they were resistant to this violation of privacy against people but had to comply with US laws.

Google on the other hand is a lot more secretive and knows a lot more information about users. I love what a McGill University student wrote in a student newspaper about Google when she called the company “the biggest of the Big Brothers”. You can read about it here

 Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt has said this in the past:

“If you have something you don’t want anybody to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”

He is absolutely correct – maybe people should seriously think twice about using Google services. The Europeans have already thought long and hard about it and they banned Google in many areas of their life.

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CBC The National: Some People Feel That Big Brother Is Watching

 The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has done a story on Google that I think you should watch. I think the most important take away from the video is around 1:49 into the video when reporter Ron Charles states that young people say they care about privacy but their actions indict something contradictory. And this is not just about young people, it’s really any user of any age.

As I wrote about on the Wall Street Journal posting, Google is counting on the average person to stay ignorant or to simply not care. If Google is going to respect your privacy it will only do so if people care enough to see that they do. You’re not invisible on Google, so do not be so careless about your personal information.

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February 1st Is Change Your Password Day

 Hi Folks,

Tech blog Gizmodo has declared February 1st as Change Your Password Day. I think this is a great idea and it’s so important, so I want to pass it on you. It can be a hassle to constantly change your password but you rather be safe than sorry. Changing your passwords on a regular basis is smart.

Make sure you pick strong passwords that are really difficult to guess. It is better to remember your passwords rather than writing them down because you never know who will read it. There are lots of tips on how to choose a strong password all over the Internet, find something that works for you.

Stay safe and one step ahead of cyber criminals.

Read about the Gizmodo article here

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