Tag Archives: Tracking Cookies

Google’s Advertising-Based Business Model Leaves You Vulnerable To Privacy Violations

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

Tagged , , , , , , ,