Tag Archives: Tracking

The US Federal Trade Commission Releases Online Privacy Report

For more information:

SlashGear, “FTC echoes public siren call for De-Personalized Web” – click here

Washington Post, “FTC releases final privacy report...” – click here

Washington Post – click here

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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 Faces More Privacy Scrutiny And Legal Trouble

Good news, folks!

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google is now facing new investigations over privacy violations. One month ago, Google was caught red-handed stealing personal data from the computers of Apple Safari users. Google used a code to trick Apple’s web browser into accepting tracking cookies, which would then track users on the Internet. Of course, Apple users had no idea this had happened to them and Google knew exactly what it was doing. The code Google used to bypass Apple’s web browser security had been known about for a number of years – Google made the unethical decision to exploit the security vulnerability very deliberately.   

Google was caught by a Stanford University researcher named Jonathan Mayer. He exposed Google by explaining in detail how the company was able to circumvent the Safari browser security to the Wall Street Journal. After being exposed, Google tried to play all innocent and stupid – “oh I’m sorry, I swear I had no idea my little code would do such a thing. Oops, oh well. Get over it”.

People didn’t get over it, immediately after the story was published by the Journal several lawsuits were filed against Google. The lawsuits have seemingly never stopped piling up! I have lost count how many times Google has been sued by their victims.

Anyway, there is word now that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – OMG, yes, FTC finally! – is seriously looking into whether Google violated privacy agreements.  The FTC has been in a deep sleep for a while now and hasn’t really said anything against Google. This is the first time we are hearing the FTC is actually taking real steps to correct transgression and triumph over ‘evil’.  The FTC can levy fines of $16,000 per violation, per day. This might not seem like very much punishment, especially for a company like Google, but Google victimized millions of people. There are millions of people who use Apple’s Safari web browser. If calculated appropriately and comprehensively, it can add up against Google very quickly.

But - Google was forced to pay up half a billion dollars before by the US Department of Justice for aiding and abetting a con artist to commit his crimes. That hasn’t stopped them from taking part in unethical behavior. Perhaps Google needs heavier legal penalties to prevent them from victimizing innocent people in the future. Google just doesn’t get it.

Google can sometimes be handled with kid gloves, but European regulators don’t play nice with Google. European Union data protection authorities are already investigating Google for its new intrusive privacy policy which took effect on March 1st. Their investigation now also includes the bypassing of Apple’s web browser security. It will be very interesting to see what they officially conclude!

We’ll just have to wait and see what develops. Stay tuned – to be continued!

For more information:

Wall Street Journal, “Google in New Privacy Probes” – click here

MercuryNews, “Google faces scrutiny from states” – click here

paidContent, “Lawsuits Mushroom Over Google Browser Tracking” – click here

MarketWatch (Press release), “Consumer Watchdog Applauds FTC, EU…” – click here

googleexposed, “Google Tricked And Lied To Apple Users...” – click here

googleexposed, “A Breakdown Of Google’s Statement…” – click here

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Pew Research: Most Internet Users Disapprove Of Targeted Ads And Personal Data Harvesting

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

A report released today by The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that majority of Internet users are against “personalized” targeted advertisements. Majority of people are also against the censorship and “personalization” of search results which eliminates objectivity of search results.

The results in the report are based on data from telephone interviews conducted between January 20th to February 19th. Google announced changes to its privacy policy on January 24th.

The report found that search engines are more popular than ever. Most people who use the Internet use a search engine to find information they’re looking for. 73% of Americans use search engines, which grew from 52% ten years ago. Unsurprisingly, most people said that they use Google for much of their searches.

However, the Pew survey probed respondents on how they feel about search engines and other websites collecting personal data about them for different uses – a very clear majority of them said that they disapprove. Google announced on January 24th that it would start combining personal data about its users from its many products and services. Google plans to eliminate “the faceless web” and get to know their users better. They hope that by eliminating anonymity, they can start selling clearer profiles of us to advertisers. Advertisers want to target personalized advertisements at us – so that we are more likely to purchase products from them.  

Google also started eliminating objectivity from its search results, which means that everybody sees different search results depending on their interests and past searches. If one person searches for Ford cars in Texas and another person in New York searches for Ford cars – they might not get back the same search results. This allows Google to show you what it wants – Google basically controls what you see, hear, and know about. This is deeply concerning to majority of people, especially considering how ubiquitous Google has become recently.

The survey found that 65% of respondents said that it was a “bad” thing if search engines collected information about searches and then used it to influence the outcome of future searches.  Only 29% said they have yet to see anything wrong with it and think it’s a “good” thing.

An overwhelming 73% of respondents said that they are against search engines harvesting personal data about them because it’s an invasion of privacy. Only 23% said they are “okay” with it.

68% of respondents disapprove of targeted advertisements because they don’t like their personal data harvested and analyzed. Only 28% of are “okay” with targeted ads.

Unsurprisingly, the survey also found that vast majority of Internet users are completely unaware about the different ways that personal data can be collected of them, how much data is collected about them, and what they can do to limit the collection of data. Only 38% of Internet users say that they are generally aware of ways to protect themselves – most of them do this by deleting their web history.

Pew’s associate director of research Kristen Purcell in a telephone interview said:

“If we ask this question again a year from now, it will interesting to see if awareness is higher”

It does not shock me one bit that most people don’t know how they are being tracked all over the Internet and the many tools they can use to block much of the tracking. This is exactly why Google and the advertising industry are so vehemently against default settings on web browsers that would block third-party spying and tracking cookies.  Google is fully aware that most Internet users don’t know better and this survey just reaffirms what we already knew to be true.

Other recent reports from privacy advocacy groups – such as the UK based Big Brother Watch- found that most people were unaware of Google’s changes to its privacy policy and full implications of it. Only 12% were actually knew about Google’s new privacy policy. Most people are still in the dark about what Google is really doing. Regardless, this new report by Pew clearly indicates that the vast majority of Internet users are against tracking.

As the public get more educated on what Google is up to and they find out ways to better protect themselves, then we will all be better off for it. Mass education of the public is absolutely critical in order keep Google and other tracking companies at bay. The more knowledgeable the public are the better choices they will make for themselves.

To read the full report by Pew – please click here

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Back Off Google, Please! A Defense Of Privacy

Megan McArdle is a senior editor for The Atlantic. She published an article today titled “Take My Privacy, Please! A Defense of Google“. Needless to say, I disagree with her arguments and I have to respond by writing a point-by-point rebuttal against some of the things she wrote. To read her full article, please click here.

“People love to freak out about incursions on their privacy. And by ‘people’ I mean cable news shows”

  • Yes, people do love to protect their privacy. Those ‘freaked out’ include: several consumer advocacy groups, state attorneys general, members of the US Congress and Senate, the White House, the European Union, several Asian countries, privacy commissioners from around the world, bloggers, and the average person.

“A week ago, Google implemented a plan to aggregate (most of) the data they collect from the many, many products they offer. Not to collect new data. Not to publish or disseminate that data in a new way.”

  • Google’s new privacy policy allows it to collect more personal data by combining data. The consolidation of personal data to combat “the faceless web” (as Google put it) will allow Google to easily figure you out better. It allows Google to take your personal data from YouTube, Gmail, the search engine, and other products –which will then allow them to give you one identity. They want to see users as a single person across all of Google owned products. This will further eliminate anonymity and discourage users from tailoring their identity based on what they’re using. Combining data is a deliberate act of collecting new data. It also allow Google to use that data in new ways, such as selling your personal information to advertisers who want a clearer image of exactly who you are and they can disseminate your data on different Google products.

They’ll sell information about every prescription they fill at CVS — or every pint of Haagen Dazs at Safeway — in exchange for a steady infusion of $1 coupons. They’ll hand off information about the timing of their daily commute in exchange for a couple of minutes saved at a toll booth every day. They’ll let Amazon track their diaper and book purchases because they would rather not re-enter their credit card number every time they want to buy something

  •  We don’t live in a world where people choose to share absolutely nothing about themselves. There can be a healthy amount of personal information we are willing to give away – if we feel it is necessary, beneficial, and controlled. The examples you listed are choices people willingly made for themselves to make their lives easier. Those people who made those choices know the full consequences and can limit the damage to their privacy. Google collects so much information it rivals any government spying around the world to keep track of citizens. Google admits it has very sensitive information about us and their products are ubiquitous. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to escape Google, even when you’re not on a Google owned website. Google has numerous tracking tools to keep a watch on Internet users all the time. Internet users have no idea just how much Google collects about them, where they are being spied on, how they can opt-out, or even if their information is safe. At least if I give my personal information to a store, it’s kept limited to that one store. Google follows users everywhere. So please, stop comparing apples to oranges.

“I think people get a pretty decent bargain when they hand over their personal browsing, search, and email data to Google”

  • It’s far from ‘pretty decent’. Google is gouging us, it’s a total rip-off. Google’s currency of choice is personal data not dollars. Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising – the company sells our personal data without our explicit consent for huge profits. Google harvests huge amounts of personal data, including but not limited to: age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, politics, financial information, every website we visit, your location, and the list goes on and on. Google is just one company and this one company knows us better than some of our closest friends. This is not just a simple hand over of a bit of information of here and there – as you tried to downplay it – this is downright alarming and an invasion of our privacy.

Google does its darnedest to sell you stuff you would probably like to buy

  • Those creepy – and yes they’re totally creepy – so called ‘personalized’ ads actually don’t work well. Tracking companies that serve these mutated ads are not doing a very good job of figuring out exactly what we want to buy.  For example, a child might research material on Ford cars for a school assignment and then a few hours later that child receives ads for Ford cars when they never intended on purchasing a car. Now the child knows that somebody was creepily looking over their shoulder and is now trying to sell them something they don’t want. It doesn’t make me want to buy more, it makes me suspicious and it’s a total turn off. If a company gets too aggressive in trying to sell me something, I will buy from their competitor.

This is a fact you cannot change

  • We’re working on it.

If Google… can’t scrape and sort your data…Less of the free stuff you like

  •  Fear-mongering. All we want is to take back control of our personal data and limit the damage to our privacy. It will not result in the doomsday scenario where there will be no Internet. The world won’t end in 2012 and the Internet will still survive if we take back control of our personal data.

Google shrank and simplified their privacy policy…”

  • There is good simplification and then there is bad simplification. The simplification to make something more understandable to the average person is a good thing, but Google hasn’t done this. Google’s new privacy policy takes a few hours to get through and it’s confusing. European regulators have said that Google’s new privacy policy is difficult to make sense of “even for trained professionals”. The new privacy policy also leaves out important details about people’s rights for specific products they use.

 Finally, that little bonus part you wrote to make the Washington Post look bad – again, you’re desperately comparing apples to oranges. By the way, The Atlantic has a ton of trackers on its website – I picked up at least 6 ad networks and 9 ad companies (this doesn’t even include the social networking buttons that track you too). The Atlantic is one of the most tracker infested sites I have come across yet.

And Ms. McArdle, since you care so little about privacy – then please publish everything about yourself that Google has ability to track and share it with the whole world. Let’s see all your searches, all the videos you’ve been watching, who all your friends are on Google Plus, let’s see what you’ve been chatting about with your friends on Gmail, and let’s watch your Hangouts too! Who cares about privacy, right? Privacy is soooooo last millennium.

For more information:

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Rebuttal: Apple vs Google – The War Over Third Party Cookies

Matthew Yglesias is a writer for Slate. He published an article today entitled “Me Want Cookies! Apple vs. Google: the war over third-party cookies.” He argues, counterintuitively, for less Internet privacy because he thinks it’s ultimately against the best interest of the public. You can read his full article by clicking here. The rest of my post below offers point-by-point rebuttals against some of what he wrote:

 “There is a new front in the titanic war between Google and Apple for control of the Internet: browser privacy”

  • Excellent. When companies fight over privacy, the ultimate winners are the consumers. It would be horrible if companies colluded together to diminish privacy or if they simply didn’t care. If companies want to fight over privacy controls, then may the best “man” win! No doubt consumers will overwhelmingly support the company that wants to increase their privacy versus the one that wants to decrease it.

“Google had devised a clever means to “trick” Apple’s mobile Safari browser into allowing the installation of third-party cookies.”

  • I wouldn’t describe an unethical, legally reprehensible, and deliberate circumvention of privacy settings on Apple’s web browser as “clever”. Are you kidding me? I’m sure the people who filed a class-action lawsuit against Google for violating their privacy and security settings would disagree with you.

That sounds—and is—shady, but iPhone users may feel better about it when they learn that third-party cookie installation is standard on the browsers you’ve been using on your computer for years.”

  • Yeah, so? What’s your point? Just because something negative and harmful was accepted before doesn’t mean it should be permissible forever. Not too long ago, everybody used to smoke everywhere until we learned about the dangers of second-hand smoking. As people catch on and new discovers are made, there will be a progression. That’s why browsers now block uninvited third-party intruders from latching on to your browser like a parasite. That’s also why we are starting to develop Do Not Track buttons for all browsers.

“The option to turn them off has long existed, but this is one of these default settings that almost nobody uses in practice.”

  • The setting to turn off tracking might have technically existed buried somewhere deep into the browser – but research has shown that people often do not change default settings on their browsers. It’s not because they don’t want more privacy, it’s because they don’t know better. Google knows this all too well. The default settings for all browsers should be at maximum security and privacy – if anybody wants to then expose themselves to tracking, be my guest. Giving those who don’t know better a helping hand by protecting them from tracking is the ethical and correct thing to do

“The main use of third-party cookies is targeted advertising”

  • Right, and there are over 800 companies who spy on you all over the Internet. Some of these companies sole business purpose is to track you for all sorts of reasons, not just for advertising. With increasing rates of identity theft and the mass amount of information these companies are harvesting of us it’s getting disturbing and alarming. We don’t even know what exactly they know about us and what they are doing with that information. We don’t know how long they hang on to our personal data or how exactly it was obtained. There is so much secrecy and mystery to how these trackers function, and this is intolerable.

“What Apple did with Safari was flip the default—assuming that users did not want third-party cookies”

  • No. Wrong! Apple did not flip the default, Google did! Google assumed that Apple users would actually prefer to be tracked and then deliberately bypassed their browser security without their knowledge. And, by the way, John Battelle founded the online advertising network Federated Media Publishing – obviously he supports Google.

“Google as a privacy-invader sometimes come across as a bit churlish and short-sighted, as if I were to announce with great fanfare my discovery that happy-hour specials are just another money-making plot from the bar industry.”

  • The public has a right to know about every privacy violation by Google. In addition, it never hurts to remind people that Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising. You are not Google’s customer, you’re Google’s product. The advertisers will always be number one priority to Google and this means that what it best for Internet users is always in the background.

“Google is not a charity, but it has built a remarkably successful company by giving products away for free.”

  • Wrong. Google’s products and services are not “free” – far from it. We don’t pay with dollars, we pay with our privacy. Google harvests our personal data and then sells it for huge profits. And we’re being gouged by Google! The trade-off is not fair. Google likes to fool people into thinking that they get to use their services for “free” so that they let their guard down. Google even falsely advertises its Google Apps for Education service as a charity – but it isn’t. Students have to pay the ultimate price.

“More efficient advertising creates incentives for firms to expend more resources on improving the real quality of their services.”

  • Sure – but that doesn’t mean advertisers need to know my name, address, and the name of my best friend’s dog to improve their services. I’m not convinced that collecting more personal data of us and watching our every move improves services. No thank you!

“Right now big advertisers are wasting an awful lot of money… In a future of ubiquitous ad targeting, Ford and Geico will stop wasting marketing money on me”

  • I wouldn’t want to live in that future. Who wants to live in a world where the only things you see, experience, and hear is stuff some company thinks you should see, experience, and hear? This to me is censorship. I have bought many products from companies whose ads really caught my attention – and it’s not because I always needed or wanted their stuff. Censorship leads to people living in their own little world and it discourages new discovery. Also, the person I am today and my lifestyle of today might not be the same five years from now. Why would I want ads for a lifestyle that is now part of my past? What worries me is that personalization will result in companies telling you who you are by reaffirming your identity with what you see, experience, and hear. I actually don’t respond well to so-called “personalized” ads. Personalized ads are creepy and annoying. It’s like giving that person at school, who has a crush on you, a simple smile and then all of sudden they won’t stop following you around everywhere and they keep asking you out for a date. Um…no thanks and get lost.

“And some of those ad savings will allow Ford and Geico to offer cheaper products”

  • That’s a bit of a stretch

“If the privacy benefits as such were the big draw, we’d expect to see more evidence of users opting-in to these settings.”

  • No, people should opt-out of more security and privacy. If Google services are so great and if privacy is so overrated, then Google should convince people to lower their privacy settings of their own volition (and not deliberately bypassed by Google). I sure wanna hear that sales pitch. Creepy mutated ads don’t work, they turn people off. There are many ways of figuring out your audience and improving the effectiveness of ad campaigns – this does not require we sell our souls to these advertising companies to achieve this.
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The New Google Privacy Policy Is: You Have No Privacy

 One of the most talked about days since late January, when Google announced to the world that it will be changing its privacy policies, is finally here for some and will soon arrive within a few hours for others. This much dreaded day has really made people think more seriously about their privacy on the Internet and the steps they need to take to protect it.

I have read through countless news articles over the last several weeks and I can say that I have definitely learned a lot. If there is anything good that came out of Google’s lack of respect for their users’ privacy, it certainly is the fact that it woke more people up from their blissful slumber – myself included. I’ve always had this romantic image of Google as being that cool company that builds brilliant products for us to enjoy. For some reason, I always thought Google was different, that Google had a culture that subverted the ways things had always been done. I always thought Google was on our side.

But, I was thinking foolishly. I’ve found out that Google is like any other company and, in some cases, even worse. Its number one priority is raking in the tens of billions of dollars it earns yearly by selling our personal data to advertisers. There have been many voices that shouted and demanded to be heard these past several weeks. They demanded Google to listen to their concerns and stop its harvesting of our personal information. In response, all Google has done was give use disingenuous statements and lies – come to think of it, it seems like Google actually became even more smug and resolute about their plans.

They refused to hear our pleas and refused to give their loyal users the respect they deserve. Nope! Instead, Google sneered and spat in our faces. They couldn’t care less about their users – because for a company that makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising, the average Google user will always, always come in second. The advertisers come in first. You are not Google’s customer, you are Google’s product!

Yet, it is the average user who made little ol’ Google the global juggernaut it has grown up to become! We are the ones who watched your videos in the billions, we are the ones who entrusted our queries by plugging them into your search engine, we are the ones who flocked to your email service to chat with our friends, we are the ones who spent hours building you up! Now, how did Google repay us? By ignoring us! By vowing to change its privacy policies to create a new more intrusive one that will combine all our personal data across all of Google services so that Google can create “the faceless web”!

Well, Google, we’re not gonna take it anymore! It’s over! You have fallen in the hearts and minds of millions of your users who once placed you on a pedestal – but not anymore.  No more! And don’t you dare think that we’ll return, you already took us for granted. You’ve fooled us once, you won’t fool us twice.

The past couple of days I have seen traffic on my site skyrocket like never before. People are obviously concerned and are hungry for knowledge. They desperately want to know how they can better protect themselves. I’m glad I can be a very small part of the Internet revolution as more and more people demand greater online privacy protections. One person here and one person there might not stand a chance against Google – but, collectively, we have strength in numbers. Google doesn’t stand a chance! Google gains and retains power by promoting ignorance, by keeping the masses in a pacified state. However, consumer advocacy groups and individual privacy protection activists gain and retain power by spreading knowledge! We tackle the juggernaut head-on by taking the opposite approach.

So, Google can continue on its stubborn destructive path, but we won’t be silenced. The fight will continue on. It’s still full steam ahead for us too and we’re willing to fight toe-to-toe. March 1 might already be here or soon to arrive, but our work does not stop here. It’s only the beginning. We can’t be complacent with our privacy. We can’t just throw ours arms upwards in frustration and say “I’m done! It’s futile to resist! I’m tired!”. That’s exactly what Google wants you to do. They think people will eventually, at the very least, forget if not forgive too.

But we need to send back a message to Google, in no uncertain terms, that we will neither forgive nor forget. No way! Personally, I will continue keeping an eye on Google and giving you as much information as I can gather so that you can know more about this company.

In the meantime, we can all take the necessary steps to limit the damage to our privacy by deleting our search history on all Google services. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), illustrates how you can do this – click here

I highly recommend you disable third-party cookies on your web browser. If you follow the links on EFF’s website, you will find an illustration on how to do that too. Make sure you to double-check your browser’s security and privacy settings and increase it to its maximum level.

Uninstall Google’s chrome browser and toolbar – don’t ask the fox to watch your henhouse.

For added security use an anti-tracking add-on tool for your browser. Google owns many tracking devices which track your movement all over the web on literally millions of pages. So you’re not just vulnerable on Google owned websites, but on all websites that Google has a tracker on. An anti-tracking tool will prevent Google from spying on you. I wrote about this before – click here

Finally, share privacy and security knowledge with your loved ones. Make sure they are protected too. Also, keep the fight alive by urging your representatives in government to pass stringent and comprehensive online privacy laws to protect you. Americans have barely any laws to protect them – but there is now an initiative by the White House to protect your privacy. This initiative will only become successful if Google doesn’t strip it of meaningful protections. Americans, get your voices heard on this one.

For more information:

NPR, “Google to ramp up online tracking” – click here

NPR, “Google and privacy: is it time to give up?” – click here

NPR, “Protecting your privacy amid Google privacy changes” – click here

Forbes, “Will Google delay its new privacy policy?” – click here

CNN, “How to prepare for Google’s privacy changes” – click here

Wikipedia, a full list of Google products – click here

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A List Of Major Developments Since Google Announced Its New Privacy Policy

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

Image via Wikipedia

Jan. 24: Google announces a plan to link user data across its email, video, social-networking and other services. The company says the move will simplify its privacy policy, improve the user experience and help advertisers find customers more easily, especially on mobile devices. Critics raise privacy concerns. The plan is to take effect March 1.

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 22: 36 US Attorneys General send a letter to Google expressing deep concern about their new privacy policy. They said that Google’s new privacy policy will expose users to violations of their rights and privacy. They urged Google to give users an opt-out option.

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 26: The Chairman of the US Federal Trade Commission says that Google is giving its users a “binary and somewhat brutal choice” with their new privacy policy.

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.”

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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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Has Google Neglected To Follow Through On The Promises In Its Compliance Report With The FTC?

 According to a Google compliance report, which was obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) through a Freedom of Information Act request, Google promised it would do a number of things to notify users of the change to its privacy policies and terms of service.

This self-assessed report was submitted to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on late January. Google has to regularly submit these reports to show how they are respecting the privacy of its users because they agreed to a consent order with the FTC after Google admitted it violated the privacy of it users when it launched its social networking tool called Buzz in 2010. Google also had to pay out millions and is now being more closely watched by the federal agency for 20 years.

In its first compliance report, Google claims it has gone through “exceptional lengths” to notify users of the changes to its privacy policies. They claim that their efforts to notify users include 5 elements, including this one:

“Google will run a homepage promotion on Google.com (and other top-level domains) for five days from the launch date. The text will not be dismissible”

Um…I don’t know about you, but I have yet to see this happen. It’s now Sunday, February 26th, 2012 and Google will launch their new privacy policy on March 1st. Where are the homepage promotions, Google?

Do you guys see it or not? I’m wondering if it could just be me. Ha-ha, but I doubt it because Google is known for not following through on things properly or not at all.

In that same report, Google said,

“An email will be sent to every Google Account holder, except those associated with enterprise (Google Apps) customers. A separate email will be sent to the registered administrators of Google Apps domains, so that they notify their users as they see fit.”

But Google totally screwed this one up. It ended up sending emails to people who don’t have Google accounts. Many were angry that Google knew about their email address even though they have never done business with the company. I have received that same Google email and I’m not connected with Google at all and I’m not alone. Google later called it a “glitch”, but it left people even more suspicious. I wrote more about it in another post – click here

I sure don’t want a company like Google harvesting even more personal data about me when it has these so-called glitches. Who knows where your data can accidentally end up and who gets to see it!? Identity fraud is inevitable if Google left to handle your personal data.

Google has a big problem with not only complying with the FTC’s consent order, as argued by EPIC and many other groups, but it also has a problem with executing plans it outlined in its own self-assessed report!

Google should not be given credit for taking “exceptional lengths” to notify users when it’s so clumsy and negligent.

You can read Google’s full compliance report - click here

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