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Google Privacy

Blog Post 3: Privacy

In the United States, 85% of our citizens are connected to the internet. Almost every one of them utilizes a search engine where Google owns a whopping 87% market share. Google has roughly 250 million users in the U.S. and over a billion worldwide. There are a staggering 7 billion searches on Google every day. This blog post is on the privacy statement of Google and how many people are unaware of just how comprehensive and invasive Google is when collecting and disseminating information from its customers. I don’t think this is unique to Google in the digital world, but I do think it would be shocking to most people to find out how far Google goes to harvest, use and many times spread information about its users.

Google’s privacy policy is massive, so it is hard to cover all aspects of the document. At the beginning, Google states that they understand that users are trusting them with information. They acknowledge that it is a big responsibility and work hard to protect information and put the user in control. The last part of this statement is interesting.  Although it seems impossible to find the exact number, the large majority of google product users do not change the standard privacy settings on their account. Because the default settings allow Google full access to all of the user’s information, Google is getting 100% of the data they want from most of their customers. Here is just an example of the information Google collects from its one billion users:

  • Personal info: name, password, phone number, and many times payment information.
  • Content created, uploaded or received from others.
  • Emails, photos and videos saved, documents and spreadsheets you create and any comments you make on their services like YouTube.
  • Info about your computer, phone, browser, IP addresses, system activity.
  • Terms you search
  • Videos you watch
  • Views and interactions with content and ads
  • Any voice info when you use audio features
  • Purchase activity
  • All people you communicate with or share content
  • Activity on third party sites
  • Browsing history
  • Location information

They also collect information about you from sources such as websites and articles and displays those results when users search your name.

Google says they use this data to provide and improve their services. To develop new services and to provide personalized services, including content and ads. They will also sell your information to advertisers. They can share information that personally identifies you unless you tell them to mask your identity. The content masking requirements are very complex and require review and knowledge of privacy law.

It is uncomfortable knowing what information Google tracks and stores on its users. Possessing emails and documents seems like a violation of personal rights.  I think they should have to get specific approval in advance before being allowed to store and use this information for any purpose. I feel strongly about this because of a New York Times article we read on how other companies like Facebook have inappropriately used this data to manipulate voters and other unscrupulous activity. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/us/politics/mark-zuckerberg-testimony.html

 

Because of my personal discomfort with Google’s policy, I wanted to explore the feelings of other people that use Google.  I thought it would be interesting to get a perspective of someone outside of my peer group, so I decided to interview a 55-year-old business owner for his thoughts. I will call him Mr X.

Interview with business leader about Google privacy policy (transcript below)

Me: I want to ask you about your internet usage and record our conversation, would that be OK?

Mr X: Yes, that’s fine.

Me: Do you use Google as your primary search engine?

Mr X: Yes, I primarly use Google for my searches. I have tried others but seem to get the best results with Google.

Me: Did you know that Google compiles your search data and video views, can identify you by your devices and IP addresses and then creates a profile of you which they sell to other companies to send you advertisements?

Mr X: Its funny you mention that. Lately I have noticed that I will Google a product and it will show up on a completely different platform which I find crazy.  For example, I was just looking at TaylorMade golf clubs through a google search and then after opening my Facebook app, a TaylorMade advertisement was front and center on my page. So to answer your question, I just started realizing what was happening.

Me: Do you actively use Google’s email platform Gmail or other products like Google docs?

Mr X: Gmail is my email service outside of my work email program.  I primarily use my work email but do use Gmail a few times per day.  I rarely use Google docs.

Me: Are you aware that Google keeps all of your emails and any documents you create? Did you know that they will search and optimize those things items for more data to add to your profile? How do you feel about that?

Mr X: I was not aware of that they had all of my emails and documents. I think I will do what I can to protect this information going forward. Some of this just seems like they are going too far and violating my privacy.

Me: Thank you

 

 

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