What should be known is the amount of information that is collected about you. Most people are oblivious as to the amount of data being collected, whether they are online or just going about their lives. In this post, I am going to try and touch on a few areas.
- Ad Settings – https://www.google.com/ads/preferences/
- Search History – https://history.google.com/
- Security Settings – https://security.google.com/settings/security/permissions
- Location history – https://maps.google.com/locationhistory
- Youtube watch History – https://www.youtube.com/feed/history
- Youtube search History – https://www.youtube.com/feed/history/search_history
- Devices connected – https://security.google.com/settings/security/activity
Now, this is not all of the tracking that google performs on each person. It is only the main tracking areas. What interested me the most was that Google tracked my location, via my mobile device, and I could check out each day and see where I was on that day. Again, this is all keyed into us logging into the google account that we created with our devices. However, google does collect information on us regardless if we are logged into Google.
So what does Google do with all this information? All this information that Google collects is called Metadata! Google uses it to direct ads that we might be interested in and buy from. So if we visit a few car dealerships, the next time we do a Google search, a few car ads will be added. It works the same for websites, since I made a purchase for a client from Dell, I see ads about Dell equipment. Google also uses it to provide us with more intelligent search results.
Again, I have found Google to be very open on what data they collect. Since Google is an American based company, it does have to follow certain laws or rules. With that said, the Metadata that they do collect could be harmful if it is in the wrong hands. We must remember that Windows, Apple, Facebook, and other online companies have similar Metadata collection programs.
The only way that we can stop Metadata collection about ourselves is to completely get rid of all of our data devices. Get rid of our TVs, Cell phones, Computers, Appliances, and Cars. Even if we were able to do that, we would still be tracked with our purchases for groceries or goods. Realistically, we cannot escape some kind of collection of data about our lives.
What we can do is take ownership of this data. All of the major companies allow you to manage your data and what is shared. In all of the links that I have provided, Google allows you to decide what to do with the data. You can even download a copy for your own use (https://www.google.com/takeout). As well, make sure that your Google (or other) account is protected with a secure password to prevent any unauthorized access to this data.
We must also be careful with apps that we install on our devices. Pay attention to the permissions you give such apps. When we give an app access to where we have been or what we look at online, we give the creators of this app access to this information as well.
One such app that I had tried was called News360. I thought it was a great news app, as it learned what news articles I looked up and offered me. What had bothered me, was that the app had requested access to my GPS, stating it needed it to offer me local news stories. At first thought, it seemed reasonable. However, after some thought, it could have just prompted me for my location. I realized that I just gave this app permission to track me. I dug further into this company and found that they were a Russian based company. The founder’s interest was in data mining. So, inadvertently I had given a Russian company complete access to my location data and browsing data for a week.
Checking into the News 360 app on google, to list the permissions the app had was:
- Photos, Media, Files – It had access to read modify or delete the contents of usb storage
- Microphone – has the ability to record audio from the device
- Wifi – has the ability to look at the wireless connections on my device
- Other – receive data from the Internet, use accounts on my device, view my network connections, complete full network access, prevent the device from sleeping
After discovering the access that News360 had, I have since removed it from all of my devices. As well, that it was a Russian based company, really bothered me because Russia’s policies have not always been friendly with North America.
We cannot take for granted the information that we share with the world. Some thought needs to be put into how we share this information. We need to be aware, that as much as there are those who want to make our life easier, that there are also those who would use this same information to harm us.
Head Geek – Geek Translation