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Posted on March 2, 2017

Google Has You in Their Sights, Make No Mistake

Google faces new scrutiny of how it handles users’ browsing habits, search history and email data, as regulators in the US and the EU take a closer look at recent policy changes Google made in order to bolster the creation of more-robust user profiles and better sell advertising. This past December, user privacy advocates in the US filed a complaint with the FTC, and for good reason.

It Sounded Good at First…

Last June, Alphabet Inc.’s Google requested users acquiesce to a new policy that, at first blush,  would allow them to more easily see—and ostensibly delete—the information Google holds about them. But the change also enabled Google to combine users’ browsing data from third-party websites with the individuals’ Google search and email data.

Consumer privacy advocates have been critical of Google’s $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick in 2007, which would allow them to collect data from users’ search histories with their browsing history, and “result in the creation of ‘super-profiles’ ” of users, the New York State Consumer Protection Board said at the time.

Google’s Nefarious History

In case you’ve put it out of your mind, it’s sensible to recall that, in response to privacy concerns back in December 2009, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated (to howls of incredulity across the media): “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines—including Google—do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.”

What Can We Do?

Most web users don’t even realize Google is so insidious about hoarding their data. If you’re (understandably) concerned about your privacy, you can opt out of Google’s tracking cookies. You can avoid using Google’s products, including Gmail (though if you do use Gmail, be aware of phishing scams; good advice regardless.)

Google owns so much of our lives. Be aware, however, that you are the product when you opt in. Everything is potentially searchable and monetizable, including what you’ve published and shared using Google Drive. Research options: utilize Tor, Duck Duck Go, and third-party software services that don’t turn you into a marketing target.