Privacy is Dead. Google and Facebook know everything about YOU!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Privacy is Dead. Google and Facebook know everything about YOU!

Privacy is not about data – it's about people. Privacy is not about secrecy, it is not about hiding information and is not a technology problem - Privacy is a social problem. Privacy is concerned with the proper handling of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and respecting the dignity of the individual to whom the information refers. Think you have any privacy when it comes to a social networking site? Think again. Just take a look at who has invested in the site and open your eyes.

The Terrible Truth About Facebook's Privacy

“Almost all big US Internet companies such as Facebook, Google, and Yahoo allow the CIA to access user data via a specially designed interface. Facebook is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. With the storing of user generated information on Facebook, the US intelligence services and government have access to personal data of millions of people globally.” -Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder

Google and other search engines track what users search; over time, the data collected can be pretty revealing. For the most part, privacy policies are only as good as the lawyers backing them and "law of the land" can trump anything. And all of that adds up to worrisome prospects for all of us.

We've known for a while that Google was consolidating its privacy policies into one main one and today 1st of March 2012 is the day that this goes into effect. The new privacy policy gives Google the ability to monitor activity across all of its services including Google Docs, Gmail, YouTube, and others. They'll monitor each individual user through Google account log-ins.

The way Google presents it is that it will allow the company to make its products better and more personally relevant to the user. "In short, we can treat you as a single user across all our products," said a Google spokesperson.

The whole thing has blown up in the media since Google first announced the changes. I haven't heard too many people talking about it in casual conversation, but there's no question that some are concerned, though I suspect the majority clicked to "dismiss" the little notification that Google has been showing users with little thought or concern. People have, however, been pretty vocal about it on Twitter.

Consider using alternatives to Google that are pro-privacy and ensure users’ searches are encrypted by concealing IP address from search query.

The video speech below, by privacy expert Steven Rambam gives deep insight into the possibilities of privacy invasion through tools that are freely available on the internet. He gives examples of Facebook, MySpace, blogs, etc. and also shows how companies like Google or even Domino's Pizza are using data-mining to get a profile of their customers.

One of his best quotes is when he talks about the possibilities that mobile phones offer for data collection: "The iPhone uses both, GPS and Skyhook - you can't hide -- the only way to hide from this is to take out the battery -- oh, wait a second ... you can't take the battery out of an iPhone!" [1:12:35]

The whole documentary is quite long - around 3 hours - but if you care just a little bit about your privacy, it is worth every minute!

Google is the go-to provider of many things online-search, email, maps, and more. But have you ever stopped to consider all of the information you’re sharing with Google? Read on, and find out all of the dirt that Google has on you.
1. What you’re searching for: Google is used by millions of people worldwide-and they know what every user is searching for, even if it’s not personally identifiable.

2. The web pages you visit: Google AdSense is used by many web pages for online advertising, and Google’s cookies record your visits to web pages with their ad program on them.

3. The blogs you read: If you use Google Reader, Google knows the blogs you subscribe to. Even if you’re not on Google Reader, Google knows all of the Blogger pages you visit.

4. Your financial information: Users of AdSense and/or Google Checkout share financial information, addresses, and other personal information with Google.

5. The strength and popularity of your website or blog: For users of Google Analytics, Google knows what sites you control, how they are doing, and their trends.

6. Who and what you’re emailing: GMail users, and those who send mail to GMail users share a variety of personal and business information with Google.

7. What’s on your PC: If you’re using Google Desktop, Google knows everything that you keep on your computer.

8. Your research paper, bills, upcoming blog post, etc.: Docs and Spreadsheets are great web-based office tools, but using them means exposing the information in your documents to Google.

9. Your schedule: Google Calendar opens your personal and business schedule up to the prying eyes of Google.

10. Your social network and interests: Google indexes sites like Orkut, Facebook, and Digg, and as such, has access to information about what you’re interested in online.

11. When you’re going to get the flu: Google can track flu related searches to find out where and when the flu happens.

12. Where you and your friends are: Using Google Latitude, cell phone users can share their location with others. Even if you’re not using Latitude, Google Maps for mobile can approximate your location.

13. What you’re watching on YouTube: Google owns YouTube, and knows about all the dirty videos you’ve been watching.

14. What and where you study: Google Books, Scholar, and University Search are tools that can reveal your academic life online.

15. Everything you’re looking at online: Users of the browser Google Chrome allow Google to see all of the web pages they are visiting.

16. Your problems: Asking a question or giving an answer on Google Answers will reveal your problems and personal life to Google.

17. Your medical issues: Do you use Google Health? If so, you’re sharing your entire medical history with Google.

18. Your home address: Use Google Maps, AdSense, or Checkout, and there’s a good chance Google has your home address.

19. Mobile number: On SMS, Google Mobile, and Gmail, you can reveal your mobile number to Google.

20. How your voice sounds: Using Google Talk will share the sound of your voice with Google.

21. What you, your friends and family look like and do: With the photo editor Picasa, you’re revealing your photographs, friends, and moments to Google.

22. Everything you do online: Google Secure Access encrypts your data, so everything you’re doing online for school or work is recordable.

23. What you want to buy and have bought: Product search and Catalog search can reveal what you’re buying and shopping for.

24. What your business is about: Keywords and purchasing patterns on Adwords share information about your business with Google.

25. What’s important to you: If you’ve set up Google Alerts, Google knows all of the things that are most important for you to know about online.

Consider using alternatives to Google that are pro-privacy and ensure users’ searches are encrypted by concealing IP address from search query.

But what if no data were collected to begin with? Consider using alternatives to Google

However, before continuing, let me offer this caveat: the reason so many of people almost exclusively use Google Apps for nearly every facet of online activity is because Google makes really good apps. That said, some of these alternatives might not be on par with, say, Gmail or Google+, so make a measured decision on what you need from these types of services and what features you can do without.

While you can turn off your Web History as well as use Google’s own encrypted search, you could still always do one better by simply not using Google search directly (especially until the full application of the new Privacy Policy is witnessed and understood).

With Scroogle down for the moment, the two viable not-Google contenders to take its place are DuckDuckGo and Gibiru. Both sites are pro-privacy and ensure users’ searches are encrypted by concealing your IP address from your search query. With either of these two search tools, your results will be the same as the basic results you get from Google.

Starting Page also claim to serve as a sort of middle-man between you and Google that keeps no records or data on their own at all. So even if they were subpoenaed, they'd have none of your search data to hand over. And all Google knows is someone made a search from Starting Page, but there's no way for them to know whose searches are whose. Starting Page even has a Firefox plugin that uses HTTPS for the browser search bar.

While you don't have to totally break free, a little less Google in your life might do you some good! Discover Google alternatives that should help you shake off that feeling that Google completely owns your life.

Privacy is Dead - Anonymous

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