Ways Google keeps tab on your web activity

You Have a Google+ Account

Guess what? You’re on Google+! Last year, Google started providing Google+ accounts for anyone who signed up for a Google Account. So, if you thought you were just signing up for a new Gmail account, think again. You also got an account on Google’s social network, which helped the search giant claim higher usage numbers as it competes with social network behemoth Facebook.

Google Dashboard

In late 2009, Google unveiled the Dashboard, which provides a complete overview of all your activity across Google. Given that Google is being transparent here, it’s not so much creepy as it is eye-opening. Dashboard has information on everything from how many emails you’ve sent and what you’ve searched for (while signed in) to purchases made from Google Wallet and videos watched on YouTube. It can be a nice little trip down memory lane, but also a reminder that the Internet never forgets.

Location Data

One of the sections on Google Dashboard is Location Data, which tracks your activity around the globe on Google Maps, Google Now, or other location-based Google services when you’re signed in on the PC or a mobile gadget. You can see “Visited Places” as well as a breakdown of how you spend your time – home, work, and out – and how many miles you’ve traveled in a given time period. You can opt out of location tracking, but back in 2011, two Michigan women sued Google over the location-tracking technology included within Android. They claimed that Google collects location information “covertly, surreptitiously and in violations of law.” The case was eventually transferred to California district court, and is still ongoing. Most recently, the judge agreed to consider Google’s motion to dismiss. That didn’t stop the introduction of Google Now, which can learn your schedule and preferences to serve up reminders and alerts.

Gmail Scanning

For almost a decade, Gmail has displayed ads alongside your emails that often relate to the discussions you are having within your private messages. This happens thanks to automatic scans of your email content. It’s done via algorithm; no Google employee actually reads your messages. The practice, however, has prompted a number of lawsuits, which were combined into one large class-action suit in California district court. The plaintiffs claim that Google violates wiretapping laws with its Gmail-scanning technique. Google denied it and asked the court to dismiss the wiretapping bit, but the judge rejected that request in late September, forcing Google to face those charges.

Chrome Data Storage Insecurities

PCMag’s SecurityWatch recently reported on a study from Identity Finder, which found that Chrome keeps local copies of your sensitive personal data in databases that aren’t secured at all. We suggest that any time you complete a transaction involving sensitive personal data, you delete your recent browsing history.

Privacy Policy

On March 2, 2012, Google implemented a new privacy policy. The revamp consolidated 70 or so privacy policies across Google’s products down to one. But with this change, Google also switched to one profile for users across all services rather than separate logins for offerings like YouTube, Search, and Blogger. While some might view this to be a more convenient way to navigate Google’s products, data regulation officials in the EU have been hounding Google to make changes to this policy for over a year. Most recently, officials moved to impose sanctions against Google for the new policy.

Google Glass Case of Emotion

This is not yet a reality, but might provide a hint at what future privacy-related headlines will involve. It was revealed in August that Google filed a patent for a “gaze tracking system” that obliquely refers to Google Glass. The patent at least appears to set the stage for a bold new way to gather information about what you look at, and even how you feel about what you look at.

(article by C.Albanesius)


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