How Google Tracks You And What Alphabet Knows About Us

How Google Tracks You And What Alphabet Knows About Us

As is known, Google earns the most money from advertising revenue. This leads to calling advertising Google’s core business. But there are also good arguments that tracking is Google’s secret core business. No other company knows almost as much about us as Google.

How Google Tracks You

Anyone who has dealt with the GDR even superficially will know that after the fall of the Berlin Wall came the day when everyone was allowed to view his files at the Stasi. This comparison, which is often used, has a clear problem with Google. After all, we all use these services voluntarily. But even if we want to do without Google, we always come back to Google. However, not everyone is aware of how much and how much Google collects data about us. Although I have been using Google myself for years, I have not been aware of this for a long time. Actually, this should not be the case, because that is why the comparison with the GDR is very difficult:

We can download all of our data that Google collects about us at any time. Anyone who has done this before will surely be surprised. For me it was 8 GB full of personal data, whereabouts, photos, app data, etc. etc. In contrast to the Stasi, we should not scold the system or be disappointed by those close to us who betrayed us. First of all, I was surprised that Google is still generally accepted despite this terrifying amount of data. In the second step, I was amazed at myself, how gullible and naive I was with Google. Or rather how gullible and naive I let Google deal with me.

The website, where you can view your personal data collection, can be found under the technically cold name Google Takeout. A name that triggers in me the idea of ​​being a product for Google. Takeout – that’s what English-speaking countries say about the food they want to take away – mostly fast food.

Google – The Tracking Company

Everyone knows that Google is no longer the search engine that the company started as Google Inc. The company is now called Alphabet Inc. and, as a global tech company, is at work in almost all areas that affect software and hardware in general: algorithms, apps, its own operating systems, artificial intelligence and various types of computer devices make up all of these areas that Google makes money with.

The red ribbon that connects all of these areas still has to do with the search engine and the actual core business of Google. There could be good reasons that the core business is advertising. If you look at Google’s balance sheets, advertising revenue comes first. These have not only increased in absolute terms but also relative to other earnings and accounted for over 70% of Google’s earnings in 2018.

The User As A Tailor-Made Product For Companies

Still, I would argue that Google’s core business is tracking and collecting all of our data. It takes place on all devices, all applications and all apps that are common and common. In some cases we have the choice to turn this tracking off, but in some cases we don’t. Despite increased security concerns and regulation by lawmakers, tracking is very discreet and is set by default. It is often sold in such a way that Google sells us customized advertising. But it’s the other way around and tracking makes this possible. It allows Google to put us in promotional categories and so we are tailor-made to sell to companies.

Google also uses the collected data to develop all products. Google works so well because nobody knows better how a user behaves and which functions he needs. In countless data, Google can find the optimal solution for UI, UX, the search engine algorithms, etc. If you do not want this, you are often forced to use Google.

Why It Is Difficult To Escape Tracking

There are alternatives to many Google products that are open source or that collect less data than Google. In theory, it is always easy to switch to these, but in practice we are still forced to use Google through work, school, clubs, etc. But there is a completely different component that I think is far worse.

A data analyst from Pennsylvania University found that Google tracks us on over 80% of the websites. Reference for this number is the top 1 million websites listed on Amazon’s Alexa. This tracking was done through cookies from third parties and loading JavaScript versions that serve the tracking. Around 20% of the websites were susceptible to NSA espionage methods at the time. If a page also uses Google Analytics, Google can learn a lot more about you. So you don’t even have to use Google yourself to be tracked. If your browser saves cookies, for example, Google still has the option of tracking your search history and user behavior.

Google Analytics doesn’t allow its customers to access PII (Personally Identifiable Information) data, but the sheer amount of data is still worrying.

The data madness continues. All Google devices and applications store part of your data:

  • Google search engine: all your searches
  • Gmail: contacts, emails
  • Google Account: your browser history and data that you leave behind with applications and websites where you are logged in with your account
  • Google Calendar: your appointments
  • Google Drive: all the data you save on it
  • … (a similar pattern also emerges with the many other services from Google)

Especially if you use Android, Google stores your data extensively. What you can do about it, I summarized for you last week in this article.

Privacy and Data Protection – A Great Asset In Itself

Of course, I don’t want to say with this article that Google is constantly and constantly monitoring you. Not every small employee at Google has the opportunity to easily access your data. Here is the well-known black box problem, where no one can make definitive statements. Google has largely lost a good reputation in public, that is also clear. However, it can never be completely ruled out that data will fall into the wrong hands and technically something of this kind is always possible.

So whether someone has something to hide personally or not, it should be said that privacy and data protection are too high goods to be thrown overboard for convenience. The Snowden Leaks 2013 showed that this is at stake. A year later it was also announced that there was a strange cooperation between NSA and Google. Officially, it was supposed to be about security, but of course the public is not aware of exactly how the meeting looked and what was negotiated.

Update:

After emerging legal pressure, Google finally decided to introduce at least a time limit for storing a lot of usage data. This only affects new accounts for the time being, a corresponding option will soon be introduced for existing accounts. You can read more here.

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