How to See Exactly Who Google Thinks You Are — And Then Turn off Their Tracking
Recently privacy has become a hot topic in the tech industry. Yet in a recent study, it was found that around 75% of Facebook users in the US are unaware of the fact that the social network tracks and records a list of their interests in order to target advertising.
WHO TRACKS YOU
Many companies try to track you, but the juggernauts in tracking you are Facebook and Google. Think of the app that you use most frequently, there is a significant chance that either Facebook or Google own the app. Both of these companies have become deeply embedded in our lives.
Have you ever wondered how Google and Facebook are generating profits even after offering their app services for free? So how do they earn their profits..?
At their core, Google and Facebook are advertising companies — ads contribute more than 80 percent of their revenues.
So what will make an ad company attractive to the advertisers?
“ad clicks…” Advertisers love the company which helps them boost their sales. So advertisement companies started showing ads in a patterned manner rather than showing irrelevant ads. This was possible only by tracking users and creating a profile on them. So gradually we became the product of these companies even without our approval.
One may expect Facebook to have a profile on you, based on your actions within Facebook, but Facebook goes one step above our expectation. It tracks you across the web, on various other websites through the social plugins(the like and share button you see in almost every website).
Google tracks you easily by the huge google ecosystem deeply embedded in our life. Google knows what you are thinking (chrome, google assistant, google search), where you are headed to (Maps), even the mood you are in (android).
Now we know that companies do track you, but how much do they know , let’s find out.
- Where you have been: click here to see your timeline
- Everything you have searched (and deleted): click here to know how much of your web activities have been tracked by Google.
- All the apps you use: click here
- All of your YouTube history: click here
Google keeps all your calendar activities, email, notes, files in drive and photos stored, even after you have deleted them. So practically, Google knows everything that needs to be known about your digital life.
Google has created an advertisement profile for you based on the information it has collected, click here to see your ad profile.
To download all your information gathered by Google, click here. (Data package from drive and photos are huge in size, because of the files you have uploaded to them).
I have deleted my Facebook account, so I could not see up to what extent Facebook was successful in tracking me across the web. But many articles (such as this) are available on the web regarding how much Facebook invades your privacy. To download the data collected by Facebook, click here. You will be surprised at how much it knows about you.
What can you do about it?
You do have the option to ask Google to stop tracking your web and other activities. Go to this link and pause everything (but if you pause web and voice tracking then you can’t use google assistant).
Next step is to stop using the Google search engine. I know you feel it is next to impossible, but it has been 6 months since I have stopped using Google search and I do not miss google, 9 out of 10 times. So how am I still living in this world? I started using Startpage search engine, it shows search results from Google, but it doesn’t let Google know who searched. Google only sees Startpage searching for you. So you get what you want without sacrificing your privacy.
Next backbone of Google in data collection is Chrome, which is the most popular browser in both android and windows. Google Chrome is based on the open source project Chromium. So you can use other chromium based browsers such as brave(Android, iOS, Windows) or kiwi(Android). Both very good browsers. Mozilla Firefox(Android, iOS, Windows) is also a good privacy focused browser. I use Kiwi in Android and Firefox in Windows.
Google Maps is another backbone of Google, which allows Google to collect tones of data on you, I am yet to find a good alternative, suggestions are welcome.
I kicked google keep out of life and started using Standard notes, which is an open source, end to end encrypted app. Android, iOS, Windows, web versions are available. So you can log in any device of yours.
I replaced Evernote with a privacy-friendly end to end encrypted, open source, Joplin. Windows, iOS, Linux, Android apps are available. But the web version is still not available. It has a good developing community.
All these suggestions may look like insane ones, but i don’t miss chrome or Keep or Evernote or Google search.
All these suggestions may look insane, but I don’t miss chrome or Keep or Evernote or Google search.
Other than assisting me to kill time, I never found any other real use with Facebook. So I deleted my Facebook account too. Wait!! Wait!! Before you trash me as a boring person, I still use Instagram.
Install ad, tracking script blockers such as “uBlock Origin” and “Ghostery” to remove the tracking scripts, Facebook social plug-ins. Its a must do in today’s Internet era. I highly recommend you to install them.
“Once we searched Google, but now Google searches us. Once we thought of digital services as free, but now surveillance capitalists think of us as free “- Source
Do you know Google pays Apple (not a huge amount, just 10 billion dollars) to keep Google search default in Safari browser. Surprised??. Why do you think Google pays Apple to keep their “free” service default in Safari. DATA…
Nothing is free in this world, the more data Google gets on you, the more profitable it will be. The loop of more data => more ad clicks => more profit, ignites the competition in tracking you more.
Nowadays companies such as Google, Facebook knows more about you than your spouse or parents (don’t take my word for it, read here). It’s high time we take a small baby step towards the private life we have a right to live.
Found my article interesting? Encourage me by clicking on the clap icon. Constructive criticism is welcome. Please share if you find anything interesting from the data you downloaded from Google or Facebook!
How to See Exactly Who Google Thinks You Are — And Then Turn off Their Tracking was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.