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What Does Google Do With Your Personal Information?

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As discussed in a previous post, Google knows a lot about you. That information they’ve collected is very valuable to them, to advertisers and to the government (not to mention hackers!).

ADVERTISERS

Google executives have a deep appreciation for the amount of money they can make by turning your online lives into marketable products. It’s safe to assume that if you’re using Google’s services for free, your information is being tracked and sold to marketers.

Let take a look at how some of Google’s services use your information to sell to marketers:

Google’s Gmail. This service is paid for with contextual advertisement that scans the contents of your information to offer you targeted advertising. For example, if you send an email to someone about an STD you contracted, don’t be surprised if you are exposed to advertisements offering you a medical solution for your genital herpes.

Google Search. Ads you see in Google search are based on the search terms you use. If you search for online dating sites, you’ll be inundated with ads that target singles.

Google Chats. Why is Google recording your chats? Google sells large amounts of data based on everything you talk about which is then sold to marketers who use that information to try to persuade you to buy their product or service using highly personalized ads.

Google Maps. The latest version of Google Maps is integrated with social and other information to provide more targeted information to advertisers. The ads are action-oriented such as making a dinner reservation. The ambiguity between what’s advertising and what’s information decreases the likelihood of a user ignoring the ads.

Google’s Waze. Since Google’s recent purchase of Waze, an Israeli social mapping site for $1 billion, they will take your location, route information as well as your communication with other users and more information and re-package it to sell to advertisers.

The advertisers, in turn, are able to use your personal information to try to get you to buy highly targeted products and services; hence the billion-dollar price tag and why it’s ‘free’ to download.

Google’s Tracking Ability. Google rolled out a new privacy policy in March 2012 that has been the subject of recent legal action by European countries concerned over existing privacy laws or lack thereof.

The new policy offers no ability to opt-out and allows Google to monitor you across all of their services from when you check your email to your Internet searches and when you use YouTube and other social networks. This information, you guessed it, is used to develop targeted advertising.

THE GOVERNMENT

Recent news about Google’s involvement in PRISM reveals how Google feeds private information to the government such as information about your email, video, search and social networks. PRISM is a program run by the NSA (National Security Agency) in the United States.

The program was unknown until recently when Edward Snowden, a former employee turned whistle-blower, stated that the program accessed information from some of the world’s major Internet companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apply, Skype and Yahoo.

How does Google give your information to the NSA? They have a dedicated server dropbox for the NSA where files that have been requested by the government and approved by Google are placed. In turn, the NSA accesses this information through secure FTP; although, sometimes written documents are delivered by hand.

Of course advertisers and the government aren’t the only ones vying for your precious information. In a future post, I will discuss what a cyber-criminal could do with your information if they able to hack into a Google server.

Photo Source: Flickr

Posted in: Privacy Issues, Technology
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