July 8, 2016

Why care about your online privacy?

Ever wonder how Google can give the world amazing and above all free software? How can one, who apparently gives everything for free make, last year alone, a 16 Billion dollar net income? Well, Google sells advertisement, and they are damn good at it. Why? Because they know more about you than you probably know about yourself.

Credits to the author

In 2015 I watched a talk by mikko on re-publica entitled “Is our online future worth sacrificing our privacy and security?” (which I highly recommend you to watch if you can) and this question has been bothering me since then. I live well with direct user data collection, for instance if I buy a perfume from Hugo Boss, it is likely that they will know I bought it. Infered data collection, is what bothers me, and boy… Google (and let’s be fair, Facebook too) does it well.

To effectively sell advertisement they need to know exactly who to target and they do that in a number of ways: a) by scanning your email to, among other things, “remember” yourself about your next flight to Croatia; b) by scanning your photos on Google Photos so they can “remember” yourself about those amazing tennis games you play with your friends; c) by tracking your Google Maps and Android device geolocations to “remember” yourself where you have been yesterday; d) by scanning your calendar to “remember” yourself that you have a sushi dinner tonight.

This is all good and great if it were not for the fact that the next thing you know, you are being bombarded with ads of the top best sightseeing tours to take in Croatia, about that new tennis racket by Wilson and that new sushi place that opened next to your house (because they even know your address).

Can they actually do this?

Yes, they actually can, as soon as you use a Google service and mark that checkbox to accept their terms and conditions. Google privacy policy clearly states that they will use the information you provide to “offer you tailored content — like giving you more relevant search results and ads.” They also state that their “automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection.” These terms are so general that they basically mean they can do anything with it, except sell it (at least, directly).

What should I do?

Well, honestly you need to decide that for yourself. Maybe you don’t give a rats ass. Maybe after reading this you actually care a bit more. For me the last question I asked myself, was: If I don’t want my neighbors to know these things about me (except for the fact that they know where I live, which sometimes I wish they didn’t), why would I let multimillion dollar corporations like Google and Facebook know it? I came to the conclusion that I actually don’t want that, and so I will take steps to reduce this agressive profiling about my person the most as I can. The first step was closing my Google account and make sure I use Google services less and less on my daily life. Facebook and others alike will eventually follow.