Why Google is scarier than the NSA

For anyone who is really afraid of what the NSA might do with its information gathering capabilities, there’s a simple personal solution: stop using electronic devises.

Simple, but not easy — at least for most people.

Given that most Americans are now tied to their devices as though they were dialysis machines on which our lives depend, we should probably be more concerned, however, about how we are being watched constantly and the information gathered is constantly being used not by the Big Brother of our fears but instead by the Big Brother that truly follows our every step.

James Robinson writes: I’ve been in Boston all week. I had to tell my mother where I was, but not Google. Its seamlessness in switching up my Google ad results, changing its suggestions to me of places to visit and ads to click on, was instantaneous.

Google knew where I was going, as I was making the trip. We’re used to this by now. It’s justified under the umbrella of modern convenience. But should it be?

This morning, a new Public Citizen report, “Mission Creep-y: Google is Quietly Becoming One of the Nation’s Most Powerful Political Forces While Expanding Its Information-Collecting Empire” came across my desk. It doesn’t break news. But it is an exhausting catalog of Google’s powerful information gathering apparatus, its missteps, and its massive social ambition.

When you put the isolated pieces together, it can kind of make you choke on your breakfast.

At a consumer level, Google is all over you. Its search algorithm takes in 200 different variables about you, pulling in information it gleans from your use of all of its products: Maps, YouTube, Gmail, and more. These are services you use, like, all of the time that can reveal very personal things. Since 2012, Google has made it its stated policy to track you as one user across all of its services, no matter what device you’re using. (This “comingling” of information, e.g. search history with chat transcripts, resulted in several lawsuits from privacy groups.)

Through its acquisition of DoubleClick Google knows what websites you were on when you saw a certain ad. Like all companies, it tracks your web history by placing a cookie in your browser. But because of the prevalence of Google Analytics and DoubleClick across the web now, once Google has identified you, it’s really, really difficult for you to ever be out of the company’s sight. [Continue reading…]

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