Yang Tammy
Jun 8 · 4 min read
Picture created by Maggie Li (Note of this picture see below)

I posted a lot about Google services recently because we are working on a product which aims to help users understand the leakage of personal data.

During the development process, I realize that Google actually use Chrome to record content in the other websites. For example, if I read a post on Facebook, and my friend set the permission as public, I can see the content and my view history of this Facebook post in Google.

This means, Google is recording EVERYTHING not only through their services, but also through their platforms, such as Android or Chrome. Google then uses it to provide more targeting ad services. Isn’t it a kind of stealing and infringement of intellectual property of other websites?

My colleague now also knows the reason why Google keeps sending her ads related to dogs and cats while she NEVER does any similar search on Google. Because Google might have listened to her behavior on Facebook and knew that she reads dog related contents very often.

Platforms should be transportation tools in the internet world. When I use a browser to visit a website, the expectation to browser is similar to calling a taxi. I ask the service to send me from A to B, but it doesn’t mean I allow it to record my behavior in place A or place B.

Remember when the beta of Google Chrome came to the world, I was one of the early users of it. At that time, I felt it represented Openness and Freedom, and I believed it would fight the Microsoft empire together with users. Now, ten years have passed, more than 60% users are using Chrome instead of Microsoft IE. The question is, is the internal world now a better and more open world? No. Google opens a lot of source code, but it becomes the biggest data monopoly in the world. None of the websites can escape from the surveillance of Google now.

I still love Google services, the search engine, gmail and maps are the top three services rely on. However, I also believe it is time for us to make some changes. A company as big as Google can bring great positive impacts to the society, but it also needs supervision from every user to ensure the fairness still exist in our internet.

This[1] was a post I really like, through it talks about Facebook instead of Google. At the end of that article, it says: “Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but the US government can”. Same to Google and other commercial data companies. The nature of a commercial company drives them growing bigger and bigger. Facebook and Google are two of the best commercial companies in the world because they earn a lot of revenues and are responsible to their shareholders.

From my opinions, it would be wrong if we do nothing but expect these data companies or governments can fix the problem of internet surveillance and data monopolies one day. It is everyone’s responsibility to supervise how the services use and share our data. Only we, the users, can promise a fair internet of the future.

Knowing What Google Knows About You is not enough, taking action is the key. Here are actions I believe everyone can do:

  1. Keeps an eye on your data and know What Google Knows About You [2]. Google provides a lot of good tools to help users understand their data, we should use these tools properly.
  2. Check your sensor status from time to time to ensure you only enable the necessary sensors. For example, if you love mobile platforms to record your GPS locations, do it and keep your sensor on 24 hours. However, if that’s not what your prefer, remember to turn it off.
  3. Review the privacy statement carefully. It is not easy, and you might still have to click “I accept” after reviewing it otherwise you cannot use the service. However, it does help if everyone reads.

Finally, I personally hope everyone who reads the article can keep an eye on the new data services including ours, because all of these new services are working hard to bring a little change to the internet world.

The internet data problem is not just a privacy issue, it also hurts our society, we already know the consequences of 2016 US election and UK Brexit, there are definitely more. This problem can also hurt our economy of the next decade[3].

It is everyone’s responsibility to take care of your own asset. Previously, we spend efforts on watching our money assets, now, we should start protection our data assets as well.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/09/opinion/sunday/chris-hughes-facebook-zuckerberg.html
[2] https://medium.com/productivity-in-the-cloud/6-links-that-will-show-you-what-google-knows-about-you-f39b8af9decc
[3] https://hbr.org/2015/03/data-monopolists-like-google-are-threatening-the-economy

Note of the picture: The picture was created by Maggie Li, and she referenced the impressive style from this website http://incitrio.com/yes-big-brother-really-is-watching-you-part-1-of-2/

Numbers

Numbers is a project which aims to bring the control of personal data back to every individual.

Yang Tammy

Written by

Numbers

Numbers

Numbers is a project which aims to bring the control of personal data back to every individual.

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