don’t talk about Facebook, you don’t have privacy on google!

It’s no secret that Google knows a lot about its users.

The tech giant collects tons of data about you, including your search history, location, and vice searches that help improve Google’s services and provide relevant ads. It is possible that Google might just know you better than everyone. We can thank the data the tech giant collects in order to sell ads, Google has a wealth of information on you — from what you look like to where you live and where you have travelled. It is possible that the corporation may even be able to guess your favourite food.

Google is the world’s largest digital advertising company. It also provides the #1 web browser, the number one mobile platform and the number one search engine worldwide. Google’s video platform, email service, and map application have over 1 billion monthly active users each. Google utilizes the tremendous reach of its products to collect detailed information about people’s online and real-world behaviour, which in then uses to target them with paid advertising. Google’s revenues increase significantly as the targeting technology and data are redefined.

Google collects user data in a variety of ways. The most obvious is active, with the user directly and consciously communicating information to Google, as for example by signing in to any of its widely used application such as Youtube, Gmail, Search etc. Less obvious ways for Google to collect data are passive means, whereby an application is instrumented to gather information while it’s running, possibly without the user’s knowledge like Maps, Youtube, publisher tools e.g. Google Analytics and Adsense and advertiser tools as AdWords.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF GOOGLE USER

Since its launch, the search engine giant has been watching and learning, observing how users search the web, how they work, and what functionalities they need to get things done. And Google is good at anticipating a user’s needs. Over the years they have developed and acquired services and tools that allow you to work seamlessly on and off the web. And the fun part is that the user doesn’t even notice them that they are working.

I hadn’t realized how much Google made an impact on my own routine until I thought about it. No doubt, you can probably relate to the 7 ways I use Google during the day. take a look and ask yourself what your work routine would be like without Google.

CHECKING EMAILS

Once my day starts, I like to check in with my emails, both work which is Outlook and personal Gmail account. And like anyone, I have different emails set up for different things. I usually like to use Gmail for signing up with online accounts and receiving notification because it offers a ton of space. So I need to check in on it at least twice a day.

Moreover, I check my Gmail on my mobile phone which runs on Android (as my secondary phone). So I’m already immersed in the world of Google before I even get my first cup of coffee in the morning.

SURFING THE INTERNET

Once my emails are checked, it’s time to get on the web. For this task? Yup, Google Chrome. I have used FireFox, and Opera in the past, but constant crashing and extensions incompatibility with upgrades made me look for a new browser. So I tried Chrome and, as it usually happens, just stuck with it ever since. I liked how fast it performed, which is a necessity because I’m constantly on the web. Now it’s my default browser whenever I need to surf the web.

KEEPING UP WITH THE WEB

When Chrome is up and running, it’s time to take a quick look at what’s happening on the web. And that’s done with Google Reader. I usually like to bookmark feeds in one place rather than click on bookmarked sites. This way it’s easier and a lot more efficient to just scroll and click rather than sift through a folder on my toolbar.

TRANSLATING POSTS

By the time, I get a good feel of what’s going on, it’s mid-morning and it’s time to check in with our Facebook, Twitter, Linkedln, Pinterest and Tumblr accounts. And because our community is made up of the user from different parts of the world, we sometimes get messages and posts that are in different languages. Unfortunately, I’m not fluent in any other languages than English, so a quick copy-paste of the text in Google Translate will give me a better sense of what you guys need help with.

GETTING CONNECT

Checking in with our Google Plus network is part of the task, too. Even though Google Plus had a bit of a trouble keeping up the momentum after its release, it became a great place to get caught up with what our followers were interested in at any given moment.

Google Plus gives us a chance to share interesting stuff that’s going on in our company and in the tech world, as well. So, if you already have a Google account, follow us and stay connected.

STAYING UP TO DATE WITH COLLEAGUES

Believe it or not, saying updated with colleagues in a different department is also done with Google. We communicate via Skype for quick IMs or email for an important message, but we share documents and files on Google Drive for any collaborative or group work. Sharing stuff like research, a list of ideas or internal team documents is quicker than email, constantly updated, and easily accessible. I do use Google Drive personally from time to time. It’s a lot easier to keep the MS Word docs I’m working on in one place when I don’t have a USB or want to skip that extra email to myself. If you have been there, too, then you know what a relief it is to have back up online just in case.

DATA COLLECTION THROUGH ANDROID AND CHROME PLATFORMS

Android and Chrome are Google’s key platform that aid in significant user data collection due to their extensive reach and frequency of usage. By January 2018, Android captured 53% of the total US mobile OS market and as of May 2017, there was more than 2 billion monthly active Android device worldwide.

Google’s Chrome browser held more than 60% share of all internet browser usage in the world with over 1 Billion monthly active users as reported in the 2017 Q4 10K filing. Both platforms facilitate the use of Google and 3rd party content and hence provide Google access to a wide range of personal, web activity and location information.

Note — Chrome Extension also help in collecting your data which is further used by Google which help that decide which ad is best for you.

Google chromes users should be warned about a number of popular extensions found on the Chrome Web Store that collected sensitive user data.

The Google Chrome data collection was described by one expert as “huge spyware campaign”

It was discovered by Andrey Meshkov, co-founder of Adguard who said the data collection starts once a victim is logged into their Facebook account. The offending Chrome extension, which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, scrape data immediately after the browser starts up. In a blog post, Meshkov said all Facebook data is scraped and the extensions even try to go through a victim’s purchase history.

Other data that is targeted includes posts, sponsored posts, tweets, YouTube videos and adverts a victim has seen and interacted with them. This data is then collected and sent to a third party film called Unimania who it is claimed then sells the data to other parties for revenue.

According to Meshkov’s findings, the data collection campaign affects Android apps as well as extensions for the market-leading Google Chrome internet browser. Introducing his findings, Meshkov said: ‘The story begins with the recent research I conducted about fake ad blockers in the Chrome web store. The outcome of that research was that I received dozens of question about whether this or that extension is safe to use. This made me take a deeper look at the most popular Chrome extensions, but even so, I had no idea at that time where this investigation was going to lead me.’

“In fact, it exposed to me a huge spyware campaign that utilises popular Android apps and Chrome extensions to steal Facebook data and the browsing histories of millions of users.”

According to Adguard, there was four Chrome extension that collected user data and shared it with a third-party advertiser. it totals these offendings extensions were used by almost 420,000 Google Chrome users. The most popular of which was the “Video Downloader For Facebook” extension which was downloaded by more than 170,000 users.

PERSONAL INFORMATION AND ACTIVITY DATA COLLECTION

To download and use apps from Google Play Store on an Android device, a user must have a Google Account, which becomes a key gateway through which Google collects personal information, including username, email, and phone number. If a user registers for service such as Google Play, Android also collects the user’s credit card information, zip code, and birth date. All this information becomes part of a user’s personal information associated with their Google Account.

While Chrome does not mandate sharing additional personal information gathered from users, it does have the capability to capture such information.

For example, Chrome collects a range of personal information via its form “autofill” features, and such from fields typically include user name, address, phone number, login name and passwords. Chrome stores from fill information on a user’s local drive, however, if the user logs in to Chrome using Google Account and enables its “sync” feature, this information gets sent to and stored on Google servers. Chrome could also learn about the languages a person speaks during their interactions with its translate feature, which is enabled by default.

In addition to personal data, both Chrome and Android send Google information about a user’s web browsing and mobile app activity, respectively. Any webpage visit is automatically tracked and collected under user credentials by Google if the user is signed in to Chrome. Chrome also collects information about a user’s browsing history, passwords, website-specific permissions, cookies, download history, and add-on data.

Android sends periodic updates to Google servers, including device type, cell service carrier name, cash reports, and information about apps installed on the phone. It also notifies Google whenever any app is accessed on the phone.

GOOGLE KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE

Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location service, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card?

Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gathered data about your location and send it back to Google when they are connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed.

Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers — even when location service are disabled and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individual’s locations and their movement that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.

Quartz observed the data collection occur and contracted Google, which confirmed the practice.

The cell tower addresses have been included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months, according to a Google spokesperson. They were never used or stored, the spokesperson said, and the company is now taking steps to end the practice after being contracted by Quartz. By the end of November, the company said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers cannot disable.

“In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery,” the Google spokesperson said in an email. “However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID.”

It is not clear how cell-tower addresses, transmitted as a data string that identifies a specific cell tower, could have been used to improve message delivery. But the privacy implications of the covert location-sharing practice are plain. While information about a single cell tower can only offer an approximation of where a mobile device actually is, multiple towers can be used to triangulate its location to within about a quarter-mile radius, or to a more exact pinpoint in urban areas, where cell towers are closer together.

The practice is troubling for people who’d prefer they weren’t tracked, especially for those such as law-enforcement officials or victims of domestic abuse who turn off location services thinking they’re fully concealing their whereabouts. Although the data sent to Google is encrypted, it could potentially be sent to a third party if the phone had been compromised with spyware or other methods of hacking. Each phone has a unique ID number, with which the location data can be associated.

The revelation comes as Google and other internet companies are under fire from lawmakers and regulators, including for the extent to which they vacuum up data about users. Such personal data, ranging from users’ political views to their purchase histories to their locations, are foundational to the business successes of companies like Facebook and Alphabet, built on targeted advertising and personalization and together valued at over $1.2 trillion by investors.

The location-sharing practice does not appear to be limited to any particular type of Android phone or tablet; Google was apparently collecting cell tower data from all modern Android devices before being contacted by Quartz. A source familiar with the matter said the cell tower addresses were being sent to Google after a change in early 2017 to the Firebase Cloud Messaging service, which is owned by Google and runs on Android phones by default.

Even devices that had been reset to factory default settings and apps, with location services disabled, were observed by Quartz sending nearby cell-tower addresses to Google. Devices with a cellular data or WiFi connection appear to send the data to Google each time they come within range of a new cell tower. When Android devices are connected to a WiFi network, they will send the tower addresses to Google even if they don’t have SIM cards installed.

“It has pretty concerning implications,” said Bill Budington, a software engineer who works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for digital privacy. “You can kind of envision any number of circumstances where that could be extremely sensitive information that puts a person at risk.”

The section of Google’s privacy policy that covers location sharing says the company will collect location information from devices that use its service but does not indicate whether it will collect data from Android device when location services are disabled:

When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location. We use various technologies to determine location, including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell towers.

According to the Google spokesperson, the company’s system that controls its push notifications and messages is “distinctly separate from Location Services, which provide a device’s location to apps.” Android devices never offered consumers a way to opt out of the collection of cell tower data.

“It is really a mystery as to why this is not optional,” said Matthew Hickey, a security expert and researcher at Hacker House, a security firm based in London. “It seems quite intrusive for Google to be collecting such information that is only relevant to carrier networks when there are no SIM card or enabled services.”

While Google says it doesn’t use the location data it collects using this service, it does allow advertisers to target consumers using location data, an approach that has obvious commercial value. The company can tell using precise location tracking, for example, whether an individual with an Android phone or running Google apps has set foot in a specific store, and use that to target the advertising a user subsequently sees.

DATA COLLECTION THROUGH PUBLISHER AND ADVERTISER TECHNOLOGIES

A major source for Google’s user activity data collection stems from its publisher-and advertiser- focused tools, such as Google Analytics, DoubleClick, Adsense, AdWords and AdMob. These tools have tremendous reach. During the writing of this report, Google rebranded AdWords as “Google Ads” and DoubleClick as “Google Ad Manager”, however, there were no changes instituted in the core product functionalities including information collection by these products. Therefore, for the purpose of this report, the names are kept unchanged to avoid confusion that may occur with related domain names.

These are the two main groups of users of Google’s publisher and advertiser focused tools:

  1. Website and app publisher: Which are organizations that own website and create mobile apps. These entities use Google’s tools to make money by allowing the display of ads to visitors on their websites or apps, and better track and understand who is visiting their websites and using their apps. Google’s tools place cookies and run the script in the browsers of websites visitors that help determine a user’s identity, track their interest in content, and follow their online behaviour. Google’s mobile app libraries track the use of apps on mobile phones.
  2. Advertisers: Which are organisations that pay to have a banner, video, or other ads delivered to users as they browse the Internet or use apps. These entities apply Google’s tools to target specific profiles of people for advertisements to increase the return on their marketing investments. Such tools also enable advertisers to analyze their audience and measure the efficacy of their digital advertising by tracking which ads were clicked with what frequency and by providing insight into the profiles of people who clicked on ads.

Together, these tools collect information about user activities on websites and in apps, such as content visited, and ads clicked. They work in the background — largely unnoticeable by users.

The information collected by such tools includes a non-personal identifier that Google can use to send targeted advertisements without identifying the unique individual’s personal information. These identifiers can be device or session specific, as well as permanent or semi-permanent.

GOOGLE SEARCH

Google search is the most popular web search engine in the world, with over 11 billion search queries per month in the United States alone. In addition to serving ranked web pages results in response to user’s general queries, Google operators other search-based tools, such as Google Finance, Flights, News, Scholar etc. Google uses its search products to collect data related to search queries, browsing history and ad-click/purchase activity. Whenever Search is used, Google collects location data via various means of assessing locations on mobile or desktop devices. Google records all search activity a user conducts and links it back to their Google Account if the user is logged in.

In addition to being the default search engine on Chrome and Google devices, Google Search is also the default option on other third-party browsers and applications through various distribution agreements.

YOUTUBE

YouTube provides users a platform for uploading and viewing video content. It has more than 180 million users in the USA alone and has the distinction of being the second-most visited website in the US, ranked only behind Google Search. Among online streaming media companies, YouTube has almost 80% market share in terms of monthly user visits. The amount of content uploaded and viewed on Youtube is substantial, near 400 hours of video are uploaded every minute and near 1 billion hours of videos are watched daily on the platform known as youtube.

Youtube can be accessed by via desktop. mobile and google home. Google collects and stores search history, watch history, playlist, subscriptions and even comments on videos. All this information is marked with a date and time stamp of when the activity took place.

If the user is signed into their Google Account on any Google application inside a browser, Google recognizes the user’s identity, even if the video is accessed through a non-Google website. This feature allows Google to track a user’s YouTube usage across multiple 3rd-party platforms.

Google also offers a separate Youtube product for children, known as Youtube kids, which is intended as a “family friendly” version of Youtube with parental control features and video filters. Google collects information from Youtube kids, including device types, operating system, unique device identifiers, log information, and details of how the service was used. Google then uses this information to deliver limited advertisements that are non-clickable, and which have restrictions on format, time length, and site-served.

GOOGLE ASSISTANT

Google Assistant is a virtual personal assistant accessed through mobile phones and smart devices. It is a popular virtual assistant, alongside Siri, and Alexa. Google Assistant is accessed through the home button of mobile device with Android 6.0 or higher. It can also be accessed through a dedicated app on IOS devices, as well as smart speakers, such as Google Home. Google Assistant performs numerous functions, such as sending text, looking up emails, controlling music, searching photos, getting answers to questions about the weather or traffic, and controlling smart home devices.

Google collects all Google Assistant queries, whether audio or typed. It also collects the location where the query occurred. In addition to its use on Google’s Home speaker, Google Assistant is enabled on various other speakers produced by third-parties. Overall, Google Assistant is available on more than 400 million devices. Google can collect data via all these devices since Assistant queries go through Google’s servers.

GOOGLE PAY

Google Pay is a digital payments service that allows users to store credit card, bank account, and PayPal information to make payments in stores, on websites, or within apps using Google Chrome or a connected Android device. Pay is the means by which Google collects verified user address and phone numbers, as these are associated with change accounts.

In addition to personal information, Pay also collects transaction information, such as date and amount of transaction, merchants location and description, type of payment used, description of the item purchased, any photos that a user choose to associate with the transaction, names and email addresses of the seller and buyer, the user’s description of the reason for transaction, and any offers associated with the transaction. Google treats this information as personal information under its general privacy policy. It therefore can use this information across its products and services for enriched advertising. Google’s privacy setting allows for such a use of collected data by default.

thanks for reading, see you next time……

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