Editor-Editor: Stelios Vassiloudis
Google makes money by selling ads – the more targeted an ad is to us and our interests, the more money it makes. And to do that, you need data, a lot of data. Every search, every click, every move of an application, is combined to turn it into one of the richest companies in the world.
In recent years, Google has improved the ways in which one can limit the data the company collects, but there is still much that can be done to help users understand what they are delivering. And somewhere here comes Apple.
In December, Apple introduced privacy policies in its App Store to show what information each app collects and how it can connect with each of us. This can include everything from browsing history to our location. Google was not impressed by Apple’s move and typically delayed updating its apps with details about what it collects and how. Consider this: more than 60 applications and nine of its products are used by more than one billion people. This is really a lot of data.
Below is all of our data collected by three of Google’s largest applications – Gmail, Chrome and its search app – and what we can do to control it.
The Google search app adds widgets and its own voice search to iPhone, as well as personalized suggestions for news and topics that may be of interest to us. As with many Google applications, the data associated with us can be very rich, but for some device-level settings (such as photos and videos), we need to give the application access to them.
Data sent to advertisers (not Google) includes: Location information, search history, browsing history, and other usage data.
Data sent to Google for advertising or marketing is: Location information, contact information (including physical address and email and name), search history, browsing history, user IDs (user ID and device ID) and usage data ( product and advertising data interaction).
Data used for analytical processing: Location, contact information (physical address and email address), contacts, audio data, search history, browsing history, user IDs (user ID and device ID), usage data (including product interactions and ad data ), error and performance data and “other data types”.
Data collected for product personalization: Location, contact information (physical address and email address), photos or videos, search history, browsing history, user IDs (user IDs and device IDs), usage data (including product interactions, and ad data) and advertising data.
Data collected for the functionality of the application: Payment information, location, contact information (including physical address and e-mail, name and phone number), contacts, user content (including photos or videos, audio data and customer support details) , search history, browsing data, user IDs (user ID and device ID), usage data (including product interactions and ad data), diagnostics (error data and performance data), and other unspecified data types.
Data sent to advertisers (not Google): location, user IDs, and ad data.
Data used for analytical processing: purchase history, location, email address, user content (including photos or videos, audio data, customer support and “other” content), search history, user IDs (user ID and device ID), data (including product and ad interaction data, error and performance data, and “other” data types).
Data used to personalize products: email address, contacts, e-mail or text messages, audio data, search history, user IDs (user ID and device ID), and usage data.
Data collected for application functionality: purchase history, location, email address and name, contacts, email or text messages, photos or videos, audio data, customer support and other user content, search history, user IDs device ID), product interaction, diagnostics (error data and performance data) and other data types.
Data used for analytical processing: location, audio and customer support data, browsing history, user IDs (user ID and device ID), product-data interaction, diagnostics (error data and performance data) and other data types.
Data used for product personalization: location, browsing history, user IDs (user ID and device ID) and product-data interaction data.
Data collected for the functionality of the application: payment information, location, audio data, customer support data, browsing history, user IDs (user ID and device ID), product-data interaction, error and performance data and other data types.
What does this data mean and what can we do about it?
While much of the data that Google collects will be used to help the company personalize and target its ads – using data primarily linked to user IDs – there is some data that allows Google to ensure that its applications continue to function. as expected. This may include the use of diagnostic and error data, which inform the company why the application has stopped working at various times.
Google’s rivals have been quick to point out that their own apps – as seen in Apple’s App Store privacy policies – collect data, but to a much lesser extent. For example, the search engine and browser DuckDuckGo says it does not collect data that users can connect to. Its App Store displays the use of data (including diagnostics) that each application collects, but is labeled “data not related to you”.
So what can we do about our data collection? In Chrome, Google Privacy Settings can help us limit what we collect. We may disable third party cookies that follow us on the internet and send our non-tracking requests online (although this setting is largely ineffective). In the settings, we can also turn off synchronization so that our browsing history is not transferred to all our devices.
Perhaps the greatest control we can have over the data that Google collects comes from activity controls. Here we can prevent our internet activity from being saved by Google, turn off access to our site and stop personalized ads.
All of the above will limit – to some extent – the range of our data that Google can access, but this is only superficial. If we are going to use Google, we automatically consent to the collection of our data. Of course, this applies to many of the free applications and services we use.
An alternative is not to use Google applications or services. While this can be beneficial in avoiding data collection and protecting privacy, it does come with some compensatory disadvantages. Google’s vast resources have allowed it to develop some of the most feature-rich services and applications that work so well and its competitors are struggling to achieve the exact same results – for example, in search.
This does not mean that it is not worthwhile to try or come up with privacy-friendly alternatives. Undoubtedly, the easiest Google product to stop using is Chrome. There are some browsers that are confidential and restrict the collection of user data by stopping online monitoring. Among the most popular are: Brave, DuckDuckGo, Tor and Firefox Focus.
Getting away from Gmail is more difficult, as there are not many, well-developed competitors. Switzerland-based ProtonMail, which uses end-to-end encryption for messages, is the main Gmail alternative to consider.
Source: Wired UK