12 Ways Google’s World Domination is Downright Creepy
Google is everywhere on the internet. We use Google to complete web searches. YouTube is our favorite destination for videos that are distracting and educational alike. Chrome is many people’s favorite browser, and Android is many people’s favorite mobile operating system. Google’s infrastructure underlies millions of popular websites worldwide. And over the years, Google has amassed a huge amount of information about what we search, what we read, the websites we visit, and even the locations we frequent.
There are some undeniably great things about Google. (Need an example? We’re big fans of the Google Pixel and the new Google Assistant.) But Google’s world domination also has some not-so-great effects for the average internet user. Ahead, you can check out some ways that Google’s ubiquity online is annoying, or even creepy. You may never look at the Google homepage the same way again.
- Google tracks everything you do online
- Most people are monitored by Google — and don’t know it
Robert Epstein of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology wrote for U.S. News several years ago that Google monitors “perhaps upwards of 90 percent of internet users worldwide — whether they use a Google product or not, and most people have no idea they’re being monitored.” Google’s tracking activities are extensive. And they’re enabled not only by the company’s search engine, its Chrome browser, and its Android operating system, but also by products like Google Analytics, Google AdSense, and Google AdWords. All of the information Google collects over time enables the company to build a detailed file on your interests, preferences, beliefs, and problems.
- Google may not know your name (at first) but will figure it out
Epstein also reports even if Google doesn’t know your name, it can still track your searches with codes, like your IP address, that are unique to your computer or to your specific location. And Google installs an identifier cookie on your computer that makes you easier to track. “Through cross-referencing, the company can eventually find your name, address, and telephone number, too.” As Jeffrey Rosen reported for the New York Times a few years ago, real privacy threats arise when Google and advertisers know who you are. “Computers can link our digital profiles with our real identities so precisely that it will soon be hard to claim that the profiles are anonymous in any meaningful sense.” If Google collects enough information on you, it’s likely to discover information that could lead to harm if it were revealed.
- It’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to use email without being tracked by Google
If you use Gmail, it’s a given that Google will track all of your messages. It will scan the messages you send, the addresses of the people you’re emailing, plus your incoming messages. Additionally, it doesn’t ever erase its copies of messages you sent, drafts you decided not to send, and incomplete messages you didn’t even save as a draft. But because Google’s servers are used to route the emails of thousands of other companies, many emails that aren’t even sent from or to a Gmail address are scanned by Google. Which means that if you’re using email — any kind of email — chances are good Google is watching you.