Everyone knows we’re being track while we use the internet. Whether it’s Google, your internet service provider, the apps you use each day, browsing or email, most of us are being tracked in ways that almost defy belief, but such surveillance is being done in such persistence and depth that we may have become immune to it all.
It’s the price of progress, right?
Is there any way you can defend yourself against the onslaught of tracking and data collection methods that permeate the internet? From ad blockers, to tracker blockers, to incognito browser options, to VPNs, we’ve tried it all, and still Google and Company (everybody else who tracks your online whereabouts, collect ever more data.
Let’s take Google as the example because the company collects many types of data from our online experience, but we can put them into two basic groups. Personal tracking. Almost Anonymous Tracking.
First, Personal Tracking.
If you use Google, have a Gmail email account, use Google as your search engine, and you’re logged in, Google tracks you and collects personal data; from what you view online, to what you write (and what your friends, family, and co-workers writer) in your email.
Guess what? You can view some of that collected data.
Login to your Google account as if you were going to check email. Then, enter http://history.google.com/history. That’s your history. What you will see is surprising. I don’t like using anything Google but I have a Gmail account and sometimes search Google and the search engine giant can put two and two together, and thanks to me forgetting to log out of Google from time to time, a lengthy history has evolved.
As I did in my limited history, you’ll see searches by day, total searches, top search clicks, an interesting timeline, and where you’ve searched (even geographically).
That’s the basic information Google is willing to share with users (remember, at Google, you’re the user, not the customer, so that makes you part of the product Google sells) but the company tracks much, much more data than they’re willing to reveal to users.
That brings me to the second group, Anonymous Tracking.
Google also tracks your internet service provider’s IP address, so it knows something about your location. Google Analytics is the tracking mechanism that most websites use to track their reader and visitors (which you will not find on PixoBebo; I’m down to a couple of AdSense ads and those will be gone soon as I rebuild my site), and that means Google can track your whereabouts online, as you hop from one website to another; when, where, what time, what you viewed. All that data is used to spawn ads which may or may not be attractive to you. It’s all based on collected data.
Nearly Anonymous Tracking is spawned by Google’s AdSense advertisements, too. Some ads may spawn a simple tracker, while others may spawn half a dozen tracking scripts on each ad. That’s right. Dozens of trackers may be attached to a single website, a single webpage you view.
Where does that data go?
Google, and other advertisers, gather it and stuff it into giant databases to be massaged, sliced, diced, and harvested to throw ever more relevant ads into your face. What’s the ultimate purpose of all that tracking and data gathering?
Google makes money by using you and your online viewing and usage habits to sell advertising and data to advertisers. The Google History described above is nothing more than a bone the company throws out to assuage our privacy concerns. Far more data than that is collected, and the internet being what it is, most of us thank Google for the free apps and free searches, and then let the company do with what they will of our personal data.