How to stop Google from spying on you
Remember when you clicked ‘accept’ on the terms & conditions when installing or signing up to a Google service without reading the 100+ pages ?You were actually giving Google permission to create a profile about you with everything that they know, and keep that data to use for their own advertising , or to sell on. Have I got your attention ? Then read on…
The smartphone that you carry with you everywhere stores a lot of data about us. Our phones know what we do, where we are, and what we want. Every hour of every day.
And it doesn’t end there. Our ISPs, browsers, search engines, the apps we’ve installed, social media platforms, governments, Google, and other websites we visit all know what we’re doing online.
So let me ask you a question: do you have something to hide?
Of course you do. Everyone does.
This might be news to you, but your data (juicy or not) is worth big bucks and there are a lot of people who want it.
Why do companies want my data?
Because big data is big money.
Governments want to know what you are doing. Marketers want to know how you spend money. And there are bad folks out there who just want to take it. It’s a privacy nightmare.
Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft store so much user data that it is believed that it will be collectively worth $6 trillion by the end of 2020.
How do companies make money from my data?
Google, Facebook, Apple etc. make money by knowing you really well. They want to build a profile of you which can be used to target adverts. The more they know about you (your age, sex, family, what you like, what you don’t like, your finances), the more money they can sell you for. Kind of like pimps. Kind of like data pimps.
So why do people put their trust and their personal information into the hands of these companies, you ask?
They don’t. Well, not knowingly at least!
Most people don’t realise how much data Google and other companies really gather.
Do you? Let’s do a quick privacy check together.
What does Google know about you?
- Google stores search history across all your devices on a separate database, so even if you delete your search history and phone history, Google still stores everything until you manually delete everything, and you have to do this on all your devices.
Check yours: https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity
- Google stores your location every time you turn on your phone, and you can see a timeline from the first day you started using Google on your phone. It records every place you visit, the time you get there and how long it takes to get to that location from your previous one.
Check yours: https://google.com/maps/timeline
- Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight, and income.
Check yours: http://google.com/settings/ads/
- Google stores information on every app and extension you use, how often you use them, where you use them, and who you use them to interact with (who you talk to, what nationalities your friends are, what time you go to sleep)
Check yours: https://security.google.com/settings/security/permissions
- Google stores all of your YouTube histories. Based on your Youtube search and watched videos, they can determine if you’re a conservative, progressive, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, travelling, or a stay at home mum. They know it all.
Check yours: https://youtube.com/feed/history/
Download your Google data
You can download your own archive of everything you have stored in Google’s services. Here’s how:
- Go to http://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout
- Select the products that you want to back up. I decided to select everything.
- Click ‘Next’ at the bottom of the page.
- Choose the file format – you can pick a .ZIP file and choose a maximum size. I recommend going with the full 50GB file to avoid having your data split into multiple files. If you choose 2GB and have a lot of information on Google, for example, you’re going to have a lot of ZIP files. Choose 2GB if you’re on an older computer, since ZIP files larger than 2GB require newer operating systems.
- Choose your delivery method. You can get a link via email or have the archive sent to Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.
- Tap “Create Archive.”
- Be patient. Google warns the archive may take hours or days to create.
Remember, downloading the data doesn’t delete it from Googles servers. Think of it as a backup.
Its quite frightening that Google knows every entry in my calendar. It shows all the events I have ever added, whether I attended them, what time I attended them and when I left the venue.
Google activity file shows every Ad I ever viewed or clicked , every website I visited and what time I did it, and every app I’ve installed. Every image I’ve ever searched for is there, and every new article and google search I’ve ever made.
Google is not your friend. You can’t trust them with your data. They sell whatever data they can get their hands on — to the highest bidder, and then the lowest bidder, and every bidder in-between.
Is it only Google I should be worried about?
Facebook, and Amazon are amongst the other big players who are up to no good too. And Siri & Alexa are also in on it. Ever wondered why just after you’ve been talking about something, an advert related to that discussion pops up in your ad feed ? We’ll be publishing another blog on all of this..
Why should you care about private browsing?
So far we’ve learnt that data dominates the digital world. Therefore, any time you visit a website, you leave a trail of data behind you. And everybody wants it, from cybercriminals to enterprise giants. Every day, millions of trackers are hunting, and your data is the big prize.
We can’t stop it altogether but there are plenty of things that we can do to reduce our digital footprint.
Now, let’s talk solutions.
Use a VPN
Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the best way to protect your privacy when you’re browsing the web. A VPN sends your Internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel, making it extremely difficult to intercept, track, or read your data.
As soon as you connect to the VPN, everything you do online is anonymous.
Any websites you visit.
All files you download.
They all become out of sight from any and everyone.
Now, a VPN won’t stop Google from targeting you with tailor-made ads. But it can hide your identity.
Vanished VPN is one of the best value VPNs in the world, and has been recommended by Lifehacker.
When you use VanishedVPN Google will see one of our IP addresses – and your real IP address given to you by your ISP will be hidden from sight. Google, Facebook, or anyone tracking or monitoring your online activities, will not be able to identify you as the user.
What’s your online privacy worth?
Browse in Incognito
Browsing in private mode (or incognito) gives you a few privacy enhancements, and is the simplest thing you can do to make some of your general internet usage a bit more anonymous. Better than nothing. Technically.
When you launch incognito mode, your browser doesn’t store your history, searches, and cookies for later. Once you close your private browser window, anyone who uses your device after you won’t be able to see what you did. However, your internet provider, your employer, your school, your government, or the sites you visit can still see and record your browsing data.
Solution: We recommend you use a service like DuckDuckGo. This an independent search engine that strives to keep your search history private and block advertising trackers which in turn give you control of your data.
Don’t use Chrome
Chrome is the most widely used web browser in the world, but remember, it is a google product, and designed to harvest data for Google. There are other browsers available which don’t have such close alligiences to Google
Clear your Flash cookies
Flash cookies (also known as Local Shared Objects) aren’t like normal cookies, although they function similarly. They save your settings, preferences and browsing data when you go to websites that use Adobe Flash. And yes, they’re exactly as boring as this paragraph was.
Removing Flash cookies ensures you’re not leaving any crumbs of personal activity behind after you flush out all the other regular, easy-to-delete browser cookies. To get rid of them, go to the Adobe Settings Manager in your browser, and clear some or all of your Flash cookies through the storage panel.
Important as it is, clearing your Flash cookies doesn’t encrypt and secure your browsing, searches, online banking, etc. It’s just a routine chore you should once in a while, like taking the bins out. You’ll technically make things cleaner but you shouldn’t go patting yourself on the back.
How to delete the data Google stores
After reviewing the data that big G has on you, you can delete all or some of it by following the instructions here.
Signed into Google? Then you’re being tracked across searches, emails, locations, and more. That Microsoft Account you use to log in to Skype, Outlook, Xbox Live? Also being tracked. Your Apple ID? They’re not thinking differently about your data. I could go on and on and on…
You get the point. Whether you sign up for online services, or you don’t sign up for online services — you’re constantly getting tracked.
Everyone wants your data, and they will do anything they can to take it.
If you are serious about your privacy, then always use a VPN, and take the additional measure described above.