These days, it seems like Google's motto in 2018 was 'only do evil'.
Google was racked by privacy scandal after scandal in 2018, from “locationgate” to employee email leaks, proving what many of us already knew: Google services are a privacy nightmare.
In case you still have doubts, here are 7 reasons why you really can’t trust Google.
Google Tracks Your Location – Even When You Tell Them Not To
In August 2018, a story by the Associated Press shed light on Google’s invasive location tracking practices.
Not only were Google-owned apps and services pinpointing and saving users’ locations when they do something like open Google Maps or even use Google search, they continued to do this even when the ‘Location History’ setting was turned off.
Google Accesses Your Emails – and Lets Third-Parties Do It Too
Google has long monitored the content of the emails you send and receive through Gmail. They say it’s to improve your “search results”, but it’s a privacy nightmare.
And in 2018, it was revealed that it’s not just Google snooping through your private messages – they give third-party app developers access too. Hope you haven’t sent anything embarrassing to or from Gmail lately!
The company’s long history of privacy invasions make their new Smart Replies feature even more creepy. Not only are they reading all your emails, they’re now providing suggestions on how to reply.
Google Manipulates and Censors Search Results and Web Content
While Google has branched out into all kinds of different ventures over the years, they’re still a search engine first and foremost.
Unfortunately, it seems like they can’t even be trusted to do that. A study published by a team of academics and legal scholars argued that:
“Google appears to be strategically deploying universal search in a way that degrades the product so as to slow and exclude challengers to its dominant search paradigm.”
In other words, Google favors its own content in search results, to the detriment of both its competitors and users. One example is the search engine’s tendency to suggest Google reviews over review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor, even though the latter sites are actually preferred by consumers.
But that may just be the tip of the iceberg. While Google had long been accused of political bias, particularly in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, employee emails leaked in 2018 seem to confirm as much. In the emails, Google employees discussed manipulating the search algorithm to promote results that attacked President Trump’s political agenda.
Google officials claim this plan was never put into action, but who knows what else they’ve been up to in the meantime?
Google Tracks Your Internet Use – Even When You’re Not on Their Site
Google’s interest in every-friggin’-thing you do doesn’t stop at your search history or the contents of your emails. No, their tracking cookies follow you all around the web, monitoring your activity on non-Google sites and devices as well.
Clearing your browser’s cookies is one way to avoid this. Unfortunately, in 2018, users discovered that clearing cookies in Chrome didn’t delete Google’s own cookies. As we saw with their location tracking, even when you tell Google to stop following you, they just do it anyways.
Google Sells Your Data and Shares It With Authorities
Why is Google so concerned with tracking what you do online? Because selling that information has made them filthy rich.
Now, Google defenders will point out that they don’t literally sell your data, as in auctioning off a thumbdrive filled with Excel spreadsheets of user search histories.
But they sell ads. And they cater those ads to you through your data. That’s been their main source of revenue for over a decade. So, no, we don’t have proof that they directly sell your personal info, but they do sell it indirectly.
They also turn your data over to the authorities at the slightest request. Google’s work with the NSA has been well-publicized, and others have pointed out that the company was originally funded in part by grants from the NSA, CIA, and DARPA.
Google Doesn’t Care About Your Right to Privacy or Anonymity
In 2009, during an interview with CNBC, then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt claimed:
"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
Just a year later, at the 2010 Techonomy conference, Schmidt followed up:
"The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity. In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it."
Schmidt remained the executive chairman of Google (and later Alphabet Inc.) until Dec. 2017, when he voluntary stepped down to a technical adviser role.
Does this sound like the kind of person you want to trust with your privacy? Google might try to explain away its various privacy scandals as gaffes and mishaps, but in reality, they’re actively undermining your privacy and anonymity, as proven by Schmidt’s statements.
How to Keep Google from Invading Your Privacy
Fortunately, there are still several ways to maintain your privacy, even in light of the above.
A good VPN will prevent Google from connecting your online activity to your real identity by hiding your IP address, as well as giving Google a fake location.
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While you’re at it, you should sign up for a free private email provider and start using a more privacy-focused search engine that doesn’t save your history.
Stay safe out there people!