Today, a new privacy setting went active for anyone who has Google accounts. I wish I had paid a bit more attention to this before it actually happened, but last night I did some investigation and learned a lot, and was able to delete my history and turn off this “data mining” that Google wants to do. So, with this post, I’m going to show you how to turn it off yourself.
But before I do that, you might ask, “Why do we need to turn this off? What’s so wrong with Google keeping track of everything? They say it will help make our Internet experience better!” Well, I guess, in all honesty, you don’t need to do this. But I think it’s wise. For multiple reasons. If Google only does what they say they’re going to be doing with this information, then maybe everything will be okay. And even if we can trust Google (which I’m not sure we can, given how they were found to be exploiting holes in certain browsers to unethically mine data when that was specifically not supposed to be allowed), the real question comes when you start to think of identity theft issues: What happens if someone get access to all this information about you? Or, even worse, what happens if someone assumes your identity online and does illegal things in your name? I can easily imagine a case, like these, where someone hacks into your network, and uses your google accounts to surf and download illegal things, and then you take the fall for it. That scares me more than just about anything, really.
(And as a side note, if you aren’t locking down your wireless internet, you at risk for serious trouble, in my opinion. For more information on encrypting your wi-fi network, this is a good article to start with. But I think it best to go even further than that, and use MAC address filtering.)
Another part of this is due process. The government is pushing hard to get access to our digital information as well. You’ve probably heard a little bit about that in the news. But it’s a big issue. Especially surrounding this idea of warrants. Does a police officer have to get a warrant to get access to your digital information, even if it’s on Twitter, which is a public digital domain? So what about the information that is on your computer? Is that private? Probably. But what about the saved information that Google is keeping that you used on your personal computer? Ahhh, now the lines are getting fuzzy…
Suffice to say, I am not some troglodytic anti-technology luddite. But I do think it is important that we are very aware of what is happening around us in the world of technology, and how the information that we give out is being used. I also think that sharing things on networks like Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, etc., is not something to be taken lightly, as I noted in a post on my own blog, because many employers are using social network to gauge your integrity before they hire you.
The truth is that information about you is now more easily saved and more readily available than every before. But instead of going through your trash, like in the old movies, people only have to know how to get inside your digital life. If it sounds kind of scary, well, that’s probably because it is a bit scary! So, the morals of this lesson is – Be careful what you post. Be careful how much you post. Know who has your information. Follow the news and learn about these technologies, so you’re not ignorant about them. And lastly, safeguard your integrity with knowledge.
I just found this webpage, which a great list of the 6 best things you can do to protect your privacy online. I thought it was an excellent starter article that gives a lot of information. It’s very important to realize that intrusion into your personal life is quite a benefit to Internet corporations, as is stated in this article very well…
Ok, so now, how to safeguard your browsing info against Google? Well, it’s very simple. First, log into one of your google accounts, like Gmail or YouTube. Once you have logged in, type this into your browser: “http://www.google.com/history”. From there, you may see a screen that has all your browsing history on it. At the top you will see a button that says “Remove All Web History.” Click that button, and then Google will not be tracking all of your history. If you have opted for another browser history option in the past, you may see a little convincing paragraph that is trying to tell you that allowing Google to keep your info will enhance your web experience. Click the “No Thanks” button and leave it at that.
If this is all a little confusing, or your not sure exactly how to go about doing this, here is a page which has a great video on it that shows you how to do this:
If this doesn’t seem to work, or you just want to double check exactly what Google knows about you, and how it uses that information, then you can use the information at THIS LINK to get into the Dashboard at google.com, and stop Google from tracking you or your browsing information.
Remember, in a battle of information, not having enough could cost you dearly. Don’t just settle for not knowing what’s going on – learn and take action. If people don’t start exercising their rights online, then they can be taken from us by these companies without anyone paying attention. If we’re going to live online, then we need to learn how to safeguard ourselves online.