Data Privacy

It’s a big a topic these days- after the revelation that political firm, Cambridge Analytica had stolen massive amounts of private user data through FaceBook, the topic of privacy rights is hotter than ever. A few months back, I was curious to see what Google had on me. After all, everywhere you turn, Google is watching you. They have a vast network of Google Ads on nearly every website.

When I first came to the realization that I’ve literally been using Google services for over a decade, it made sense that they probably had a decent amount of information about me. I went to my Google Account Settings and requested to download my data. What I didn’t expect, was just how deep their insight into my day to day life really way. I assumed that my online traffic would be tracked well-enough. They of course would know which videos I watched and searched for on YouTube, which ads I actually click on (which I rarely do, out of spite and hatred of ads), and of course, the multitude of Google online tools I use day to day like Search, Calendar, Drive, etc.

What I wasn’t expecting, was how much Google knew in between those services, and how much they know about my offline activities. Online, they use a system of cookies, tracking you from site to site, allowing them to know the how’s and why’s you go from one online place to another. Between knowing your location with Google Maps, with or without actively using the app, and leveraging rewards programs like Balance Rewards from Walgreens, to points systems like Plenti, Google has numerous ways of knowing how you shop in traditional brick and mortar shops, too- not just online stores.

The files they have are VAST. Google Maps is a well-oiled machine to tell you how to get from point a to point b, and offers so many features- but at what cost? The app is free. Having a google account is free. Gmail is free. Online storage is free. Photo storage is free. Online productivity tools like Docs, Slides and Sheets are free. So how are the developers getting paid? How are the Google Maps camera drivers getting paid?

It’s because of you. YOU are the product. They know who you are, where you live, where you work, what your average commute is, how often you fill up on gas, which places you frequent, where you shop, where you vacation, how often you vacation, your age, gender, browsing habits online, how susceptible you are to ads, what your advertising weaknesses are, what grabs your attention, what only grabs it for a second, what brands you like, what companies you trust and so, so much more.

That’s a lot of info.

And yes, it’s a bit overwhelming. And yes, it’s normal to feel scared. It’s intimidating to find out that there’s not only someone out there that knows probably more about you than your mom, but that that someone is actually a company with 10’s of thousands of employees, and that your private data is being used against you, to get your money.

For some people, maybe this doesn’t bother them. And that’s okay. As a consumer, you get all these ‘free’ conveniences- a communication system (Voice), an online storage service (Drive), productivity tools (Docs, Sheets, Slides), a navigation system (Maps), an email account (gmail), and the rest of the Google suite of tools and services. Many people will say they don’t mind their information being collected and analyzed, because that’s how those services can be improved on.

But for people like me, I would rather those services be improved, not because I’m the product, but because I’m a paying, valued customer. I’d rather know that the products and services I use improve because the company that provides them is ethical, and that my transactions and day to day activities are not being used against me.

And this is where Apple “Thinks Different”. Their customers are valued, and the products they develop are thought though. They don’t rely on building personal profiles on the millions of people that use their products, with their every action, swipe, commute, tap, and fingerprint tracked. They instead use general statistics- ‘blind’ data to reference when determining enhancements and improvements.

The data that Apple collects on me, is about specific to me as the fact that I have brown eyes.

Heard enough about what Google knows about you? Ready to open your eyes to what they have on you?

Click Here to learn how to request your private data from Google. If you’ve been a long-term user of google services, (think, Gmail, Maps)- then expect to wait a few hours before you’re notified that the data download is ready. In the meantime, you can browse your location timeline, and review the types of data Google sets as default to ‘on’ with your google account from the Google account home page.

I strongly recommend you collect your Google data to gain perspective on the difference between what they collect, versus Apple. When you’re ready to see an example of what Apple collects,

Click Here to read the USA Today article, which reviews at length, the data that came back from a personal data request.

I’m really well-versed with products like G Suite, their productivity tools like Drive, Slides, Sheets and Docs- but me and my household will remain loyal Apple customers, because of their ethical standards, and how they respect their customer’s data privacy. You get what you pay for.

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