Has Google Crossed The Line?

As virtually everyone becomes more dependent on technology for communication, business and shopping, the opportunities for abuses of the system become more apparent. Personal data is being collected at an alarming rate, and it appears many device users are either avoiding the issue of privacy or simply not aware of its significance. However, it is a certainty Google and other search engines are cognizant of how valuable collected user data truly is. There are, in fact, a great many people now searching for ways to avoid providing personal data.

Is Google Really All That Bad?

First, it’s important to recognize how pervasive Google’s presence is. Over a billion users now routinely use Google. That is more than use Yahoo, Bing and Baidu combined. With that level of dominance, Google can dictate the direction search engines take. It’s recent algorithm changes have reshaped how search engines work, forcing dramatic alterations in website design parameters. At the same time, Google continues to push the limits of how and where the organization collects user data.

While it may be argued device users could simply opt to use alternative search engines, that is not necessarily a solution. When one entity effectively controls a market segment, competitors are forced to follow suit, adopting similar strategies to remain competitive. That would suggest Yahoo and Bing are likely using similar algorithms to mine user data. There are, obviously, compelling reasons for collecting data. It does, in fact, allow Google to better tailor ads, identify quality matches during searches, and improve their internal efficiencies. However, there is a point where the information collected goes well beyond what is needed to simply power the search engine itself.

What Types of Data Are Collected?

This is where the issues start to take on darker overtones. Google and other search engines track what sites users visit and monitor online buying habits to better provide appropriate search results. However, Google’s monitoring goes well beyond those activities. Google digitally monitors communications, locations, and virtually everything a user does. The word “creepy” continually comes up in articles describing Google’s ability to know what users are going to do even before they do it. Even scarier is the fact the tracking is becoming even more all-encompassing. At what point will users object? That remains to be seen.

As Google rapidly moves into other business categories, its online dominance puts it in a position to effectively take advantage of mined data to influence other aspects of users’ lives. That is, indeed, something users may strongly object to. But, will it be too late? Is Google Evil? While that may be wording it a little strongly, the potential for Google to abuse its power is certainly real.

What You Can Do

In order to keep your information safe, secure, and most of all—private–you should install some basic security measures on your computer.  First, ensure that you have an adequate antimalware software tool in order to sweep for keyword and password sniffers.  One great program that you can use and that I recommend is Spyhunter 4.  This is an excellent anti malware program from A lot of people ask me the question, “Is Spyhunter safe?” and I can assuredly say that it’s an extremely safe and effective program that I’ve actually used myself to remove malware infections from my computer.  You can check out this article in order to see how safe it is.

Another great thing to do is to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN.  These can keep your information safe from people who are sniffing wireless networks, especially those that are not secure.

Social Media And Tech

I’m guilty of it myself. Since I work from a computer I spend a lot of time on Facebook and other social media sites. It’s just force of habit. Often I will find myself heading over to Facebook without even consciously thinking about it. I’m no better than the rat in the cage, pressing a lever to receive a piece of food. I am accustomed to clicking over to Facebook because of that addicting pleasure of having notifications….that juicy little red number on the top bar of Facebook itself. It’s quite addicting to participate and then get feedback. And the mystery and wonder of that stupid red number has me coming back over and over again. It’s crazy.

Industry statistics indicate that well over half of U.S. residents are currently using social media sites. That may not come as a surprise, but what may be is that nearly a fourth of social media users in the United States access social media sites many times every day. While site owners like those statistics, the numbers indicate some users are spending a significant amount of time on social media sites at the expense of other activities. Does that mean those users should quit social media? In some cases, the answer may be yes but, in most cases, simply cutting back may be advisable. There are several ways to reduce usage while not totally abandoning all those online friends and contacts.

Time Yourself

Most users do not keep track of the amount of time they spend on social media sites. It’s easy to simply take a quick peek at Facebook or Twitter every time you hear that little beep indicating something is happening. However, those quick peeks can really add up over the course of a day. While cutting back on the time spent monitoring Facebook may be difficult, start thinking about what could be accomplished using the time currently devoted to social media. Start saving time by turning off those notifications and only check on what friends and other contacts are doing once or twice a day at specific times.

Avoid Those Games and Surveys

While it’s tempting to play a game or two, it’s also easy to then play “just one more.” The same applies to all those surveys or “What is Your (Fill in the Blank) Name?” questionnaires that are so popular. Not only are those activities time-consuming, they provide fodder for data miners itching to learn more about users’ habits. To save time, as well as preserve a little privacy, simply avoid those temptations.

Social media sites provide a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, but they can become addicting for some users. By minimizing use and setting limits on what types of activities are engaged in, users can avoid spending too much time on those sites. The first step for users wanting to reclaim their lives is to track their usage and start setting limits for how much time will be dedicated to social media sites in the future.