Blog. We went from Age of Humans to Age of Google in just 20 years. You can never trust Google to tell the truth and the whole truth about what the data monopoly knows about you. But here is how you can work towards digital independence from Google.
The beautiful thing about humans is our ability to diversify. Through hundreds of thousands years of evolution, we developed into billions of unique individuals, each with distinctive traits and personalities, each with private joys and sorrows, each with life stories, that one day will be obscured and forgotten. We lived in the Age of Humans, or AH!
It took Google only 20 years to transform most of us 7.7 billion into standardized boxes of data points, which are being tracked and recorded every instant of our lives by Al in Google data centers. The record, which we know very little about and which will never be forgotten. Now you live in the Age of Google, or AG!
An Australian company Oracle this March 2019 has accused Google of creating “shadow profiles” of us and recording without our permission a variety of data points that we are never informed about, even if we exercise our “right of access” to information, as determined by GDPR Art 15. (You can find Oracles Report here in PDF format.
You have probably experienced it first hand – you had a conversation about a product with a friend, and an hour later you see an ad about that exact product or receive a recommendation on where to find related products at the exact time you pass the store. This disturbing ability of Google to make such precise predictions is not-magic. It stems from the enormous amounts of data points, which Google collected about you, your immediate surroundings, your interactions, preferences, purchases and so much more, that gives the company such power over your every-day choices and decisions.
Among the data points of your shadow profile are nearby wifi-networds, Bluetooth-signals, cell-tower connections, IP-addresses and PlaceIDs of your Android devices and even barometric pressure at your precise location. You might wonder why barometric pressure? That type of data in combination with local weather reports can help Google predict when to show you an ad for headache or joint pain relive and through your location know exactly WHEN to show it to you for maximum purchasing effect. If you are person that uses wearable health/sport devices, your bodily data in combination with barometric pressure lets Google determine when you are pregnant, even before you find out yourself. If you curious to see a fraction of what Google collects about you, request your data here.
You can never trust Google to tell the truth and the whole truth. That is simply not Googles business model to do so. The only thing Google cares about is data, your data, all your data, whether you agree to it or not. Even though Google conditioned you to believe that it is a binary choice between using Google or loosing access to the world, the reality is – you have a diverse variety of alternatives. Useful technology, just like Mother Nature, is based on laws of innovation and diversifications. You just have to return to the kind of technological curiosity and open mind that you had just 20 years ago.
Digital Independence from Google
Your first step towards digital independence is turning off Googles tracking of your every day activities. You can do so by opening the activity page in your phone/PC browser.Here you will see all sorts of information that Google has tracked about your since the beginning of the AG-times. And here you will have an option to delete all that collected data.
Your second step is to turn off future tracking by clicking on “activity controls”, and switching off the 6 following tracking activities:
- Web and App Activity
- Location history
- Device information
- Voice and Audio activity
- YouTube search history
- YouTube play history
For each those parameters you can easily turn the tracking off by sliding the blue dot to the left, so it becomes grey and Google confirmed that the tracking is “set on pause”. Each time Google will warn you, that its platforms will not be able to function properly – but that is not true. You retain all the functionality and at the same time gain some measure of privacy.
Moreover, you will gain more control over your time – as Google platforms are designed to capture and retain your attention for as long as possible by showing you more stuff based on personaliation and tracking. You probably have experienced it before: You went on YouTube to see one cute cat video and five hours later you emerge in disbelieve, not know where your day went.
Your third step maybe the most amazing. Even if you turn off the tracking function, there are so many other ways Google can spy on you and further build your shadow profile. But what if I tell you that technological diversity is not dead in the AG? What if I tell you that you don’t have to conform to binary choice of “to Google or Not to Google”? Because the answer of course is “Not to Google”, but in stead use many wonderful alternatives that put your privacy above all else. You can find Google alternatives here. For every Google product there are at least 3-4 alternative products. Here you can restore the balance of power to the technological evolution and innovation, by supporting alternative products. Because now is the time to say AH! and bring back the wonder of technological diversity into our lives. Now is the good time to return to the Age of Humans, to take your privacy back away from the tech-giants and support ethical use of human data by using alternative products.
Julia Sommer is a guest blogger at DataEthics.eu and works as Auditor and external DPO for Revi-IT A/S