Google. It has become an integral part of a lot of people’s lives. In the last few years it has become a verb. Google (verb) – to perform an online search using google.com search engine.
But how much do you know about Google?
You know that Colgate uses Gmail. You know that you use Google to search for pretty much anything you have a question about.
And you also know that you never have to pay anything to use Google’s services. Google must be great!
Everything is free, Colgate trusts them, and it’s a verb! How could they not be trustworthy?
Sadly, very few people are aware of what is actually going on behind the scenes at Gooogle (accentuate the oooh sound).
Google, the private company that we trust to host our own university’s e-mail service, is in the business of collecting information about you, the Google user. This is the cost of their ‘free’ service. How else did you think Google was making billions of dollars? By magic?
“Log information – When you access Google services via a browser, application or other client our servers automatically record certain information. These server logs may include information such as your web request, your interaction with a service, Internet Protocol address, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and one or more cookies that may uniquely identify your browser or your account.
“User communications – When you send e-mail or other communications to Google, we may retain those communications in order to process your inquiries, respond to your requests and improve our services. When you send and receive SMS messages to or from one of our services that provides SMS functionality, we may collect and maintain information associated with those messages, such as the phone number, the wireless carrier associated with the phone number, the content of the message, and the date and time of the transaction. We may use your email address to communicate with you about our services.”
First, let us discuss Gmail because it is a service that is forced upon us by Colgate.
Google, whenever you access your Colgate Gmail account, essentially records in their servers your IP address (which can be used to personally identify you, not necessarily at Colgate due to Colgate having one outgoing IP address; but if you have ever accessed your e-mail at home, they have that logged with your private home IP address), browser language (so they know what language you speak) and also a tracking cookie to “uniquely identify you.” Does any of this sound just plain creepy to you?
This is the e-mail service that you are trusting with your most private university communications.
The reason for this is so that they can give you targeted advertising. Although Google does not show ads on Colgate Gmail due to it being a university service, they can still use the e-mails that you send to collect more information about you to offer you targeted advertising when you use Google’s search engine.
I have no proof of whether or not Google does this with their university e-mail services.
This brings me to Google search. Were you aware that every time you use a search, Google records it, along with unique identifying information in their servers? Google, although often asked about why they are collecting all of this information, has never explicitly stated any good reason, or any reason at all as to why they are collecting everyone’s search engine requests, or ever stated what they intend to do with all of this information.
So, here are two questions that have answers that are far from reassuring. Why is Google collecting this information? Don’t know, because Google will not say why. How long are they keeping your information? Again, don’t know, because Google will not say why.
So what can you do to stop all of this creepy big brother stuff that Google is doing?
I have two recommendations. The first is to create an e-mail account with Hushmail (www.hushmail.com).
It is a free service that allows you to send encrypted e-mails (with a question and a password so that only the person who you intend to communicate with can read it, it’s fun!).
Most importantly, they do not have any interest in the content of the e-mails that you send. Their service is privacy.
So, while you may be stuck with creepy Gmail for some of your mundane communications that you do not mind Google reading, for anything you do not want Google to read, I encourage you all to make a free e-mail account with Hushmail.
As for Google search, I have also found a superior service www.ixquick.com, “The world’s most private search engine.” They have a little search engine bar that you can use, just like Google does.
Most importantly, they do not record in their server logs any identifying information, because they don’t care to collect a massive spy database of everyone’s personal web searches.
Since I found out about Ixquick, I have not performed one Google search, because I have had no reason to.
Ixquick is just as if not more effective than Google, and they don’t record every single search I make in a creepy set of servers in California! It is really a refreshing feeling.
Unfortunately, Google is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Internet surveillance.
Like it or not, the Internet has become an important part of most of our day to day lives, and it is unfortunate how uninformed the majority of people are about what is actually happening online.