Imagine if someone tracked your every move. Someone always knew where you were. Whether you were relaxing at home, working at your office or meeting your boyfriend or girlfriend at a popular café for a date, this person would know your exact location and use this information in whatever way he or she desires to do so. Sounds spooky, right? Well, it’s happening to you right now. At this very moment, as you are reading this article, there is an organization that knows where you are, where you were yesterday and even where you were on a crescent moon night 3 months ago. Let’s delve deeper into the subject for more info on how google tracks you and shed some light on how important protecting your privacy is today?
The All-Seeing Eye of Google
This isn’t a shadowy organization or a secret government like you would find in a classic spy film but a company almost everyone who has ever used the internet is familiar with, Google. It owns and develops android which the preferred mobile OS for a significant percentage of the smartphone using population.
Google tracks everything from your emails, internet usage, search behavior and you don’t know whether your privacy is violated or not. You can hide from google by using some virtual network, you can learn more about it here. Google is most used search engine in the world and people seem to love it, but the way Google makes most of its revenue can be very problematic. To oversimplify, Google makes its money by running ads. But unlike the ads you see on TV, in newspapers or magazines, these ads are targeted at specific people who have the highest chances of being a potential customer. While this way of advertising can be very beneficial for the organizations that are putting these ads on Google, the way Google selects people to target can be very questionable.
One of the methods Google uses to find out if it should target someone for a particular ad is by tracking their location. For instance, suppose you often visit a south Indian food outlet, Google will record this information and use it so that when you are browsing websites or using social media, the ads you see will be of south Indian food outlets or of delivery services that deliver south Indian food.
The problem with tracking and why it’s worse than you think
While a large number of people are either ignorant of this fact or they simply don’t care about it. This is quite a substantial breach of privacy as Google does this by using smartphones and as almost everyone carries his or her smartphone with themselves wherever they go, Google gets the power of tracking our location at all time. The spy analogy used at the start of this article is not purely metaphorical as Google is quite literally spying on us.
But it doesn’t stop there. Google does give the option to users of Google Maps that, basically, they can tell Google to stop tracking their location. Google went on record saying that this will stop them from tracking your location at times. But turns out this is not the case at all.
The associated press of the United States of America recently conducted an investigation into this and what they found out is really rather disturbing. According to their report, even if you specifically configured your privacy settings in a manner that does not give Google the permission to track your location, it is doing so anyway.
The moment you open google maps, it will record your location and this information can be used by other apps on your phone whether you consent to it or not. This is quite frustrating as there is not much that can be done about this gross violation of user privacy of potentially over 2 billion smartphone users.
Since finding the right targets for specific products is what they literally do to make money, they really don’t have much incentive, outside of the obvious ethical and moral ones, to stop tracking people as location tracking is a very big part of that process.