Wednesday, June 10, 2015

de-google yourself?

I'm concerned about my privacy and personal information security; this morning my father pointed me to this article that espoused all the evil things that Google does with my data, cookies, email, and personal information.

I does not take too much effort to debunk everything the author lays claim too in fact it is also demonstrated by (a) the publisher of the article (b) the commenting system therein (c) and it's advertisers; as they are all part of the profit machine trying to monetize it's visitors. (no different than Google just on a different scale)
the publisher's site was closed for comment, however, that information was not available to me prior to registering. Had commenting been closed I would never have registered.
The author of the article made certain recommendations and claims;

Step 1: Spread your data.

This might do more harm than good.  Spreading your data means that the premium associated with your data is higher. (the sum of the parts is less expensive than the parts sold separately; economics 101)  It also puts the cost of managing all this data, the individual policy and procedures, and maintenance.

Step 2: Search Differently

There are a number of other search engines. Duck Duck Go comes to mind. While Google is not necessarily a search company they are the best search company.

Step 3: Crumble the Cookies

Cookie security makes sense, however, while there are a certain number of cookies that belong to the application and some to the advertiser/ghost hunters it's impossible to determine the difference so that the browser can be selective. Burning your cookies can and will eventually degrade your experience.

Step 4: gmail

If you do not want some of the advertising associated with gmail then simply pay for it ($50/yr). You already pay for MS Outlook and OSX Mail when you purchase their operating systems.

Step 5: Cloud Storage

I'm not sure what the author was getting to here. This irrational fear of vendors having access to your data has been around for quite a while.  It started with the terms of service at both Box and DropBox. Both companies asked the users to give them permission to access and modify the documents. While the terms were evil sounding and vague; in the end it was just about asking permission to compress, archive and relocate your data on their servers. It was clearly an over imaginative attorney who was splitting fiber but it was out there.

By comparison, Google Drive and Google App, have a number of compliance certificates including HIPPA and PCI. This means that while Google has your documents it is not reading them; by which I mean operating on them, taking action, or changing anything about your experience. (but they are reading them in a binary sense as is the case with all the other browsers and file managers.

Step 6: SmartPhone

It's hard to know, for certain, what information we might be leaking and just how private it might be. Given the cost of our smartphones you'd think that the information we are leaking would give us a better discount. For example the traffic indicator on the maps application is harvested by all of the other phones on the road with you at the same time. The information is supposed to be anonymous and it likely is, however, a motivated someone might be able to crack the code. Between the GPS, WiFI navigation etc... someone with access to a traffic camera and map telemetry could probably isolate a single individual.

If the price is too high, turn it off.

Conclusion:

You do not get anything for free these days. Everyone wants something whether it's you email address, phone number or location. Even the article's publisher and the author have an interest in knowing who you are. (this article is posted on Blogger and previously WordPress. Both try to monetize it's readers)

Until someone can prove that Google is doing something evil with my data I trust them before all the other bobs out there.

UPDATE:  The author of the article @DerekInBerlin was published by The Irish Times. The website is full of advertising and analytics; including Google's own. Since the Derek did not provide an email address; only a twitter; he's also selling his information in a manner of speaking.

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