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Forget Facebook, Google hoards even more of your personal data

Published Apr 23rd, 2018 7:45AM EDT
Google vs. Facebook

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Facebook is currently going through the worst user privacy crisis in its history. The Cambridge Analytica privacy breached that was revealed a few weeks ago made the world realize how much data the social giant is collecting about its users, and how easy that data could have ended up in the wrong hands.

But Facebook is hardly the only company collecting treasure troves of user data. Google is able to track users even better than Facebook, and likely has a good amount of information on all Google services users. One report says that Google may be collecting as much as 8 feet of A4 pages of user data about a user every two weeks.

Facebook is now looking to redeem itself in the eyes of consumers, although the privacy-related that are coming were already planned. Europe is taking a hard stance on what internet companies can do with your data, and all of them have until May 25th to amend their user agreements to take into account the new provisions of the GDPR law.

Google can’t be happy about what happened to Facebook, and it’s probably preparing its own privacy policy changes to comply with the EU’s new regulations. And the company probably hopes the public keeps focusing on Facebook and forgets that Google is also gobbling up plenty of user data with each day that goes by.

A The Wall Street Journal report makes the same point, that we’re collectively ignoring Google’s ability to harness user data and then turn it into more expensive ads.

The Journal says that, just like Facebook, Google is also profiling everyone using its services — or the web — and Google’s database contains a lot more information on both users and non-users. Even if you opt out of ad targeting, Google still collects data about you.

Unlike Facebook, however, Google doesn’t have any pressing privacy breach to deal with. And its services are amazing, which is why so many people agree to have Google collect that much data. But should anyone want to regulate Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica mess, Google will also suffer the consequences.

A different report in The Mail on Sunday notes that one of the reporters discovered Google would generate every two weeks a stack of 23,731 pages of data that would reach almost 8 feet.

Over a year, Google would gather the equivalent of almost 570 thousand pages of A4 paper of data. That’s staggering — of course, mileage may vary for each Google account holder, depending what kind of data he or she let Google collect.

“Sinister surveillance” techniques, as the report notes them, would allow Google to collect data even from browsing sessions made in incognito mode.

Here’s an excerpt from the kind of things Google would know about a user:

11:31 – They know what you want and exactly where you go

Looking at my data from December 23, 2014, I saw Google recorded that I left my street in South-East London at 11.31am and, tracking me via GPS, it knew that it took me seven minutes to walk to Lee station.

Google then noted that I boarded the 11.39 train to Charing Cross, arriving at 11.57.

While on the train, at 11.47, Google recorded that I searched the term ‘best whiskey shop in London’ to buy whiskey for my father.

And at 11.53, the search engine kept a record of the fact that I read a review of 2014 by Charlie Brooker in the Guardian.

Yes, that’s pretty creepy. Of course, you agree to have Google collect all that data. Interestingly, the report says that out of the world’s computer storage capacity, 2.8% if dedicated to storing the data of Google’s three billion users.

There’s hope that, at least for European users, the GDPR rules would force Google to make it easier for users to access, manage, and even delete the user data Google collects. The alternative is not using Google services at all, but that doesn’t prevent Google from profiling you either.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.