• Cecilia Soria

Yes, really. You are under surveillance.


If there's one good thing about the Cambridge Analytics fallout, it's that people have now become more aware of their privacy rights. Now, when privacy advocates start talking about how internet platforms collect and store so much of their users' personal data, people pay attention. Hopefully, they've stopped regarding privacy advocates as paranoid nutjobs.

If you've been following the news closely, you know by now how Facebook compiles a virtually dossier on you and your activities. What about Google? It shouldn't come as a surprise that Google--despite it's mantra not to be evil--is playing the same game as well.

So you want to know what kind of information Google has on you? Head to this link: https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity

You'll note that Google has recorded your activities across all Google platforms. It is important to underscore that, according to Google, only you can see this. Imagine though is someone gains access to these information?

Now that I've sufficiently scared you, you might be wondering how to delete all the details that Google has recorded. You can do this by clicking "Delete activity by" on the left panel of the screen. This will take you to a page where you can choose to delete everything or just records from particular Google platforms.

Your next question probably is, "how do I stop Google from recording further activities?" To do that, you need to click on "Activity controls," again on the left panel of the screen. This will lead to you a page where you can choose which information Google can save by dragging the button to the right:

Conversely, you turn off the recording by dragging the button to the left.

I also found out that Google does not limit its surveillance to my online activities. Click on "Other Google activity" on the left panel and this leads you to the menu below.

Click "visit timeline" under Location History and you're in for a treat (or a horrible realization, hehe). Yes, Google has a list of ALL the places you've been to (provided you brought your mobile phone and you had the location services turned on). My timeline showed a record as far back as April 2012. The red dots are all the places I've been in the past six years.

***

We all have different thresholds of privacy: some may feel comfortable with living in a fishbowl while others prefer a more private existence. The point about the current controversy on how online platforms handle our personal information isn't just what these platforms are capable of doing and whether these functionalities are bad or beneficial. Or even that these platforms are earning billions from sharing our personal information (aggregated or not) to third parties. The issue is that all these activities were undertaken without notice to the users and, therefore, without meaningful consent.

(P.S. Don't blame the users for not reading the Terms of Use because the onus for consent shouldn't be on the user but on the entity collecting personal information.)

#Google #dataprivacy #surveillance #locationtracking

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©2020 by Cecilia Soria