If you’re like me and value your privacy, then read on to learn how you can limit the ways that Google tracks you.
I have a lot of good things to say about Google. They’re the most open company of the “big 4”, the big 4 being Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and Google. They truly have turned searching the Internet into an art form. No search engine is faster or more pertinent to the user’s query. Google also has some great products for end-users and developers alike. I could go on.
The one problem (and it’s a big one) that I have with Google is that the company does not respect a user’s privacy. There’s a saying in the business, “If you don’t pay for the product, you are the product.” Thi certainly is true with Google (as it is with many, many tech companies). How does google track you? A slightly dated article on usnews.com explains it pretty well. To summarize:
- Searching. Google creates a detailed profile of you over time based on your search queries.
- GMail. If you use GMail, Google scans the content of your emails and the emails of your correspondents. This includes your incoming emails. Google never deletes its own copies, even copies of drafts and incomplete emails.
- Chrome. Every single website you visit in chrome is tracked by Google.
- Safari & Firefox. How? Safari & Firefox (like many web browsers) check with Google’s ever-changing list of blacklisted sites (called “safe search”) before taking you to a site. It sends Google the site you are about to visit as part of the information packet.
- Android. Google wrote the Android operating system (with a little help from Linus Torvals and Linux). Anything you type, touch, swipe, or pinch on your Android device runs through the operating system. On your Android device Google can upload and store whatever information it wants at any time.
- YouTube. Google bought YouTube in 2006 for 1.65 billion. Whatever you view on YouTube, Google uses to create a detailed profile of your viewing habits.
- Google AdSense, AdWords and associated widgets. You may not know what these are unless you own a website or design them, but more than half the sites in the world (including this one) use one or more of these Google services. Visit a website using one ore more of these services or click on a widget (G+) and Google knows, oh, they know.
There’s more, but the list above are the main ways that Google will track users. So know the question becomes, “How can I limit the ways in which Google tracks me?” Notice I use the word “limit” and not “stop”. I’m not sure it’s feasible to completely stop Google’s tracking, except maybe trading in your phone for an old flip model and getting off the Internet. Maybe that would work.
Short of hiding under a rock, here’s some things you can do to help protect your privacy from Google.
- Don’t use GMail. Try the free email service, ProtonMail. It’s hosted in Sweden, which has strict privacy laws. It’s not as feature rich as GMail, but it works well enough and the service is actively developed. You can read a bit about their security and privacy here: https://protonmail.com/security-details
- Don’t use Chrome (or Safari). Use Firefox instead. “But wait”, I can hear you say. “Google can track me through Firefox.” Yes, but you can disable that ability, as long as you are vigilant enough to pay attention to the websites you visit (see below). And please don’t use Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge. There’s a host of reasons why you shouldn’t use these browsers, but that subject is for another post.I should mention that there’s probably a way to disable Google’s tracking on Safari as well. You’ll need to do your own research on that one.
- Android. Ah Android. The phone I love and love to hate. Remember, the operating system on an Android device was created by Google, so it’s nearly impossible to completely stop Google from tracking you when using Android. Here’s a couple of things you can do to limit the amount of tracking:
- Turn of Location Services. Open the App drawer. Find and select the “Location” option. Under “Google Location Settings” find “Location History”. Deselect “Location Reporting” and select “Delete Location History”. You will need to do this for each Google account you registered on the device.
- Install and use Krypton Web Browser. Go to the Play Store search for and download the Krypton Web Browser app. The browser has many security features, too many to explain in this post. Truth be told I do not know a lot about this browser, but what I hear is good. You can check out some information here: https://www.xda-developers.com/krypton-web-browser-privacy/
- There’s probably more you can do. Please email me with any suggestions.
- On the desktop, use Firefox. Yes, Google can track through Firefox, but you can disable that feature. Before I explain how, you need to know that:
- I’m not responsible if you break your computer.
- Making these changes will require you to be vigilant regarding what you browse and download, as the browser’s security will be compromised (but just slightly, in my opinion).
To disable Google’s tracking ability, open Firefox, choose the menu bars at the right, choose “Preferences”, “Security”, then uncheck “Block dangerous and deceptive content”. This will stop Firefox from sending each site you visit to Google’s blacklist server.
- Use Privacy Badger. Privacy Badger is a free browser extension for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Privacy badger will block code from sites that appear to be tracking you over multiple locations. Google is one of these sites. This doesn’t mean you can’t surf Google’s websites, just that Google can’t track you while you’re doing it.