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What Google Knows About You and Its Relationship with the Government
By: Ivan Strouchliak
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    2008-11-12

    Table of Contents:
  • What Google Knows About You and Its Relationship with the Government
  • Google Desktop
  • For How Long does Google Keep Data About You?
  • Google's Privacy Policy and What Government Can Access

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    What Google Knows About You and Its Relationship with the Government - Google Desktop


    (Page 2 of 4 )

    Desktop scans and allows you to search your computer with Google-like quality (Microsoft Windows search is terrible). It scans ALL the files you have, including the contents of those files, such as Word documents and PDF files.

    Google potentially knows of every file you have on your computer, if you use Google Desktop.

    Picasa

    Picasa now offers face recognition software, so if you have the latest version installed on your computer Google can potentially identify your face, and all the faces of your friends (there's some tagging involved, but one tag is enough).

    British police uses face recognition software in London's CCTV network and can track your movements throughout the city. If you use the London tube and Oyster cards, the police know the stations at which you got on and off. London police can potentially map your entire day with minute precision. It makes 1984look like kindergarten.

    What does Google do with this face recognition data? Does it collect and keep it, or is it just offered as a cool service? If it collects and keeps it, does it share it with the government?

    I never see those questions raised in the search community and closing our eyes to this issue, labeling anyone who raises it a "conspiracy theorist" is plain ignorant. We know for a fact NSA listens to American citizen's phones and reads their e-mails; how do we know tech giants are not cooperating? Torrent sites got hit; it's a fair assumption that tech giants were asked for this information as well. How do we know they refused?

    Google Maps and Google Earth

    If you ever use Google Maps for directions, Google knows where you're going. If you use Google maps on a consistent basis for directions, and always have an exact "start address," then Google can potentially know where you live or work. It's not hard to implement this kind of algorithm:

    • If 7 out of 10 direction searches start with one address, then that address = your residence or a place where you spend a lot of time, like work.

    You Tube and Google Video

    Google knows the videos you watched and for which you searched. This, coupled with general search, can cue Google into your interests.

    Google News

    If you use this service, Google knows the news topics in which you're interested.

    Google Toolbar and Google Chrome

    Google Toolbar can potentially track all the sites you visit, the exact time you visit those sites, and the amount of time you spend on each site. It can also track visiting patterns, such as specific sites you regularly visit and read.

    Microsoft's Browserankis based on user behavior data collected through Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Does Google track user behavior through Chrome?

    After Chrome's release, there was a lot of gossip about Chrome's omnibox and how it sends data of every URL, every word and letter you type into it. Google then updated its privacy policy, stating it will anonymize dataafter 24 hours.

    It's safe to assume that Google doesn't get browsing information through Chrome and their toolbar, but they could if they wanted to.

    Google Notebook, Calendar, Reader

    • If you use Google Calendar, Google potentially knows your schedule.

    • If you use Google Reader, Google knows blogs and news you follow.

    • If you use Notebook, Google knows your notes. :)

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