What Google really knows about you

When it comes to the question of Google and what it knows about billions of individuals around the planet, the truth can be unsettling.

Google knows far more about you than you’ve ever imagined. Thanks not only to its pervasive search engine, Google Home appliance, Android mobile operating system, but also due to technologies it makes for nearly every web publisher and advertiser on the planet.

Google’s core business

While many consider Google to be a technology company, the reality is far simpler.

It’s an advertising company. Everything it does, every online service or hardware technology it provides or supports, is aimed at collecting your information so you can be packaged and sold to advertisers.

Google makes its money by telling advertisers as much as it can about you: your lifestyle, your habits, your preferences, your connections. Advertisers in turn use this data to target highly specific messages designed to influence your buying behaviours.

Informed Consent

While many people may be comfortable with the amount of data Google collects about them and the manner in which Google chooses to use that data, the key issue is informed consent.

That is, making sure, in clear plain language, that all users understand all the ways someone is gathering data actively and passively about them, where that data will be stored, who it will be shared with and when and how users can correct the data or request its deletion.

And that’s where data privacy and protection laws in Canada lag behind the world’s leading legislation out of Europe.

That gap won’t change unless citizens in Canada and other countries demand better laws.

Empowered consumers

It’s interesting to note that Apple has adopted a dramatically different business strategy from Google when it comes to privacy, collecting 1/50th information that Google collections about its users and providing many more tools to consumers to protect their personal information.

Consumers increasingly are being provided with better choices between firms that seek to exploit their data and those that protect it.