There is a well-liked saying on the Internet: if you happen to don’t pay for the product, you then do are product. The “free” online services like email, social media, and video streaming you employ day by day should not free – hosting, domain registration, maintenance, security, and so forth come at a big cost. If you do not directly contribute to those costs, it signifies that the owners of those sites are using you as a source of income. Sometimes this is finished through easy and unobtrusive banner ads on pages (as within the case of OFFGRIDweb), but other times through the silent capture and resale of big amounts of highly personalized data. Google is the world’s leading expert in tracking and monetizing user data, and the Silicon Valley tech giant recently added a latest My Ad Center panel that sheds some light on the accuracy of their user tracking system.
Google is latest My Ad Center opens with a password Your Ads, Your Choice. It advertises the power to “easily customize” and “personalize” the forms of ads displayed across Google’s various online services, equivalent to Search and YouTube. But if you happen to don’t need to limit ads about sensitive topics – like dog toy ads after your dog dies – the actual value of My Ad Hub is to see a bit glimpse of what Google knows about you and your lifestyle.
How much does Google know?
Based on the information, including every search keyword you enter, every search link you click, and each YouTube video you watch, Google routinely creates a digital profile about you. While not explicitly mentioned in Ad Center, it almost actually also includes information from emails sent and received from Gmail, location data from Android smartphones (e.g. businesses or other Android users you’ve got recently visited), routes taken in Google Maps, what you watch in your Android TV, and more. This user profile also incorporates certain information equivalent to:
- Basic language
- Relationship status
- Parental status (including approximate age of youngsters)
- Household income level
- Employer size
- Home ownership status
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My Google Ads Center also shows general ad topics that you simply’re prone to be fascinated with, in addition to “Brands for you.” If you would like, you’ll be able to ask Google to limit ads on “sensitive topics” (alcohol, dating, gambling, pregnancy and parenting, and weight reduction). Finally, the Ad Center shows you the newest ads that similar brands have paid to indicate to users who match your demographic. For example, suppose XYZ Widget Co. wants to indicate ads to single men under the age of 25 who’re fascinated with technology – Google is completely happy to do this. Of course, this profile will also be used to focus on more vulnerable demographics, equivalent to predatory loan corporations that show ads to low-income users with limited education.
Go to myadcenter.google.com to see how accurate your individual profile is.
There ought to be little question that your Google promoting profile incorporates far more detailed and invasive data than those listed here, so consider this the tip of the privacy iceberg. You must also assume that other big tech corporations like Meta and Amazon have followed Google’s lead and developed similarly detailed profiles based in your activity. The more sophisticated and accurate a user’s profile is, the simpler it is going to be to persuade them to purchase a product or make every other decision in the actual world.
What are you able to do about it?
Is there anything you’ll be able to do to avoid this personalized tracking? Not really, unless you deactivate all of your Google services accounts and do not use those services (including Android phones, Android TV, Nest cameras, Google Home, etc.) again in the longer term. After all, Google won’t let you employ their services at no cost – they’ll only allow you to accomplish that if you happen to voluntarily exchange these personalized details for access. You can turn off personalized ads in My Ad Center and limit sensitive ads, however it only means you will see more generic ads. This doesn’t mean that Google will stop collecting or monetizing your data.
At least a take a look at Google’s digital profiling dashboard should make you reconsider how much privacy you truly have online. Hopefully this will provide you with a break before typing sensitive keywords in that search bar, email and even text message next time. It may make you think that twice before filling your private home with smart IoT devices which might be all the time collecting data so as to add to your profile.