How Much Does Google Know About Me?
Privacy isn’t what it used to be. In our modern world of near-instantaneous information exchange, it can seem like nothing is private anymore. The dynamic infrastructure of information exchange on the internet is incredibly intricate and complicated. For many, the digital landscape can seem as if modern information collecting trends have our privacy less secure than ever. Particularly in the case of far-reaching algorithms, like those employed by Google, it can seem like the internet knows everything about you.
With Google tied into operating systems, browsers, apps, and web hosting, this one algorithm can personalize an internet experience. Everyone has had the experience of their phone seeming to suggest searches just before they think of them. Additionally, many are uncomfortable with how much the tech giant seems to know about them personally. How much does Google know about you? The reality is that the question itself is more complicated than that and needs some clarification to find a real answer.
Asking the Right Question
Focusing on what Google knows about you both casts too wide and too narrow at the same time. Google is a huge organization, encompassing wide-reaching tech infrastructure, many industries, and over 130 thousand full-time employees. Asking broadly about “Google” is asking far too many questions wrapped into one, all with wildly different answers. Likewise, asking what Google knows about you broadly ignores information available in the larger framework of the internet that is available to and accessed by Google. Google’s technology depends on this information, but it doesn’t “know” it.
A more refined question would yield more refined answers. Some similar questions to “How much does Google know about me?” that get a little closer to the heart of the matter are:
- What does Google’s algorithm know about me?
- What do Google employees know about me?
- How does Google predict so much about me?
- What information is visible about me?
Pattern Recognition vs. Data Collection
Often the reason people are uncomfortable with the predictive power of powerful algorithms like Google’s is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of data collection and digital privacy. Google deals with billions of people daily and doesn’t personally “know” anything about you in the traditional sense. Frankly, Google’s algorithm really doesn’t need to know you to personalize a digital experience.
Google’s algorithm specifically identifies patterns and analyzes past patterns of behavior that match to predict outcomes. Yes, people are wildly different and make different choices, but with the amount of experience, Google has at analyzing patterns their statistics are incredibly well-refined. Your previous behaviors combined with location and other factors provide a pretty specific roadmap for Google to follow your behaviors in the future.
It’s important to note though, that Google doesn’t really “know” anything about you during this pattern recognition. It’s simply identifying patterns in your use history that you chose to share through your security settings. Rather than building a dossier on everyone, Google reacts to patterns already available to compute likely outcomes. No personal data has to be collected, and any remaining traffic or behavior histories remain anonymous and unable to be connected to any user by reasonable means.
So much emphasis is placed on heightened cybersecurity now that it can seem counterproductive that sometimes the internet seems to know us so well. You are, however, entirely in control of the information that Google accesses about you and your history. Google’s capacity to react to patterns is astounding– the camera on your phone can even be used to gauge your satisfaction with search results, and a microphone can listen for keywords to suggest searches. You can control access to any of that though through security management and permissions. Even with permissions enabled, Google using your microphone doesn’t mean that you’re being recorded or listened to. Your phone simply hears you say keyword (such as “Hey Google”, or carwash), which Google then reacts to accordingly.
Privacy and Security in the Age of Algorithms
How can you and your business ever feel secure with private information when so much can be extracted from simple histories, available readily in your internet footprint? Cybersecurity isn’t about eliminating your footprint, but rather controlling what information is available. While an algorithm may be able to pull up a sushi restaurant recommended search right as you’re in the mood for sushi, it’s pretty impossible for simple digital history to give away vital passwords. Google and other powerful algorithms track billions of sets of footprints. Then, security makes sure footprints are all people combing through your records find.
Navigating security and privacy in the digital age can feel overwhelming, particularly when others are relying on you as a business leader. If you have questions differentiating between potential breaches and normal digital footprint, contact us today. At DeVeera, we’re experts in navigating digital security, and we’re here for you to give you and your business the support you need.