Is Google tracking your personal information?
Google LLC is an American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware. Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University in California.
Today, Google provides marketers like me with so much of your personal data that we can infer more about you from it than from any camera or microphone.
There have never been more opportunities for marketers like me to exploit your data. Today, 40,000 Google search queries are conducted every second. That’s 3.5 billion searches per day, 1.2 trillion searches per year.
When you search on Google, your query travels to a datacenter, where up to 1,000 computers work together to retrieve the results and send them back to you. This whole process usually happens in less than one-fifth of a second.
Most people don’t realize that while this is going on, an even faster and more mysterious process is happening behind the scenes. In other terms, an auction is taking place.
For as long as you have been using Google, Google has been building a “The Citizen Profile” on you.
Every internet search contains keywords, and the keywords you just entered into Google are fought over by advertisers. Each advertiser who offers a product related to your keywords wants its ad to be seen and clicked.
Then, like cartoon toys scrambling to get back in the right order before their owner throws on the light, the ads finalize their positions before your customized results page loads on your screen.
Generally, your first four search results - what you see before having to scroll down are all paid advertisements. If you didn’t know this, you’re not alone. More than 50 percent of people between the ages of 18–34 can’t differentiate between an ad and an organic result on Google. For those over 35, that percentage grows proportionally higher. To maximize this percentage, Google is always testing to find ad visuals that blend in best with organic results.
Once you click on an ad, your information passes through to search engine marketers, where it’s forever stored in an AdWords account, never to be erased.
In case you were starting to feel a semblance of happiness, what with the holidays around the corner, here is a complete checklist of everything Google knows about you—thereby all the ways you’re tracked up to today…when you are reading this story.
Your parental status
Your relationship status
Your browsing history (long-term and short-term)
Your device (phone, tablet, desktop, TV)
Your physical location
The age of your child (toddler, infant, etc.)
How well you did in high school
The degree you hold
The time (of day) of your Google usage
The language you speak
Whether you’ve just had a major life event
Your home ownership status
Your mobile carrier
The exact words you enter into Google search
The context and topics of the websites you visit
The products you buy
The products you have almost bought
Your Wi-Fi type
Your proximity to a cell tower
Your app installation history
The amount of time you spend on certain apps
Your operating system
The contents of your email
The time you spend on certain websites
Whether you’re moving (e.g., into a new home)
Whether you’re moving (e.g., walking or on a train)
The above targeting methods are made available to search engine marketers by Google within marketers’ Ads UI.
For as long as you’ve been using Google, Google has been building a “citizen profile” on you. This profile contains -
Your voice search history
Every Google search you’ve ever made
Every ad you’ve ever seen or clicked on
Every place you’ve been in the last year
Every image you’ve ever saved
Every email you’ve ever sent
Marketers already know if you’re a daily commuter. And they show you ads for products that daily commuters would be interested in buying, like headphones, pre-worn leather laptop bags, and handkerchiefs to hoarsely sob into. How do marketers know you’re a commuter?
The frequency your cell phone pings passing cell towers. If the pings occur close together, a marketer can conclude that you’re standing in an object moving at a great rate of speed, with infrequent interruptions—also known as a train.
Search for a product on your phone and then physically walk into a store. Do that, in that order, and chances are Google used your phone’s GPS data to connect your ad click and your in-store purchase.
In order to provide marketers with further detail about your in-store (offline) purchases, Google has acquired (paid millions for) Mastercard credit card data. The company has acknowledged it has access to about 70 percent of U.S. credit and debit card sales through “third-party partnerships.” We will look back on this number and consider it quaint.
Today, people tell Google things they confess nowhere else - not to their spouses, doctors, or shrinks. But Google users would not be so forthright with the search engine if they understood how far down this rabbit hole goes.