Thursday, March 1, 2012

Google's Privacy Changed, Worried Yet?

On March 1, today, Google unified it's policies toward privacy.

Basically, if you use any of their sites, they're going to use that information to build a "better profile" of you so they can serve ads that are better targeted to your experience.

From their side of things, it makes sense.  If you're worried about that, then stop using their sites.  All of them.

Go ahead, we'll wait.

You see they've got quite a few of them.  This blog is hosted on Blogger, and that is one of their sites.  Obviously, I'm not moving this along any time soon, so there are a few things you should be aware of.

First you're too late.  If you do searches on Google, you have a web history.  I don't that I know of since I turned mine off ages ago.  You can do that by surfing and poking around.  Mine is empty, and I did that by clicking the box to pause web history.

Why do I say it's too late?   Think of it this way.  You have an "IP Address".  Don't switch off here, think of it as your "Internet Telephone Number".  Every time you use that desktop computer your number says "Hi, here I am, Gimme Stuff".  Web pages for example.  You surf, then the page starts to load.  If you're like 99% of us out there, you don't have much security enabled.

Second: Consider your cookies.

Most of us don't understand what a Cookie is.   Simple, it's a little file with your preferences.  Some people think it's a good idea to use a cookie to remember their passwords.   Do you shop online?  It's helpful not to have to remember your passwords and the cookie will do that.

Now, lets see, most of us will get broken into at some time in their lives.  That PC you're reading me on right now?  It's one of the most likely things to get stolen.   Your cookies will let that person get into your favorite websites and buy up a lot of crap for you... er them.  You really don't want to have cookies stick around.

Now there are two types of cookies.  One is from that web page.  You go to a website, and it saves your preferences.  Most people have ads show up on their pages.  I block that as a rule, ads are distracting, but they also give you something called a Third Party Cookie.

That is a cookie that is not from you, it's not from the website, but it is from the company that puts ads up on the screen.  That company puts ads up on many web pages, it's just the way it's done... but they can read those cookies on the second and third and fifth website that you hit and build a profile of what you're doing.

How to fix that?  Well I use Firefox.  There are ways to set it on Internet Explorer and Chrome, but I'll leave those browsers to you.   The steps are simple on Firefox:

  1. Start Firefox
  2. Click on Tools, Options, Privacy
  3. Un-Check the box under "Tracking" that says "Tell websites I do not want to be tracked"
  4. Un-Check the box that says "Remember Search and Form History"
  5. Un-Check the box that says "Allow Third Party Cookies"
  6. Check the box that says "Clear History when Firefox Closes"
It will be less convenient for you to use Firefox now, but it won't remember what you did basically forever.

Mind you, that internet "telephone number" thing?  You really can't stop people from saving information on their own servers that say that "you" came to their site.  It is Their Site after all, it isn't yours.  Anything you type into Their Site is basically Their Property.

All that cookie stuff?  Well it's only going to slow them down.  It's also good practice for you not to have that info stored on your PC.  Write your passwords down if you can't remember them - but don't put the web site name next to the password, it is just as bad as storing the passwords.   Stick that piece of paper somewhere nobody will look like in the "Family Bible" or inside an old VHS tape of "The Speeches of Estes Kefauver" or something like that.  Much safer.

Now if you really are concerned about having all your searches show up in a database somewhere linked to your "Internet Telephone Number", there are other things you can do.

Install an ad blocker like Adblock Plus and use it.   It speeds up your surfing too.

Make your home page a different search page that doesn't use Google.  Use that new one to search.  Suggestions are:

I'm still using Google for now.  That may change, but since I use Gmail, google sites for web development, Google Analytics, and other sites I may as well.  They're going to get you one way or another but at least you know to think before you type.

After all, you really didn't mean to go to that X Rated Site did you?

No comments:

Post a Comment