Justin Michie's Internet Marketing Blog





10 Things You Didn’t Know Google Knows About You

December 28th, 2009 · 42 Comments ·

When Sergey Brin and Larry Page met in the summer of 1995 they had no idea they were on the verge of creating the beginnings of an Internet Big Brother not even George Orwell could have imagined.

Originally called ‘Back Rub’ they worked on a project based on the idea that the links pointing to a document on the World Wide Web could be relevant to how important the document was.

They created an algorithm and called it PageRank after Larry Page. PageRank took into account the number of links pointing to a site and the number of links pointing to each of the linking sites.

This is of course a basic view of how events occurred, but eventually they had a system where more popular sites would rise to the top of their lists, and the less popular sites would drop to the bottom.

They named their new tool Google, after googol, which is the number equal to number 1 followed by 100 zeros. The first version of Google was revealed on the Stanford University website in August 1996 – just a year after they had first met.

Google has since become a HUGE private technology company employing over 20,000 employees located in Mountain View, California. Larry Page and Sergey Brin still act as key executives on the board of directors.

These days Google is way more than an effective tool to help you find a relevant page on the internet. As 2009 draws to a close, surfers are able to use the world’s biggest search engine in a bunch of different ways.

The company’s products for users include, but are not limited to:

Google Web, Image, Book or Blog Search, iGoogle and Personalized Search, Google Product Search, Google Custom Search, Google Chrome, Google Base, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Toolbar, Google Adsense, Google Adwords, Google Scholar, Google Finance, Google News, Google Video, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Groups, Google Reader, Orkut, Blogger, YouTube, Google Pack, Picasa, Google Desktop for users, Google Display Advertising Program, Google GEO product line comprising Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Sketchup, Google Checkout, Google Mobile Product Line, Google index, Google Maps and Satellite imagery; and Google Labs, a test-bed for engineers and Google users.

Google Wave is currently in Beta testing mode that will combine many of these services including e-mail, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking.

Most internet users will be familiar with at least half of these services, and a huge percentage of the global population are using them on a daily basis, giving Google the opportunity to know more about us than we probably consciously know about ourselves.

So What Exactly Does Google Know about YOU?

1. Have you ever had an embarrassing health problem that you preferred was not recorded on your medical history? Instead of going to visit your doctor you decided to google your symptoms and maybe even buy some medication online?

Perhaps this happened years ago and you had forgotten all about it?

Google hasn’t.

2. Google Docs allows users to create and save documents in a variety of formats, to share or save to your computer. If you create a document that you later delete because it might contain sensitive information – beware.

Google has a back up.

3. Did you ever use Gmail to write a drunken email to your ex? Something you have tried to forget?

Google remembers – that one and all the other private emails you have sent are safely stored in Google’s databases.

Maybe you don’t have a Gmail account? Well that’s OK; Google still has copies of your private messages because your friends and business partners use Gmail.

4. Google knows what you family and friends look like, where you went on your holidays and if you have skinny legs and look like a dork on the beach. If you use Picasa, Google probably even knows how many pets you have.

5. If you have a thing for watching teenagers messing around playing air guitars in their bedrooms, don’t think it is your little secret.

Google knows and records your searches and preferences and which videos you have watched on YouTube and Google Video.

6. If you have ever used Google Earth, one of the first places you would have looked at will naturally be your own home.

Now Google has a picture of where you live, not that they didn’t know anyway – if you use Google Adsense, Adwords, or Google Checkout they have all your financial details which include your address.

7. Have you or somebody living in your house, ever done a search on how to grow your own marijuana? Have you ever been worried about an alcohol or other addiction within your family? Do you search online for solutions to your rising debt or marriage problems?

It’s all there – just between you and Google.

8. Do you use Google Desktop?

A very handy application that will organize all the files on your PC, also gives Google access to them.

9. Google Reader is an aggregator, capable of reading Atom and RSS feeds online or offline, which is a very practical tool for keeping up to date with your favorite bloggers.

It also lets Google know which blogs you follow regularly, therefore revealing even more of your personal interests and passions, not that they didn’t have enough information on you already!

10. Did you have a terrible time a few months ago when you found out your partner was having an affair and decide to chuck all of their belongings out on the street in a mindless rage?

Oh there they are! A nice constant reminder on Google Street Maps. Hopefully that Google Street Car will be along soon and update the picture of your house.

Should You Really Care?

Most of us probably don’t have much too much to hide… and luckily for those who do, there are enough privacy laws in place for the most part to keep it stored safely on Google’s servers.

Personally I don’t care that Google knows how big my house is or that I sleep in the buff – if it remains private between me an Google. And that’s a big IF. Who knows when your friendly neighborhood hacker or disgruntled Google employee could know more about you… then you?

What do you think? Does Google know too much about you

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Tags: Google

42 responses so far ↓

  • Jens P. Berget // Dec 28, 2009 at 11:26 am

    This list is both very interesting, and funny, but it’s actually scary stuff.

    Hopefully Google will always be our friend, because that’s an enemy I wouldn’t like to have to fight ;-)

    So PageRank was named after Larry Page, I should have guessed it – that was funny :-)

  • Jason Dinner // Dec 28, 2009 at 11:30 am

    They are the real world’s version of Terminator’s “SkyNet”

    It can be scary for some, but it is all how you see things in your mind’s eye ;)

    Maybe Google will overthrow the US Govt one day and restore the order our Founding Fathers fought so bravely to make a reality.

    Thanks for sharing this video. I saw it the other day and was LMFAO!!!

    All The Best,
    Jason

  • Henrik Blunck - Denmark // Dec 28, 2009 at 11:53 am

    It was a fun article, but I doubt whether Google wants to save old e-mails… They might have a bit of fun with my gmail, ’cause I only use it for flaming so it’s some pretty useless info.

    But worth remembering indeed that NOTHING is hidden once it’s online.

    PS: I somehow trust Google more than Facebook. The latter has abused information by not keeping certain information private, and that would seem somewhat less positive for a lot of people.

  • Stevie Knight // Dec 28, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Interesting post. But how about google’s lax security for gmail. I’ve had my own account hacked and someone else was talking to and watching my teenage daughter via google video chat when she thought she was chatting with me! Yikes!

    And one of my other kids’ gmail act was hacked and it began to send out hardcore porn links to all his contacts ( including me, his mom! not funny in this family and not something my son would do) . It’s freaky that those kinds of things can happen and there doesn’t seem to be anything one can do in response!

    Who knows who ELSE is looking in your gmail account?!!!

  • Phill @ Get-A-Gift // Dec 28, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    So much knowledge under a single controlling entity is scary – knowledge is power – power corrupts – absolute power (Luckily Google hasn’t got there yet!) corrupts absolutely or so the saying goes.

    It does make you wonder where it will all end, doesn’t it?

    Phill

  • Magasani wa-Muhita // Dec 28, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Dear Sir,

    The fact that GOOGLE can remind us something we may have forgoten it is a wonderfull program.

    Congratulations to Google for the emprovement
    registrated in his services.

    Thank nyou very much for the information.

    MAGASANI

  • M // Dec 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Aren’t there laws against 3rd party developers gaining access to your personal info and then selling it to other websites that can track you by name and reveal all other personal information about you???

  • Samy // Dec 28, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks Justin for the great info.

    The main problem is Google is not just a robot. Behind it, not just a single man/woman.
    They have thousands of employees. Let guess, how many are ethical..? I hope 100% ! Although it is unrealistic.

    So, Google should do their business and stop spying on people’s privacy. Otherwise I have doubt how long they’ll live.

    Good Luck Google!

  • Len Young // Dec 28, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Quite interesting. Although the “Big Brother” aspect never really occurred to me, perhaps I should have suspected it. Seems we’re (me and others) not cynical enough.

    Len

  • R T // Dec 28, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    I can’t believe you think Google’s info is private. All you need is for some bureaucrat to show up at their door with a warrant, and they have to give up their files on you. Don’t think it can happen? Look at what the last administration IN SECRET — withOUT the benefit of the “due process” laws you mention. How many people had their lives ruined only because of suspicions that they were terrorists? We’ll never know.

  • Dencho Denchev // Dec 28, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I do not use Google too often but you open my eyes for more. With simple words it is a very interesting post! Thank you.
    Regards,
    Dencho

  • Robert James // Dec 28, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I am okay with it until they start trying to predict the future and due to “your potential probability” they start trying to convict you of things you would never imagine doing [Minority Report (2002)]. Then we would have problems.

    If you think about it Google has the potential for quite a few things. Imagine a foreign government buying Google. I can only hope we keep the conspiracies in the movies. The best kept secrets are told to everyone.

  • Judy Kettenhofen // Dec 28, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Interesting article –

    Not too surprisingly, privacy advocates have been flying around Google for ages.

    Just, um, google the information.

    You can stop Google from keeping track of your web searches, just by clicking the appropriate checkbox when you create the account. You can go into settings and ALSO turn it off.

    Google also has, in response to privacy advocates & govt, reduced the amount of information they store about you, and the length they store it for.

    CEO Eric Schmidt has been known to make proclamations to the effect that “privacy is over”, but reacted badly when a magazine amassed, and published, a bunch of information on Schmidt himself.

    Note that Google is NOT a private company. Not in the traditional sense of the word. Google has been a public company for quite some time now.

    And I’m glad you haven’t mentioned some of my favorite Google services. :)

    Live JoyFully!

    Judy

  • Denise // Dec 28, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks Justin,
    The video was really funny, I personnally have nothing to hide so I don’t mind but it’s a good thing to be reminded that once you give personal information you have to expect that it is kept somewhere in the big system and not thrown away.

  • Tim Robinson // Dec 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    It merely takes some special interest group (secretly funded by a consortium of synthetic-fiber nightware manufacturers) wanting laws against ‘sleeping in the buff’, and before you know it a new agency is serving the big ‘g’ with subpoenas, seeking to build profiles and cases against those naughty people who thought they were enjoying one last personal freedom, then sending in men-in-black to execute warrants for your arrest – hauling you into court where you must pay a hefty fine and promise to buy a lifetime supply of pajamas… oh no, wait, that never happens, there’s laws protecting us from that, right?

  • Horvath Ernone // Dec 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Hello!
    If this is so, than I need to form a good connection with Google, because he knows where is my money invested into the internet…!!!??

  • A J // Dec 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    An eye opener for sure. Hey, it’s not just Google. How about Yahoo, Bing and the thousands of other search engines out there.
    Put them together and what do you have, the NSA. Privacy is a thing of the past.
    Too bad that the government knows everything about its’ citizens and lost all knowledge of the Founding Fathers and the vision that they had.
    And the sad part of it is that we have done this to ourselves because we constantly cry to the government to give us more and more.
    Hopefully, there are enough of us left out here that believe in ourselves rather than the government,
    Too bad we can not avoid the “Google Toilet”
    And as a post script: would you believe how many americans could not answer your spam protection question.

  • Sue Diederich // Dec 28, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Funny – certainly… scary – more than a bit.

    Mr. Robert James – there was a bill to that effect in Congress just this last session.

    In the meantime, don’t say things you don’t mean, and we’re all good. The power and money behind both Facebook and Twitter is the Department of Defense, so at least with Google its private parties and not the US government, lol!

    Someone somewhere always knows our deepest darkest secrets… Google just happens to be the latest in a long line of information collectors -

    Sue

  • Big Dog Affiliate // Dec 28, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    I love this article…thanks Justin…great job of valuable content into digestable
    plain language…and provocative too.

    I see Jason Dinner graced us with his
    good points…I agree and then some.

    Robert James raises the bar with the
    probabilities and conspiracies issues,
    not even Michael Moore or Hollywood
    could produce anything close to the
    reality of todays behind the scenes
    government activities…stop and think,
    Truth is Greater in Content than Fiction.

    We used to wait for new technologies,
    some were just made available to the
    select few and today it’s all global…..
    and has absorbed the mainstream into
    the collective…sounds like the Borg..!!

    We’ll always have dichotomy…embrace
    the technologies to advance or we can
    always go to Red Alert, Raise Shields,
    Load Photon Torpedoes and Lock On
    to Target…just push the button.

  • Mike // Dec 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    In the end a lot of this depends on what information you supply and if you have anything to hide. If you’re surfing sites that you don’t want anyone to know about then perhaps you should ask yourself why.

    The government has more info stored than google and their systems are probably more vunerable. And I would certainly be more inclined to question the ethics of some of their employees.

    Let’s face it. At some time in the future the whole internet system as we know it will collapse, it’s only a matter of time. Much of the info will be lost anyway. Perhaps that willl be a new beginning, or it may be the end.

  • Fred // Dec 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Hi Justin, this is scary stuff, thanks for letting me know a bigger brother is spying on me!!!. This is good info

  • Fred // Dec 28, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    This is very interesting stuff to know, we may all as well give up to be chipped with bar codes on our foreheads.
    Thanks for this info
    Fred

  • Kathi // Dec 28, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Does Google know MORE then our Government?????

  • James Mason // Dec 28, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Heh….interesting. Sad part is it is all true, but Google is also one of the biggest assets to those of us that try to work in marketing. So which way to go?
    Very interesting indeed…….

  • Tim // Dec 28, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Now if we could just be allowed to know what is actually stored… Good post. Makes you think twice about letting others use your computer while you are logged in.

  • Squid // Dec 28, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    There willl be a backlash. Bring it on!
    Devil spawn bfring them down.

    but…..,

    why can i not submit this without an email address etc. Are you collecting data too?? Shame on you sonny if you are.

    Texas, stay on line….

  • Roshni // Dec 28, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    morale of the story- hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, do no evil.

  • Ritu Raj Mishra // Dec 28, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Hello Justin,

    This is a very nice article, many of us do not know, but it a cold hard truth of online world that Big G is a great spy. they even know about your IPs and the pattern they change, means from where you access their services frequently. but above all their services are indispensable and we need them in our daily lives. Above all nice one

  • adina // Dec 29, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Ha- Loved the video, and the article was also extremely interesting- I might think twice about what I am revealing in the future!

    Nothing illegal, but certain things I would like to think are between myself and me…

  • Steve SEO UK // Dec 29, 2009 at 9:31 am

    As already stated, nothing to hide, so not that concerned. SE’s are not alone in collecting data on us I believe.

    Good interesting and amusing article.
    Thanks.
    NB: Have RT’d tweet.

  • Fae Queen // Dec 29, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I tried to stop using Google, I really did. I had a beef with them over an adsense check, and even though I seemingly won, I didn’t really. They are evil, but the fact is, they control so many services now that you can’t even have an RSS feed without using Google. Before I realized how evil they are, I had all my blogs on Google, and I tried to take them down, but I couldn’t afford to buy webspace, so they are still there. I put documents on Google docs, and they were saved before I could edit them. I caught on quickly, and never used it again. I could go on and on, but my bottom line is, I’m dependent on Google right now, so I use it, but I’m working toward independence, and I still think Google is evil.

  • vivek verma // Dec 30, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Excellent job Justin

  • Reputation Management // Jan 4, 2010 at 4:58 am

    Scary stuff to a Reputation Manager.

  • Eddy // Jan 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    This is damn frightening. Any way out?

  • Google Sidewiki Raises Multiple Legal Concerns « #law tag // Jan 14, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    [...] can only be done by installing Google Toolbar’s advanced features, which has severe privacy issues associated with [...]

  • Jenny // Jan 20, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Hello. Just stopping in from another blog to see yours. :D

  • Dila // Mar 26, 2010 at 3:12 am

    I was freaking out as I read more and more of the article.. but then when I reached the ‘privacy’ part, my heart stops beating like mad. nice post, Justin. spooky at the same time. LOL!

  • david // Apr 15, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Woow, it is really!! i’m shocking about it, Google is Awsome

  • diana // Apr 20, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Scary stuff! Thanks for a very interesting article – if I could do without them I would…but unfortunately the big G I find it ito be a daily necessity:O

  • Don // May 19, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Justin if you got them all listed i’m ok with that. its all those thousands of deducible things none of are smart enough to know that they know, that we know theyknow that we know etc.

  • jackson ville // Jun 14, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Nice post! No doubt, thats why google is one of the best search engine in web.

  • ilikefree // Dec 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Google is no longer a search engine they are an advertising company and act just like any other advertising company. Collecting your personal data is only part of what they do.
    Google is not a secure site either and has been hacked in the past and will be again.

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