Google is watching you. No matter which way you look at it, Google has a hand in what you search for, comment on, watch, download, share or publish. Every time you search for a location or use Google maps as a Sat-Nav that information is stored. If you type in the latest bestselling book, blockbuster movie or front-page celebrity, those searches are also saved. Websites send small packets of data known as Cookies, to help them remember you choices or personal information for the next time you visit. These Cookies help build an online profile which allows that creepy banner advert for the product you have just been looking at to pop up on a completely unrelated website, or your details to be remembered the next time you pay a visit your favorite online retailer. It’s like that odd shop assistant who always remembers who you are and what you want.
This detailed information is of course interesting to governments, law enforcement agencies and marketers, providing a very detailed map of a person’s movements, habits and preferences. Despite this unprecedented level of data collection and surveillance, there are ways to avoid being tracked and remain anonymous online.
It has never been so easy to track someone. Pretty much every person over the age of 5 has a small electronic device in their pocket that is constantly transmitting signals and revealing its location. Users even make tracking easier by searching for a nearby restaurant or asking Siri where the cheapest dog food can be found, giving away information on where we are going and why we are going there. All of this stored information can be accessed; Google Timeline provides a very spooky map of everywhere you’ve been since you created a Google account. Google also creates a nice history of every website you have searched for or visited. Yes, there’s the locally stored history everybody knows about and deletes after they’ve visited a website they’d prefer other computer users not to know about, but there’s also a more complex Google search history linked to your account. This can be accessed and cleared, unless you want Google to know exactly what you’ve been looking at since you created your account. You can also ask Google not to save your results or track your movements via your account preferences.