Google wants to educate you about privacy with a website and campaign called “Good to Know.” They’ve spent tens of millions to get the word out about Good to Know, which has great information on things like how to shop online safely, choose a smart password, and actually understand what an IP address is.
We applaud them for providing a helpful resource, but we still think that Good to Know doesn’t do quite enough. The info in Good to Know is, well…good to know. But to truly protect your privacy, you need actions and words. Restoring your privacy is about more than a public service announcement: it’s about real people having their most personal information being exposed for all too see. This is a cause for concern for many people. It can feel like a real violation, and it requires a strong and effective response.
Anti-tracking software gives consumers a choice, makes a statement, and takes a concrete and effective action: that enough is enough, and easy and effective technology can start empowering everyday people who don’t want their every move online available for all to see.
So what should Google do?
3 main things, actually.
1. Google’s brief mention of Incognito mode, the Chrome browser’s private browsing mode, doesn’t mention its limitations. Although private browsing mode has some helpful features, such as not recording your browsing history, it really doesn’t do much to protect your privacy. Private browsing mode was designed for a bygone time when we were more focused on our own computers than on the internet. Today, where we do almost everything online, erasing our browsing history doesn’t cover our tracks on the internet.
And private browsing doesn’t protect you from viruses, phishing, online tracking, keyloggers, spyware, your employer…the list goes on. In fact, we put together this cartoon to show you that list and get across the point that private browsing mode isn’t very private.
2. Good to Know doesn’t make it easy enough for people to stop targeted advertising and tracking. Their page about advertising is full of quotes about how this type of advertising “makes sense for you” and “makes websites more useful.” Pardon us, but we think it’s your decision whether targeted advertising makes sense for you: Google shouldn’t make that choice for you.
They don’t tell you how to opt-out in a particularly noticeable place in their privacy guide; it’s several paragraphs deep in a link. We’ll make it easy for you: here’s where you want to go to opt-out. In fact, Chrome is still the only browser that doesn’t have a Do Not Track preference built into its preferences. For quick and easy instructions on how to turn on pro-privacy settings in whatever browser you’re using, check out our visual, step-by-step guide.
3. Google has a slant: they want to convince you of how your data makes Google services better for you. Literally. Check out this screenshot from their site:
They compare targeted advertising to the friendly imagery of a barista knowing you you like your cup of coffee because you’re a repeat customer. This is a pretty no-harm way of putting it when google can read every email you’ve ever written, see every search you’ve ever made, and know everywhere you’ve been online that has analytics. Overexposing your data makes you more vulnerable to identity theft, phishing scams, embarrassing harm to your reputation, missed job opportunities, annoying ads that follow you everywhere you go online, and turns you into a product that’s literally bought and sold among companies for a price.
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If Google really wants to be privacy-friendly, what they can do–and something that would truly revolutionize the internet–is to make all targeted advertising and collection of your search history be under your control. Despite giving you more insight on what they’re doing with Good to Know, they’re still doing it.
We’ve been educating you on privacy tips and threats for a long time, and although it’s nice to see one of the big guys get behind the privacy cause, we think you deserve better. That’s why we’re here to fill in the gaps and give you the real scoop from privacy experts.
What do you think about Google’s Good to Know? Is it something you’d consult for help on privacy issues? Would you share it with your friends? Why or why not? Post your thoughts in the comments below.