It’ll be interesting to see whether lawmakers air any serious criticism of Google over privacy abuses. I remain dubious that this will be done and believe Facebook was targeted largely because Trump ran ads on it and because Trump supporters used FB to transmit memes effectively.
Nonetheless, the WSJ has done a pretty good expose on Google’s privacy issues:
“There is a systemic problem and it’s not limited to Facebook,” says Arvind Narayanan, a computer scientist and assistant professor at Princeton University. The larger problem, he argues, is that the very business model of these companies is geared to privacy violation. We need to understand Google’s role in this.
Google allows everyone, whether they have a Google account or not, to opt out of its ad targeting, though, like Facebook, it continues to gather your data.
Google Analytics is far and away the web’s most dominant analytics platform. Used on the sites of about half of the biggest companies in the U.S., it has a total reach of 30 million to 50 million sites. Google Analytics tracks you whether or not you are logged in.
Meanwhile, the billion-plus people who have Google accounts are tracked in even more ways. In 2016, Google changed its terms of service, allowing it to merge its massive trove of tracking and advertising data with the personally identifiable information from our Google accounts.
A good example of this is the way Facebook has continuously harvested Android users’ call and text history. Facebook never got this level of access from Apple ’s iPhone, whose operating system is designed to permit less under-the-hood data collection. Android OS often allows apps to request rich data from users without accompanying warnings about how the data might be used.
Android users of the Gmail app will be asked to enable access to the device’s camera and microphone again and again until they say yes. Similarly, on Android, Google Maps asks users to turn on location services—justifiable, sure, but this enables geo-targeted ads.
All of this is ostensibly done with your permission. But it’s hard to understand how even an expert could give meaningful informed consent to the average request for data, says Dr. Narayanan.
I post this about Android only with the greatest regrets, as I use an Android phone and love it in comparison with iOS.