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BLOG: How I divorced Google

Tom Henderson | March 21, 2012
I sat recently at the Grand Opening Ceremony at CeBIT 2012 in Hannover. There was a huge crowd of dignitaries, business people, and captains of German industry. They were waiting to hear from the President of Brazil, the Chancellor of Germany, and the Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt. Each gave a keynote. As the event's them was Managing Trust, it seemed salient for me to listen specifically to Schmidt, perhaps one last time. It's not that I don't respect the German Chancellor or the President of Brazil, but I wasn't trying to divorce myself from the organizations they represent.

Day two: Leave no tracks, start to delete cookies

It's this immense body of data that's the ideological problem. Law enforcement agencies seem to have easy access to the data. That data includes: where I surfed via Google Search. Who I called. My participation and 3000+ friends on Google+. My location, via what Android tells Google. I hope and mostly believe that Google doesn't know ALL my contacts and their phone numbers, and in some instances, their location. I cannot know the true extent of what Google knows about me. I believe that Google Corporate may not be able to tell me how much they know.

When I sit at home, Google (unless I consciously prevent it) knows where I sit, on what machine, and what time of day I'm there. Data is collected not only from the search engine site, but sites that I visit that have Google maps, and so forth. The penetration of Google's ability to sniff a single individual's location and preferences is unprecedented. Google knows more about me than my mother. Google “deserves" this knowledge because of the EULA they mandate, and because it's their business model.

First, I had to remove the cookies. There were several dozen of them with Google's address or name on them. I have three browsers (for research purposes) based on different software engines. Each has a slightly different way of exorcising the cookies. It should be noted here that Google isn't the only one tracking me for demographic purposes. It's just the big dog, and the one with the largest reach.

I'll avoid references to the “old days" when people didn't relinquish their privacy and details to gain free access to applications and services. Some people believe this is benign, but they're wrong. I won't argue these points, rather explain how to get yourself free. After you rid yourself of the cookies as an exercise, you'll be much more aware of how much was being tracked.

 

Day three: Reality check, delete more cookies, install redirected host files

You can't use Google products. If you use one Google product, a single agreement covers your use of them, and Google can basically use the information it gleans from what you do, where you surf online, where you were when you surfed it, any other information kept in your browser that it can read, and use it for any purposes that Google wants. So you can't go to http://anything.google.anywhere. To prevent accidental Google application use, one must actively prevent a computer from going to Google sites. The cookies will reappear, as if by magic. Day Three consisted of destroying Google's tracks on my machine(s).

 

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