Thoughts, tips and ideas on next-gen technology by: Moshe Brevda


Is Google reading your web history?

Generally, I'm not one of those that actually care much about privacy. Not that I don't value it. But in today's 'cloud' world, its inevitable that someone, somewhere will have a bit more control over your information that you would like. You phone records are stored at the phone company (and they can monitor any of your calls). You salary is clearly recorded in the books of you bank. Your cellphone movements are clearly tracked and your geographical position is know (more or less) every minute of that day.

So when people ask me "How can we trust Google with our email and docs, web history, etc.", I try to explain to them that you can't. But then again, who can you trust? Are you sure that your smiley friendly bus driver isn't working as an informant for some private eye, reporting every time you get on or off the bus? Can you prove that your favorite coffee place isn't reporting your coffee addiction to the IRS, as proof that you have undeclared income (c'mmon! there is no way you can really afford $4.50 lattes in this economy! Unless your making a little extra something on the side...)? And we all know about wikileakes...

What I'm trying to say is that, inasmuch as I would not post my password on the internet, and inasmuch as would NOT like it if you read my email, we all know that Google scans your email to display relevant ads. And, honestly, have you never clicked Web History - even just to see how many web searches you've done in your google life time? (I've got: 19180). They have a ton of information in there about you. I know that. We all know that. And I'm sure that somewhere in the legal fine print that now-one bothers to read when we sign up, we consented to that as well.

What I did find surprising though is this: apparently, every time Google serves you ad's, they also take a peek at your history. Yup, heard right. The take a look at your browsing history. It seems that at the moment they "only" read the amount of pages in your history, but they can theoretically read the entire history and every single site you visited.

If you've been following this long, you know that I'm not so adverse to Google knowing where I buy my underwear or how I like to spice my chicken (sesame or lemon). They know that anyway: either by reading the order confirmation emails, or usually because they referred me to the site in the first place! But all this is, at least theoretically, with my consent. However Google doesn't make you sign a legal document before it serves you ads (and if they did, who would consent ;) ). At any given time, they can have a peek at your web history (not just the count), and keep tabs on you - even if you don't use any of there products!

I'm not saying that they do - but the prospects sure are spooky.

Moshe Brevda,
FreePBX Development Team
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