Google is amazing. Nobody could really imagine their life without it, as it has been ingrained within online society for over twenty years. And that’s the cause of the problem. You can’t really have an online life without it, so any agency you have over your privacy is at the whim of one of the most influential and powerful companies in the world.
So, what has Google done to assuage fears that its monopolising people’s privacy? Google has presented a wide array of privacy initiatives designed to keep the wolves off their back. Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative comes to mind, but this still permits advertisers to track and measure. Google’s Incognito Mode won’t store any history, cookies, or anything else. Even then, this mode has been accused of being privacy-invasive due to your activity not being hidden.
The fact of the matter is that Google’s primary revenue source is advertising, tailored and customised to their millions of customers. Many websites would have to put up paywalls, and the content that we could access freely would be reduced. Furthermore, A lot of people would come back and say that tailored advertising is a good thing. Who hasn’t been drawn in by a product they like advertised on the sidebar of their Gmail account? The convenience, efficiency and monopoly of Google make it a hard thing to rail against.
On the flip side of this convenience and temptation is growing trepidation. People are cottoning on to the fact that their search histories and cookies are being exploited too much. Gmail accounts are used as points data collection, sharing and advertising for third parties. Privacy International has previously ranked Google as “Hostile to Privacy” due to its “increasing ability to deep-drill into the minutiae of a user’s life and lifestyle choices.” Subreddits such as DeGoogle, dedicated to promoting private email servers and browsers, have over 35,000 members.
It really comes down to whether people want to sacrifice a piece of their privacy for the benefits of Google. Many people identify this privacy problem but go about using Google anyway. There are solutions out there that combat certain aspects of invasive data companies. It’s just whether people can be bothered in taking that extra step in reclaiming their privacy. By the looks of growing groups like DeGoogle, this momentum certainly seems to be growing.