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It seems there’s no escaping Google.

What started out as two students’ research project has transformed into a multi-billion dollar corporation that offers a wide variety of services while also trying to find a foothold in nearly every aspect of our lives.

In the year 2015, Google is no longer just a search engine. Today, Chrome boasts upwards of a billion users, making it the most widely used web browser today.

Gmail has become one of the most popular and versatile email clients, particularly among colleges, businesses, and freelancers. Google offers a word processor, slideshow creator, and spreadsheet program that puts Microsoft’s Office to shame Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word: The Death Match for Research Writing Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word: The Death Match for Research Writing Online solutions are becoming the norm. We decided to see how Microsoft Word stacks up against Google Docs. Which one will do the better research paper? Read More .

800px-Google's_Lexus_RX_450h_Self-Driving_Car

Google has found its place in smart phones, cloud storage, mapping services, and now even a self-driving car.

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One can hardly browse the Internet without coming across websites featuring some sort of Google service or product. Be it the option of allowing you to log into a site automatically with your Gmail or Google+ account, or even ads through Google Adsense, Google’s reach has expanded into most corners of the web.

All in all, Google is a great company leading our society into the future. Google has done what many companies strive for and only a few have accomplished — consistently rising to the occasion to meet new demands from its users, while also earning the trust of the masses.

Why not trust Google? The company clearly knows what it’s doing; why else would the company’s services pop up on almost every website? You can’t hate a company that references pop culture.

google crash img

Clearly, Google cares about its user base and is absolutely trustworthy.

… Or is it?

After all, it’s not like Google hides the fact that their automated systems scan your emails and certain cookies in Chrome allow them to track and collect your browsing data. Most users just don’t think it’s a big problem.

What Do You Mean, Google Collects My Browsing Data?

Here’s the thing: in this day and age, we can’t exactly go about naively trusting that online companies have our best interests at heart. At the end of the day, they are still companies trying to make a profit. At its core, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only natural and fair for people and companies who offer services and products to want to receive compensation.

Google doesn’t charge users for many of its services. Many are offered freely to users, such as Gmail, Chrome, and Drive.

But, how do you provide a free service while still making money? Some websites are financed from donations, but that’s not always an option. Advertisements are responsible for a large portion of income for many online companies, but they are nothing like the goldmine that is selling their users’ information, and Google’s services have a lot of users.

chrome 1 bil

See, if you’re using a service and you’re not paying for anything, you’re probably not the customer. You’re probably the product being sold instead. As Chris Hoffman explained, your information is increasingly being collected You Are The Product, Not The Client: The Personal Data Economy Explained You Are The Product, Not The Client: The Personal Data Economy Explained As Andrew Lewis once said "If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold". Think about the implications of that quote for a moment – how many free services... Read More and stored in databases to create a sort of ‘profile’ of you, and you’d be surprised by what Google may already know about you Five Things Google Probably Knows About You Five Things Google Probably Knows About You Read More . This information is often shared and combined with information gathered about you that’s stored in other databases, thus allowing advertisers to create an accurate and detailed profile of you.

What better way to learn your interests and priorities than by examining your web browsing habits? Google has already come out saying that ads in Chrome are tailored to you, based on what websites you’ve visited or what you’ve searched.

This is just the first step for the mass adoption of customized advertisements, and Google is already getting a head start and making a fortune providing our information to advertisers. Of course, if you’re not really concerned about privacy and looking to make some extra money, you can sell your information yourself Facebook Makes Money Out Of Your Data – Why Shouldn’t You? Facebook Makes Money Out Of Your Data – Why Shouldn’t You? There are so many free services online because companies can profit from the data you provide. Companies like Facebook sell (or buy) your data to third parties, while ones like Google use your data to... Read More . Of course, you likely won’t be pulling in nearly as much as a company like Google would.

What About When I Go Incognito?

incognito

Incognito Mode on Chrome really only serves one purpose — it keeps browsing history and website cookies from being stored on your computer, but only after the window is closed. It doesn’t mean websites can’t track your IP. It doesn’t mean your connection is any more encrypted.

What you search will still be tracked by Google. Incognito Mode will not prevent that.

But the Data They Collect is Just Sold to Advertisers, Right?

Not all of it.

Certain user data is sold, but much of it is used for Google’s own purposes. If you so choose, Google will receive usage statistics and crash reports from you. While the information gathered for this purpose is meant to be non-identifying, it still contains system information and what actions led up to the crash.

If ordered to do so, Google will have little issue handing over your data directly to the government. If there is a warrant for your browsing history or accounts, Google will not protect you.

They can’t, legally, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act makes it fairly simple for the US government to gain access to someone’s browser history, even without a warrant. However, Google insists that they will only honor a request for information under certain circumstances, and will seek to narrow a request if they feel it is too broad, based on legal requirements and Google’s policies.

Is Chrome a Secure Browser?

Sort of. It’s more secure than Internet Explorer, at least.

With recent security breaches on several store websites, there’s been a push for companies operating online to beef up their security. But websites are still being hacked into and millions of people are at risk of having their private information like addresses and credit card numbers accessed for nefarious purposes every day.

Sometimes, hackers can even gain control of your computer after you’ve been exposed to a compromised website. Google does provide defense against using sandbox tabs. Simply put, these prevent any processes in browser tabs from affecting critical memory functions in any way.

Certain protocols like SPDY provide an extra layer of defense on the sites that have it enabled. SPDY requires SSL, a security encryption protocol, meaning that sites with this protocol are more secure than sites that only use HTTP. Only 2.8% of the internet has SPDY enabled, so while it doesn’t make a huge difference in the big picture, it is reassuring that Google’s services have that extra layer of security.

Can We Trust Google’s Dedication to Chrome’s Reliability?

So far, yes. Google has a good thing going here with Chrome and isn’t likely to just abandon a userbase of a billion people. They have incentive to put a lot of resources into developing the latest technology to keep Chrome competitive.

Chrome uses SPDY What Is SPDY, And How Can It Maximize Your Browsing Experience? What Is SPDY, And How Can It Maximize Your Browsing Experience? Read More rather than HTTP on Google services or certain other websites like Twitter. The SPDY protocol, designed by Google, was created with the intent to reduce web page latency. Web page latency is a huge problem with HTTP and the slow loading times can be a pain when trying to browse certain websites.

Other browsers now use SPDY as well, such as Mozilla Firefox and Safari. However, SPDY was originally designed by Google and released to the public. This only adds to Google’s reputation as a company of inventors and innovators.

Chrome already has a reputation for being one of the best browsers available to users, based on stability and security. Google is quick to patch vulnerabilities in each released version as they are discovered.

Google is also likely to continue to invest in developing new technologies for both browsing and security, and we can expect maintaining and improving Chrome to be a long-term priority.

Can We Really Trust Google to Stay Around for the Long Term?

I recall sitting in an economics class many years ago listening to a teacher talk about why he had foolishly decided not to invest in Google in 2004. His financial advisor had tried to convince him, but he declined, as several other early Internet companies had tried to start up and simply failed.

Shares were initially sold for $85, but their value soon skyrocketed. Some employees were becoming millionaires overnight. Not investing, he said, was a mistake he would always regret.

Today, Google is worth about $350 billion. Its shares are going for about $660 each at the time of this writing. Despite the usual ups and downs of share prices, Google’s worth has been steadily on the rise for several years now, with shares recently hitting a record high back in July at $699.62.

S&P has given Google a credit rating of AA. For comparison, the United States’ rating is AA+. This hints at a high level of economic trust placed in Google, which isn’t surprising based on its steady success and growth since 2009.

Google survived the 2008 financial crisis and bounced back stronger than ever. It may indeed be possible to trust, at least, that this is one corporation that won’t disappear without a fight.

Is Google Evil?

That’s for you to decide. It depends on what your personal definition of evil is. You could say Google is an example of capitalism and the free market system at its finest — what started out as the research project of two PhD students has transformed into a multi-billion dollar international corporation in a matter of years that consistently meets consumers’ needs.

You could also say that Google is a greedy soul-sucking corporation that cares more about large profits than the privacy of its users.

Unfortunately, this may just be how online companies of the future operate. The anonymity granted to us by the internet is swiftly disappearing.

Sure, new laws struggling to catch up to modern day technology are playing a role in this change, but the biggest influence is large corporations like Google who see putting a name and profile to a user as a potential source of revenue. As long as our data is worth money, companies are going to be trying to what they can.

Can Google Really Be Trusted?

No corporation can be completely trusted. Google is no exception to this. Sure, Google can be trusted to keep Chrome secure and well-maintained, and Google can also be trusted to be around for the next few years. But that’s it.

But we can’t trust Google to keep our information private. We can’t trust that our emails won’t be scanned by their automated systems, or any of our documents in the cloud won’t disappear. We can’t even completely trust Google to not disable our accounts at will.

With how expansive its presence is on the Internet, boycotting the company isn’t an option for most users. We can try to avoid sending as much information as possible to Google, such as by using a different browser and search engine, among other methods. But our anonymity on the internet is slipping away, and Google is only contributing to that.

If the idea of Google collecting your information while you use Chrome is unsettling, you can always make the switch to Mozilla’s Firefox Switching From Chrome: How to Make Firefox Feel Like Home Switching From Chrome: How to Make Firefox Feel Like Home So, you have decided that Firefox is the better browser for you. Is there anything you can do to make Firefox less of a foreign environment? Yes! Read More , which is opensource. Or, there are other ways to reduce the information Google can access How To Clear Your Data From Google & Attempt To Regain Some Of Your Privacy How To Clear Your Data From Google & Attempt To Regain Some Of Your Privacy Wiping all trace of you from the web is not easy, but after reading Dragnet Nation by Julia Angwin you might just want to try. It's time to stop willingly throwing away your privacy. Read More regarding your browsing habits.

Google — nefarious or actually trustworthy? Here to stay, or just a blip in the timeline of what’s sure to be an incredible digital age? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think!

Image Credit: Google Self-Driving Car by Steve Jurvetsonderivative

  1. John S
    September 10, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    I think my opinion of Google and its apps and services is this. Google is a ad based revenue company. Much of its revenue comes from doing ads and targeting ads to the right users to gain their customers more business. Nothing evil about doing this, using Chrome, Android OS, Chrome OS and Gmail allows Google to collect information. This obviously is done for marketing and ad services. Chrome browser in a positive way reflects Google's strive for security while it may not be so privacy focused. If your concerned about privacy maybe Chrome is not the browser for you. Although I don't see the evil in what Google does. Obviously if your doing criminal behavior I doubt you use Chrome anyway. A criminal is probably smart enough to circumvent the internet more anonymously. I've used Chromebook's, Chrome Browser and occasionally Google Doc's. Never any concern for privacy in terms of Google's access. If you have a social network page like Facebook Twitter, Etc you shouldn't be anymore concerned about Google then those sites. All of which also collect data for revenue. It would be hypocritical to blame a Google or Microsoft or even Apple for privacy violations and continue to ignore a Facebook's openly sharing of user information to ad customers. After all this is how Facebook makes their money. Certainly not from users paying subscriber fee's. When something is free, its really not free. We should all know this by now. Windows 10 was free, but it also ushered in a data collection policy for Microsoft. Nothing evil about that, except that some seem to expect more privacy from Microsoft then a Google? Not sure why that would be, but it's probably more the Microsoft haters focusing on Microsoft. Again, let's not be hypocritical, sharing data happens and it's part of the internet. You can reduce your foot print but you cannot eliminate it. Not unless you just disconnect from the internet. Even then what you have already done, will still probably be on some server somewhere.

  2. AA
    February 24, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    It was a day i believed in Internet, respect to privacy and of course Google. By reading this article and horrible experience i had in last 5y not sure if any one on anything is trustable.
    I am sorry to hear Google collect and sell personal info and it is for years info is not correct. I am really really sorry it is all i can say.

  3. Hildegerd Haugen
    August 26, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    I am weary of Google and are searching for alternatives.

  4. Anindya Putri
    August 24, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    the Incognito Mode really sucks!

    hitper.com

  5. Abdullah Almosalami
    August 24, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Or should we say Alphabet? :P

  6. Brad Billman
    August 21, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    It isn't privacy that concerns me about google. I don't like how Google uses its power over users to force them into either using all google or none. They repeatedly take jabs at MS which only hurts its own users. They clearly know that they have the power to force users to use what they want you to use.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyclay/2013/08/16/google-blocks-microsofts-youtube-windows-phone-app-again/

    http://www.phonearena.com/news/Google-blocking-Windows-Phone-from-maps.google.com_id38302

    And on and on. There are countless times Google has has taken shots at MS that hurts users of both platforms.

  7. L3 CM
    August 21, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Good article - basic in areas, but helpful for a lot of people I'm sure. One note on your quote about Chrome being "the most widely used web broswer today." Browser market share studies are done using small samplings of web servers. And there are many studies - they are often known to conflict. I'm curious how many confirm your statement. For example, VentureBeat's study from May of this year, even while praising Chrome, puts it well behind Internet Explorer in market share. 55.8% IE, and 25.7% Chrome. Not even close. I think that without factual backup, this statement probably wasn't needed to prove your point. Thanks for writing - looking forward to your next article.

  8. Yann
    August 20, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Betteridge's law of headlines applies, I think. :)

  9. ringhalg
    August 20, 2015 at 10:05 am

    I've installed Ghostery to block trackers on websites. It's insane the amount of websites that use a Google tracker. Doubleclick, Google Adsense and Google Analytics appear on most websites I visit.

    I use Gmail and Google search, but I don't use Chrome. I try to avoid using Google as much as I can. Other options to protect privacy is use the Tor browser or a VPN.

    • Taylor Bolduc
      August 21, 2015 at 4:18 am

      That's a good idea, using the Tor browser. I'd love to break up with Google. Unfortunately, it has this nasty habit of making things a little more convenient in exchange for our privacy. And for people who don't have the most energy or patience, a little convenience is huge.

      It likely isn't farfetched that in the future Google will probably -be- the Internet.

      • fcd76218
        August 21, 2015 at 12:00 pm

        "It likely isn’t farfetched that in the future Google will probably -be- the Internet. "
        Not if Microsoft has anything to say about that.

        At one time AOL (who?) tried to be The Internet. It did not work out too well for them. Two guys named Sergei and Larry came up with a better paradigm.

  10. A41202813GMAIL ..
    August 20, 2015 at 4:37 am

    I Use Lots Of *Free* GOOGLE Services.

    If You Are Worried About Your Privacy ( Why Do You Use The Internet, Then ? ), At Least, CHROME Has Several Clone Browsers.

    OPERA And YANDEX Are 2 Examples, And, For Me, The More Important Part Of Any Browser, The Extensions, Are Mostly Compatible Among Them All.

    Cheers.

  11. fcd76218
    August 20, 2015 at 1:29 am

    The information Google has gathered on me through me using their various services is one thing but what worries me is the information Google has gathered about me by scraping the zillions of existing data bases without my knowledge or permission. I wonder if laws such as HIPAA really stop Google from gathering data?

    • Taylor Bolduc
      August 20, 2015 at 6:02 am

      That's a good question. I remember in 2013 (I think) that Google was offering to sign a Business Associate Agreement that would allow organizations to remain HIPAA compliant when using Google apps. So maybe? For now? Who knows.

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