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What Private Information Google Collects -- A One-Page Fact Sheet

(Click here for one-page PDF version of the Google Privacy Fact Sheet)

What Private Information Google Collects


Internet Traffic Tracking:  Google is unique in its ubiquitous capability to track the clicks of ~ 99% of Internet users. Google’s unique Internet omnipresence results from the near universal adoption of Google’s free click-tracking software by websites (Google Analytics & DoubleClick ad-serving analytics), and from 75-90% of Internet users globally using either Google’s: search engine, Toolbar, Chrome browser, Android operating system, or tracking “cookies.” 

  • Google’s ubiquitous overlapping software capabilities enable Google to track, record, and cross-reference most all click path behavior: i.e. where a user goes, what a user seeks, does, reads or views, how often, and for how long. 
  • Since Google stores an actual current copy of all of the Internet’s trillion plus web pages in its datacenters, when Internet users use a Google search or address bar, they actually are searching Google’s database copy of the Internet and not the Internet itself, thus no other entity can track all these click streams. 
  • Moreover, since Google owns, hosts or aggregates more Internet content on its servers than any entity in the world (YouTube, Google Earth/Maps/StreetView/Books/News/Finance/Blogger/Picassa, etc.), and since Google does not allow competitors to track visits to Google content, Google uniquely tracks these trillions of clicks.   

Email Scanning: In return for free email services/storage, 175m Gmail users allow their email to be scanned for content so Google can deliver targeted advertising. However, non-Gmail users are unaware that their replies to Gmail and their email address are automatically scanned and stored by Google, and because Google outsources its service to non-Gmail domains, no user could know which of their email replies or email addresses could be scanned/stored by Google.     

Data Collection: Google sets its default settings to maximize collection of private information.

  • Google Buzz’ original default setting made users private email lists public when they activated Google Buzz. 
  • Android’s OS default setting keeps tracking users’ locations via GPS even when no applications are running.
  • Goog-411’s default setting allows Google to collect, store and analyze a copy of one’s unique voiceprint. 
  • Chrome browser software automatically downloads and installs updates without notification/permission.
  • StreetView’s WiFi antennae defaults were set to record all Internet signals/traffic emanating from homes. 

Google’s default unfettered access to users’ computers means if Google is hacked, like in December when its password system computer code was stolen, (NYTimes 4-19-10), the hackers would have unfettered access to users’ computers.

Privacy Record:

  • 2003: Google Watch calls Google a “privacy time bomb;”
  • 2004: Gmail scans for behavioral advertising; privacy policy changed to allow info- pooling/indefinite storage;     
  • 2005: Google Earth exposed White House roof security and sensitive U.S. military and foreign installations;     
  • 2006: Google ignored California privacy law requiring the posting of privacy policy on home page;
  • 2007: Privacy International ranked Google worst in world; One World Trust ranked Google “Least Accountable;”
  • 2008: StreetView exposed views inside homes, people’s faces, & license plates -- many object in many countries;
  • 2009: YouTube tracks White House site visitors; Google Books tracks library readers; password security breach;
  • 2010: Google to partner with NSA; Google Buzz exposed email lists, Streetview WiFi intercepted Internet traffic. 


Sources: Google; Privacy International; EFF; EPIC; Google Watch; “Googling Security” by Conti; NYT; HitWise; Wikipedia.

Fact Sheet by Scott Cleland, President, Precursor LLC, Publisher of    May 24, 2010