Google’s global presence has shaped the future of the internet in ways that seemed unimaginable sixteen years ago. Their multi-billion dollar empire has moved from simple search engine to being a market leader in a range of internet based products, cloud computing services and software.
As the go-to search engine on the internet, and with their hugely popular e-mail platform Gmail, Google have increasing precedence over our activity on the internet. Their ‘Big Brother’ style surveillance has been a topic of discussion for many years, with fears that this information could be used in their favour.
Who’s reading your mail?
Recent changes to Google’s terms and conditions have revealed that their observations now extend to personal correspondence. Google have clarified their scanning practices, stating that they scan ingoing and outgoing emails with an automated system.
Google have faced fierce criticism from privacy groups and government authorities over their practices. Whilst the scans aim to detect spam and Malware in e-mails (like any other e-mail service provider does), Google’s scans are far more scrupulous.
What Google glean from their scans is information from a user’s e-mail account and data from their Google profile. This information is then used to tailor advertising in the form of Google ads, those scarily targeted adverts that appear as we browse the internet. Whilst cookies from websites that you visit also have a part to play in this, Google ads are far more targeted and include indications of more personal tastes.
Search results, map requests and YouTube video views are also scanned past Google’s systems – something that is considered very personal to most people. The scanning feature is not something that can be ‘turned off’ either, so the information that they gather about our online activity and personal preferences continues to be available to them.
A majority of the criticism surrounding this announcement is whether Google are monitoring even more than they have revealed in their latest announcement. Access to a private domain such as e-mail is very intrusive. Many users are concerned by the fact that such a powerful company have access to their private information, and that there is always the possibility of a data leak.