News & Politics

If You're Still Using Chrome, Google's Latest Revelation Will Make You Stop

Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP

Earlier this year, Apple required developers to stick a “privacy nutritional label” on any applications they make available for download on the company’s massive App Store for iPhone and iPad.

There was just one catch: The label only had to be applied to new or newly updated apps.

Google, that great privacy-destroying machine, waited almost four months before updating their most popular app — the Chrome browser — and publishing the mandated privacy label along with it.

You knew it was going to be bad. You might not have known just how bad it was going to be.

Zak Doffman writes about cybersecurity and surveillance issues for Forbes and reports that “Chrome collects your user ID and device ID in too many categories.” He adds that “Unlike Safari, Edge and Firefox, Chrome says it links all harvested data to devices and individuals.”

Everything you do in Chrome is recorded and kept by Google and linked to you, personally.

Doffman continues:

The fact is that Chrome collects more data than any of the other browsers, yet is the only one that doesn’t appear to collect any data that isn’t linked to user identities. This is a much more shocking illustration of the different philosophies at play. Chrome hasn’t even attempted to protect its users’ privacy in this way. This isn’t about specific data fields, this is about an overarching attitude to privacy.

Google’s privacy invasions go beyond its “free” services and software. If anything, smartphones running Google’s Android mobile operating system are even more invasive, given the 24/7 access they have to every user’s location data.

In the EU, privacy activist Max Schrems and his Noyb organization just filed a legal complaint alleging that Google engages in “illegal operations” in violation of EU privacy laws.

Noyb privacy lawyer Stefano Rossetti argued that Android uses “hidden identifiers” that allow Google and even third parties to “track users without their consent.”

Rossetti says using Android is like “having powder on your hands and feet, leaving a trace of everything you do on your phone—from whether you swiped right or left to the song you downloaded.”

Google, meanwhile, continues to tout its concern for user privacy.

OK, chief.

Since we’re just talking about privacy, I won’t even get into the whole thing about Google throwing its massive weight around to push Woke politics, but please know that issue is always on my mind.

Maybe you think that Google’s privacy violations don’t matter because you don’t own an Android phone or use any of Google’s services.

What actually doesn’t matter is whether or not you boycott Google — because if you use the internet, Google tracks you, and makes money off of you.

Just like Facebook, Google is so enmeshed into so many websites and services, and into the very structure of the internet, that it is literally impossible for you to divorce yourself from the Mountain View data giant.

Almost exactly two years ago today I told you the story of Kashmir Hill, a tech writer who did everything a human being could possibly do to separate herself from Google.

Hill didn’t just trade in her Android phone for an iPhone and quit using all of Google’s services. She even had a tech friend create a specialty Virtual Private Network (VPN) that would block all of Google’s 8.6 million IP addresses from all of her devices.

The result? It pretty much broke her access to the internet.

She couldn’t hail an Uber or Lyft, she couldn’t stream her music on Spotify, many websites wouldn’t load at all and most didn’t display correctly. She couldn’t upload to DropBox, and so on.

Behind the scenes, Hill’s specialty VPN blocked her devices from trying to ping Google’s servers more than 15,000 times — in just the first few hours. After a week, it had stopped more than 100,000 attempts to share data with Google.

As I said before, if you use the internet, Google uses you to make money.

Think about that.

If there’s a restaurant that gave you bad service, you don’t go back — and you hurt their bottom line. If your favorite bar hangs a “BLM” or some other political banner you don’t approve of, you don’t go back there until they take it down.

But if you choose not to use Google (or Facebook), it doesn’t matter. If ten million people quit using Google, it wouldn’t matter.

Consumers no longer hold veto power over Google’s business practices.

That’s not a free market; that’s a broken market.

Serious antitrust action is required against Google’s parent company Alphabet, and the company ought to be broken up into at least a dozen pieces.

I can be vindictive sometimes, so I’d rather take off and nuke their servers from orbit. But I do understand that isn’t exactly feasible.

Failing either antitrust action or a nuclear corporate holocaust, for once I’d support punitive taxation: Say, a 10-dollar surcharge on any and all targeted internet ads.

It isn’t often — maybe never — that I’ve advocated such harsh government interference in the free market.

But when consumers have lost their choice, what other option do we have?