How to Use Google’s Services and Not Become a Product
Since 1995, when Larry Page met Sergey Brin and came up with the idea of a website like it, it’s been quite a while. Google is without doubt one of the most popular search engines out there, but it’s much more than just a place to look for stuff. While students may be using it to get their homework done, writers are looking at it for inspiration and geeks are amazed by the latest gadgets it comes up with, the staff at Google is working on some brand new ideas.
You surely heard of Google AdWords that was launched at the end of 2000 with only 350 customers. This is now the biggest and most reliable helping hand for marketers and business people who want to know how well they perform. Apart from Google Web, Maps and Images, there is also such a thing as Google Print – or books – since 2003.
Many of you probably use Picasa for editing your pictures, since it’s much easier than Photoshop, but still good enough to be worth your while. You also probably love listening to music and watching movies directly on Youtube, setting up calendars using Google’s services, using Google Chrome instead of other web browsers and taking advantage of Google Voice. All of these for free. Well, you aren’t getting these products for free, but you yourself is a product.
A Brief Intro
We all know how Google started, or do we? Long story short, two young grads met 20 years ago. The two gentlemen began working on a search engine that was called BackRub and came up with an idea of how to organize what seemed to be like an infinite amount of data into something like a place on the web.
They specifically chose this name for it as they were in love with mathematics. Those of you who also love this field will probably know of googol – the term used by mathematicians to refer to the number 1 followed by as many as 100 zeros. This sums up how much information there is available in the world, plus how much more there will be, given that we continuously add more to it.
While it all started similarly to Facebook – like a cool idea that two students had – Google slowly became a pretty cool and big thing. Nowadays, you probably know of Google TV – introduced in 2010 to let anyone see as many videos, movies, series and many more by using apps on the big screen.
You probably also love Chromecast – an USB stick that lets you do the same as before, but on your smartphone or tablet. This way, you pay as little as $35 for the stick, but then sign up for various apps like Hulu TV, HBO, Netflix and so on in order to enjoy an unlimited amount of movies and shows on your iPhone, Mac, iPad, Windows laptop or even Chromebook.
We’ve also been threatened to have our realities shaken once again by Google Glass. While it’s not a consumer product yet, it will allow anyone who wears them to directly look up the object, place or person in front of them via Google. Why take your smartphone out and make it obvious when you can just stare at something and … Google it?
With so many new things becoming available every other month, it becomes a little obvious that there has to be more going on behind the scene. If Google is able to come up with so many new products and services that reflect our deepest and most secret needs, and if we got to the point where we can do anything, watch everything, stalk anyone and Google whatever, isn’t that scary?
Well of course it is, because taking advantage of Google’s services usually comes with a payback, and that is the fact that Google will most likely use the information about you to make you buy more. Or to spy on you. Or to pop ads whenever you want to enjoy a good music video.
As you probably know it already, Google acquired AdMob in 2010. This one is a huge mobile advertising company. Also owning Youtube, Google analyzes all information we’re searching for in order to offer us personalized ads.
In order to protect yourself from such situations, you can try to block ads. Google itself makes it easy enough for you to check how to do this. Whenever you are on this search engine and an ad comes up, you have to identify the i sign or the link saying Why this Ad right next to the advertisement itself.
By clicking on it, you will be taken to the ads settings, where you can block various advertisers, companies or types of ads. However, you will only be able to stop as many as 500 of them from spamming you.
Given that Google pays close attention to your interests, it might be interesting to go to the Advertisement Settings area and see what it looks like for you. Most certainly, you will see a couple of interests of yours according to which you receive ads. The good thing is that you can remove them or add some in order to make sure that you only receive what you’re interested in.
However, that will somehow contradict the very main subject of this article, wouldn’t it? While that would make it even easier for Google to turn you into a product, you might like to install the Adblock Plus extension.
How to Remove Search History
In a similar way, you can go to your Settings page on Google Chrome and make sure that you search history is deleted. To do this, you will need to select Search History and check the box near to the thing you want to erase. You will also be given the option of erasing everything at once and click on Remove Items to make sure they’re gone.
However, the bad thing is that there are no settings allow you to permanently disallow Google to store your information. Therefore, you will always have to go back and delete certain things. If you want no passwords to be memorized, no websites and search results to be saved, you can use a web browser like Tor in order to access the same Google services – but undercover.
Deleting stored data
As you probably figured out by now, you can delete a lot of other stuff, and not just the search results. You can also delete all the history showing different websites that you looked at and the passwords/IDs that you used to sign into various accounts.
While this kind of history can definitely be useful when you don’t want to enter the full name of a website once again or have to remember all your passwords, but it can also be dangerous for you. In a similar way, you can go to History under the Settings section and choose what you wish to erase.
How to Block Cookies
While Google’s Chrome Browser lets you block a series of pop-ups and ads, it never seems to work well enough, does it? If you want to make sure that no one is able to track what you look for on Google, that you won’t be bothered with any cookies, you can do so with Fluid.
This is an app that can also manage your cookie storage, so that it gets stored separately from the browser you’re using. In this case, no one will have access to your search results. Using the Fluid app – the paid version that is $5 – you can create apps for running mostly anything.
For example, you can create one for using Facebook in fluid mode or one for running Google, and in both cases, you will be given the option of setting up your own cookies’ preferences. To do that, you’ll have to get the app from here, and then go to Security Preferences to choose what gets blocked and when.
How to Use Google Anonymously
We previously mentioned a web browser called TOR. Because we didn’t spend nearly enough time talking about it, let me introduce you to the concept. All you need to know about this one is that it hides your actual IP address and replaces it with one based in Canada.
This being said, no one can track your location. Apart from that, though, you also get the benefit of an ad-free journey on Google, without your search results being memorized. If you ever launched Tor before and went to a website, you probably know the pain of closing it and launching the same browser again after an hour or two without it being able to remember that you looked at that specific page.
While this can be a little annoying when all you’re trying to do is to access certain pages or content that’s been blocked or banned in your country, there’s nothing more relieving than this when it comes to Google. You won’t need to go through any settings and delete your history all the time, since everything will have been done for you.
Preventing Google from Tracking You
If being tracked by Google or other companies from around the world is what scares you, there’s a few extensions to look at. One of them is Disconnect Search – a free extension that you can add to Google Chrome or any other browser. This one lets you use the same engine as before – be it Bing, Google, Yahoo or any other – but without them knowing who and where you are.
By hiding both your identity and your IP address, this tool can keep you safe while Googling. Our favorite extension, though, is DuckDuckGo – another free service that doesn’t just hide your IP, but also prevents any website from tracking the activities that you engage in while online.