I’ve been putting off writing this column for a few years, now, but it’s time to face the criticism that’s bound to come from giving it to you straight. Here we go.
“Give it to me straight, doc,” the wise patient once said, so, here’s the straight skinny: Google Chrome makes people stupid. It lulls them into a false sense of well-being they would not otherwise have had had they not been drugged by Google’s ultra-slick marketing machine.
To understand this rant, it’s important to understand who Google is and what their browser product, called Google Chrome, actually does. Armed with that knowledge, you can see the Internet and the world it dominates with both eyes wide open and your brain fully engaged.
First, what Google is not. Google is not a merry band of brainiac hippies working to make the world a better place. Google is not run by enlightened social justice crusaders or human rights champions. Google is not to be trusted. Google is not your friend.
Google is a company, the Internet’s second largest company, second only to Amazon. To be specific, Google is an advertising company, and they are geniuses in the advertising world, bringing in over $120 billion in 2018. Advertising is how Google makes money, and everything they do, every product they make and every cute graphic they put on google.com is carefully and scientifically crafted toward that end.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. I’m all for any company being the best at what they do, and making as much money as possible in the process. At the same time time, it’s important for us, the customers, to be fully aware of what’s actually happening with Google and browser products like Google Chrome.
But wait; there’s a major misconception about who we are in relationship to Google, because we are not Google’s customers. We are Google’s product. We are the merchandise, and the more personal information Google can gather about us, the more money they make.
Think about it. When’s the last time you bought and paid for a Google product? When’s the last time you paid for a Google search or to use your Gmail account? How much did it cost the last time you used Google Maps for driving directions or Google Drive to share some large files with friends? I imagine “never” and “nothing” are the answers to those questions.
Those answers would be wrong, though. We do pay a price when we use Google’s many “services.” The price we pay is our personal information and our personal privacy, as we feed the Google advertising machine.
Who you send messages to, how long they are, how often you send them, what websites you visit, how long you are there, what you click on, what pictures you view, what stories you read, what ads you see, do you scroll up or down, what other websites connect to the one you are looking at, where do you go next, what do you buy, what’s your credit history, what’s your education, have you ever filed an insurance claim, have you ever had a “domestic dispute,” do you pay bills online, who are your friends, who are their friends, where do you live, do you own firearms, do you “tweet,” what are your political and religious inclinations, do you use alcohol or tobacco, what’s your financial life like, what’s your medical history, do you have a criminal background, what are your hobbies, what car do you drive, has your car been detected by highway cameras or toll gates, do you have investment accounts, are you male, female, married, single, what are your sexual preferences, what food do you like, what movies and music do you enjoy, do you have children, what are their lives like, information about everything you could ever imagine and some things you couldn’t is collected.
Google Chrome users lah-de-dah their way across the Internet, oblivious that Google products and services like Google Chrome are simply giant vacuum cleaners, sucking up every last scrap of personal information we have and selling that information for many billions of dollars per year.
That’s why guys like me prefer Web browsers like Mozilla Firefox. On the Internet, privacy is safety. Properly configured, Firefox makes it easy to be safe. Stay tuned, I’ll continue showing you how.
Dave Moore has been fixing computers in Oklahoma since 1984. Founder of the non-profit Internet Safety Group Ltd., he also teaches Internet safety community training workshops. He can be reached at 919-9901 or internetsafetygroup.com.