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Google Alarm and Ghostery

When I was a kid, all of my friends had big brothers. They were always spying on us; when we had a slumber party, when we were talking on the phone, when we were at a slumber party talking on the phone…”Total lack of respect”, a friend of mine complained when she caught her brother under her bed.

I never had a brother, big or little. Thus I was never privy to what a friend of mine describes as a warm fuzzy feeling that you get when you notice a small hole in the wall between the bathroom and your brother’s room (eye-spy kind of stuff) and look into it, only to find your big brother’s eye staring straight into yours…”Total lack of privacy”, another friend said as she stuck her finger into her big brother’s eye.

And then there’s the “Be careful what you say on the phone; Big Brother is watching you” (the technical name for him is government) that we all hear about from time to time…”Total lack of respect and privacy”, says a friend of mine whose brother works for an agency that shall remain nameless. (Note that his privacy is being respected!)

And now there’s Google – the Big Brother of the internet.

Google not only wants to know it all, it already – um – kind of does. As Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO so aptly puts it, “We know a lot about you. We know a lot about what you care about. We know where you are, and we know what you like.”

Great. Makes me feel safe. So how do we find out what Google knows – or wants to know?

A man by the name of Jamie Wilkinson got concerned enough about Google’s tracking practices that he developed an add-on for Firefox called Google Alarm [1]. This nifty add-on alerts you by sight and sound every time your personal information is being sent back to Google’s servers. And if you don’t want a (pretty-obnoxious-as-far as-I’m-concerned) fog-horn alarm sounding off every time you visit a site that is being tracked (which was quite often, at least in my case), Google Alarm gives you the option to turn it off and only be notified visually. In addition, Google Alarm keeps running stats (by percentage) of websites your have visited that have Google bugs present and shows you those, too. I downloaded this add-on and it indeed does everything it says. Google Alarm is free.


Note: Google Alarm has now become available for Chrome, as well as Safari.

If you are a tad more curious as to what’s going on as you travel about the web (I started reading everything I could get my hands on), you might consider another add-on for Firefox called Ghostery [2]. Since I was really curious about all of this after checking out Google Alarm, I downloaded this add-on, as well.

Ghostery is a very impressive program (add-on). It tracks and shows you all of the companies currently tracking you and your browsing habits (and there are a lot of them). Not only that, it gives you the information on any company that has been tracking you and the offer to block the company from access your surfing habits, as well. It gives you a link to each company so that you can research the company and find out their practices and policy practices. It is a very simple program to use. Ghostery is free.


Note: Ghostery is available for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.

So now you know. All of the stories of you being tracked and spied on are true. However, the information is just being sent back to these companies so that they can cater to your wants and needs. This way they’ll know what kind of ads to put on your browser so that you can get to what you want or buy what you want easily, without having to wade through the world-wide-web. That’s not so bad, is it?

As far as your personal privacy goes (not the stuff tracked on the web, but other personal information), you really don’t have to worry about that, either. Erick Schmidt (the CEO of Google whom I quoted in the beginning of this article) says that there will be “a near-term future in which you don’t forget anything, because the computer remembers. You’re never lost.”

To read more about Erick Schmidt and his predictions on the future of the internet, click here for the article from ReadWriteWeb.

Well, that makes me feel a lot better. I guess I didn’t miss out on a big brother after all.

~ Lori Cline