There was a time when Google was simply a search engine. Albeit one that we always knew collected a lot of data to make search results — and ads — more relevant. However, over the years, the Google properties have grown to include things like Android, Gmail, Google+ (anyone?), YouTube, Docs, Drive and many, many more.
Have you ever stopped to think what things and pieces of personal data that you are sharing with Google, and in some cases, anyone with the ability to Google it?
Don’t be scared if you are someone who has not kept up with the changes that Google has made across it’s properties over the years. While it is easy to tick boxes, accept terms and not look, Google has realized that they are not Facebook – and to an extent do value privacy.
To prove this commitment, earlier this week, Google rolled out a new tool called About Me that walks you through what you are sharing on the Google platform. To get started, visit: https://aboutme.google.com and then select “Privacy Checkup.
After you select “Get Started,” you will get taken to a tour of your online privacy and what you are sharing. This begins with Google+. During each step of the way, you can select what data you are comfortable sharing with different audiences including everyone.
Depending on what services you use with your Google account, you will get warnings from the search giant that excluding sharing with Google on some products will cause potential harm on the operation of the app or operating system.
Even if you have the Fort Knox of security settings, this exercise that Google offers is actually pretty good to make sure that you are not over-sharing your valuable data across multiple platforms. We’d recommend running through this process at least once a quarter since we know that no one really reads those T&C documents when downloading an app.
While this tool is great from Google, it is just the start of things that you should be doing to protect your data from advertisers, third-party app providers or cookie warehouses. Before you go on with a cookie warehouse would be cool – we aren’t taking the ones you eat, but the ones who collect your data.
Google has a new AboutMe page where you can manage all your profile information at once: https://t.co/tJSJtjXBWb
— Lifehacker (@lifehacker) November 12, 2015
What do I do?Here are five tips that we recommend you follow on a regular basis (set a calendar update) to make sure you are staying safe on the web:
- Read – It is very easy to simply accept the terms and conditions of sites and services. While we cannot expect you to read the full document, you should at lead monitor what exactly you are sharing with third parties.
- Don’t use single sign on – there, we said it. Single sign on might be easy, but it is also the first point of failure if you expect privacy on the Web. When you login with your Google ID, you immediately agree to share certain data with third parties. Sure it saves you 10 seconds, but do you know what Karl’s Chicken Shack is doing with your data? Or better yet, how they are protecting it?
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) November 7, 2015
- We have puppies – Do you remember the warnings about the creepy old guy with puppies (and a van) that we got in grade school and about how we needed to avoid him? If you don’t know by now, the Internet is filled with creepy dudes. Your data is sacred. Only share it with the places (and persons) you want to share it with.
- Easy is not the best – similar to the login note above, you should never accept or sign up for sharing things on ANY network, even if no one uses it like Google+. The fact of the matter is that no one needs to know of your love for the New Kids on the Block, Ted Cruz home movies or Top Fights on Jerry Springer. If you are opting into easy sharing, the world and search engines can see what you are looking for. The same holds true for searches. There was a story last week on extremely private searches being sold in the US to potential predatory scammers – I suggest you read it and let it sink in.
— Kaspersky Lab (@kaspersky) August 13, 2015
- Use a privacy tool – You can always use Tor to stay private (unless the FBI continues their ways), but it is not for everyone. What we would recommend is to look at a third party tool like Kaspersky Lab Safe Browsing that allows a user to select what is shared with third party sites. We are a security company – we believe in your privacy, you pay us to keep you safe. This feature is available in our latest 2016 edition of Kaspersky Internet Security.
Hopefully these tools will help you moving forward and we suggest you run the test ASAP. Talking to some colleagues, we were all shocked at some of the settings we did not know we opted into.