Google can (and does) track your activity across many non-Google websites and apps. That may come as a surprise, even if you already know that when you use Google products like Google Search, Chrome, and YouTube, they collect a large amount of personal information about you .
Google tracker hides behind most websites.
Google Analytics — a free Google service used by millions of websites and apps — is actually the largest cross-site tracker on the Internet, hiding behind the scenes on about 72.6% of the top 75 thousand sites. Although
"analytics" sounds harmless and is actually something that websites need to improve their services, what goes on behind the scenes with Google Analytics is absolutely harmless or necessary.
Unlike other privacy-focused analytics services
Google uses their Google Analytics tracker for more than just providing information about site visitors and app users to the site and the app itself. In many cases, Google also adds the same information to Google's large profile about people. Because Google Analytics is embedded in many sites, this tracker alone allows Google to see the global browsing history of most people, regardless of whether they use Google's own products or not.
The second largest cross-site tracker also belongs to Google: aptly named "Global Site Tags" and in about 60% of the top 10 thousand websites
Most of the ads you see online on non-Google websites actually still come from Google, and these trackers help track them. Google uses personal data from Google Analytics, Global Site Tags, and from many other trackers and products, so they can target you with the ads and content they think you want to see. While 72.6% of the top 75K sites contain Google Analytics, if you look at the complete portfolio of Google trackers across those sites, 86.5% contain one or more of them.
Most people want to avoid the creepy Google ads that follow you everywhere online. Google allows advertisers to target people based on their Google search history, browsing history, location history, and other personal information collected through many of Google's trackers.
In addition, all this data also allows industries such as airlines to charge users different prices based on their personal information (via other Google products Yes, you may be charged more for your next vacation as a result of the data collected about you!
This data can also be used for more than just advertising. It has led to innocent people being suspected of crimes they weren't committed to and can even affect your ability to apply for a job, get a loan, or rent a house. It's also used to trigger filter bubbles online by using your data in algorithms to suggest content ( e.g. links, videos, articles, etc.) Google *thinks* you want to engage with them.
An example is YouTube's recommended videos in which many, including children,
has recommended unsafe content based on bubble filter algorithm. This is also the case in Google Search, where people are presented with different results based on their Google profile. This type of filter bubble is especially damaging when searching for political topics because you don't get impartial results or see what others are seeing (for example, when researching potential candidates).
The implications of all this tracking are even more disturbing on an aggregate basis, where this invasive targeting and manipulation can foster extremism and polarization at the community level and influence voting patterns.
All this Google tracking is hiding in plain sight.
In public, Google tells people a very different story. They try to convince you that they care about your privacy and protect your data, even as they continue to invade your privacy behind the scenes.
You may have heard of Google Chrome's "Incognito Mode"? By using "incognito" in its name, Google has led users to believe that this setting keeps you anonymous online, but in reality, it only helps you offline. It just removes the local copy from your search
and browsing history (only things stored on your computer), without doing anything to curb websites, search engines (including Google), Internet service providers, and others, from tracking you easily across the web.
a narrative that in this case led to a class action lawsuit against Google that was recently given the green light in court.
Google continues to make promises to protect people's privacy but routinely refuses to reveal what really happened. Whenever Google is forced to open the curtains and explain what they really do, the truth about how much data they collect vs. what they actually needed to collect was staggering.
Recently Google embedded a new tracking method called FLoC in Chrome and started enabling it by default without explicit opt-in consent from the user. Google seems to know that if they want to give people an honest and understandable explanation of what they do with their data followed by a choice of whether or not to opt-in, hardly anyone does.