Data Privacy Concerns with Google

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has a market cap of $712 billion. Within Google’s range of products, there are seven with at least one billion users. In its privacy policy , the company outlines its broad and far-reaching data collection. The data collection extends to Google’s entire suite of products, meaning the amount of data the company stores is enormous. Google holds an estimated 15 exabytes of data , or the capacity of ~30 million personal computers.

Data Leaks

Google has done well historically, with its data security practices. However, it hasn’t been perfect. Back in 2009, there was a bug in Google docs that potentially leaked .05% of all documents stored in the service. While .05% seems incredibly small, .05% of 1 billion users is still 500,000 people. Because Google is so large, their data protection has no room for error.


Every time a user searches with Google, they receive a cookie in their computer. This cookie gives Google information about the websites the person visits, and their search history. That information is also linked to any Gmail accounts that have logged in on your device. There is no information in the company’s privacy policy as to whether or not records about your search or web history are deleted from its records. Users can delete these cookies from their computers, but the cookies are updated every time a Google service is used.


Google uses its Analytics product, along with others, to determine a user’s browsing path around the internet. By linking that information to an IP address and an associated Google account, a complete profile of a person can be assembled. It’s this information that gives Google its advertising superpower. In 2017, Google’s ad revenue was $95.38 billion . The data is extremely beneficial for marketers looking for customer insights, and targeting people with ads.



Content of users’ Gmail messages is tracked to improve relevance and targeting of ads, and to block spam emails. Google says that mail sent to or from Gmail isn’t read by any human being other than the account holder. However, even if computers are the only ones to see the data, it is still being tracked and stored — and could be read by a human with access.

CIA & NSA Ties

While the NSA refuses to confirm or deny the existence of any relationship between the NSA and Google, privacy and civil rights advocates are concerned. In 2011 the Electronic Privacy Information Center submitted a Freedom of Information Act request regarding NSA records about the 2010 cyber-attack on Google users in China. The request was denied and the NSA said that disclosing the information would put the US Government’s information systems at risk.

Google and the CIA are connected through In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s investment arm. In-Q-Tel ’s main purpose is to keep the CIA up-to-date with the latest technology. Companies that Google has acquired or invested in, like Keyhole and Recorded Future , have also received funding from In-Q-Tel.

Government Requests

Google has been criticized for disclosing too much information to governments too quickly. On the other hand, governments have expressed their frustration with the company for not disclosing information that governments need to enforce their laws.

Google Chrome

Google’s Chrome browser is a privacy nightmare in itself, because all you activity within the browser can then be linked to your Google account. If Google controls your browser, your search engine, and has tracking scripts on the sites you visit, they hold the power to track you from multiple angles.

Incognito Mode

Chrome’s Incognito Mode is often taken to mean that it protects user privacy. However, it doesn’t keep users safe from tracking on the websites they visit. While Chrome won’t store your browsing history, site data, or information entered in forms in Incognito Mode, the sites you visit can still gather and keep that information.

Chrome’s Incognito Mode Isn’t Private, So What’s the Point? — Choose To Encrypt
Incognito Mode in Google Chrome, despite its name, isn’t really “incognito” at all. The Independent published this…

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