What's all the privacy fuss?

What seems like so many years ago, I acknowledged that Google had way too much information about me.  I used Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps, Android phones, you name it.  They know me.  I wasn't too worried about it because I just figured that's how things were going and, like most people, I trusted them for some reason.  Then, as time went by we used to joke about how we would talk about something and then see an ad for it on social media because "someone was listening".  Once again, it just didn't dawn on me what was going on.  I guess I just didn't want to think about it.  However, as time wore on it began to bother me.  I would visit a website for the first time and then when I left that site, I would see ads for it on the other webpages I visited.  The advertisement followed me.  It made me angry because if I wanted to go back to that website, I knew how to find it.  I didn't need to be reminded of it every 5 minutes because I had already been there.  I finally found myself wondering if it went deeper.  I started with the ads trying to figure out what was going on.

I started clearing out my advertisement ID's at the big ad companies.  I thought that would help with the advertisement issue.  It resets the cookies in the browser you are currently using for a time but if you use a new browser or another device, it will place them again. You can reset your Ad ID's here and here for a couple of the major ad networks and at Googles Ad Settings page if you are interested. I went into my Google settings and turned off all ad personalizing. They claim that their ad personalizing helps me find the things I want (or that they think I want) and I can understand that but at what cost?  It's a little creepy.  What it does is help them sell advertisements because they have me reeled in.

When I started really looking into this, I found out that Google knows way more about me than I want them to and they store it for future use and evaluation.  They know everywhere I go and how long I stay there (see yours here).  They know what I buy due to certain agreements they have with credit card companies. You can read an article about that here (warning: auto playing video).  They know each and every app I open on my phone and how long I use it plus everything I search in their search box and every website I visit (go to this link while signed into google and see your own activity and then click the Other Google Activity to see the rest).  Now that's getting overly creepy.  Everyone who uses Android has to sign in with a google account if you want apps which they say protects you from bad apps, which is understandable, but why do they need to know which ones I use and how long I use them?. You are encouraged to sign into Google everywhere you go and especially if you use Chrome as your browser. Google has invaded our lives in many ways along with other big tech companies and it's just getting worse. Can we escape being tracked?  It's possible, but it's extremely hard to do so completely and very inconvenient.

Can we do something about being tracked?

We can do a few things that will help. I will just do a quick rundown of a few things I did that might help you if you are inclined to put up with the inconveniences.

  • I changed my browser from Chrome to Firefox.  Firefox says they are committed to privacy and have many privacy tools for you to use.  Firefox comes installed with a tracker blocker.  It can cause issues with some websites but it's easy to turn off if you have problems.  There are also some addons that you can use that further the privacy that you can obtain through Firefox.  Here's an article at "How To Geek" that tells you exactly how to get your information from Chrome into Firefox if you swap.

  • I changed my search engine from Google to DuckDuckGo.  You won't get the personalized results when you search but the reason you have that on Google is because they track you everywhere.  Once again, at what cost? If you don't mind the minor inconvenience of non personalized ads, it's worth it to swap.  You can either visit them at https://www.duckduckgo.com or you can change your search engine preferences in your browser.

  • I went into my Google settings and told it to pause all activity tracking.  I am not naive enough to think it really stops them from tracking what apps I use and where I go, but it doesn't show me anymore and somehow that's a little bit comforting.

  • I swapped my personal email from gmail to ilj.com and am steadily changing my email address with people that send me emails there.

  • I am starting to migrate away from using Google Docs for my file storage and sharing.

  • How can ILJ Mail Help?

    At ILJ Mail, we hope to help you take back a little bit of your privacy by offering private, secure email addresses.  We have had some great domains for years (some from way back in the 1990s!) that were put to good use for a long time but have since been "resting".  We thought we should put them to good use again and provide a service that is needed.  While Google says it doesn't scan emails anymore for ad purposes, it seems like something different comes out in the news every day.

    You may be thinking "Why isn't ILJ Mail free like the othersl?" The reason is because at the free services, YOU are the product. They use your information to sell your data to other advertisers, show you constant ads and track your every move all over the internet.

    - At ILJ Mail, we do not track you. We will never show you ads in your email and most importantly, we will never sell your data.

    - For about the price of one cup of coffee per month at Starbucks, you can take your email privacy back with ILJ Mail.

    - Our hope is to give you back your privacy and the peace you deserve while navigating this new time on the internet.

    That's a pretty big deal if you ask me. 


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