Is Google Really Free?
No and you're paying for it every day
Remember free public TV? Every 19 minutes they ran commercials, and for some reason we and the government were OK with it. The AD space has not changed, what changed is how we consume advertisements.
Nobody I know watches TV nowadays, we watch Google, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok etc. and that is how the ads are being distributed nowadays. In this article you will learn whether or not Google is free, how are you affected by it and what could be done to protect yourself from it.
Share this article with friends and on social media to spread the knowledge.
HardwareSavvy is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber.
Google is not really a search company
Google’s business is to gather data about our interests and habits, so their free apps are really just a means of monetizing that data. Google allows us to use their apps for free in exchange for our data.
Google makes its money from targeted ads, so the more information they have on you the better it is for them. They don’t care what we do on the internet as long as they can keep tracking us and building up a profile on who we are.
Since Google controls over 90% of all internet searches and has about 75% market share for mobile operating systems, it also controls the vast majority of all digital advertising revenue. Google earns billions of dollars every year through this service alone.
So, using Google’s free apps may allow them to trade your data in exchange for their services, but they never actually say that and it is all cleverly masked behind the fact that the apps are free.
As a consumer you may feel like you are getting something in return for your data and not just simply paying for a service with money, so it is more difficult to understand how you are being manipulated.
Are there any alternatives?
The other problem we face as consumers is that there isn’t a viable alternative to Google’s free products at this point. So, even if we are aware of the cost of our data being traded for free access to their products, we don’t have any good alternatives.
Saying that, the competition is heating up in this space and the other big players have caught on to Google’s success with this business model, so it is possible that we might see some more viable alternatives emerging in the future.
For now though, Google is still king of the internet world and they methodically collect data on everyone who uses their services and then use that data to build new products and invent new ways to profit from it. It all starts by offering a service for free in exchange for our data.
Is this article free?
No, the paid users paid for my time to put it together for you! But I’ve made it free to educate our audience. Other web sites place AD banners, but I don’t. The premise of our HardwareSavvy educational portal is to be completely free of bias, ADs and other sponsored BS. Which is why we have tens of thousands of free and hundreds of paid supporters. I believe in transparency and I don’t believe in beating around the bush about the pricing. We are a paid community with some free stuff sprinkled around for those who are either on the fence or can’t pay, but are still interested in my work.
If you are a paid subscriber reading this, thank you very much, you make this newsletter possible. Hopefully soon, we’ll become sustainable. But not yet.
If you are a free subscriber, enjoy the free posts and consider becoming a paid subscriber so I can keep the lights on.
Here’s how Google tracks you:
1) When you download their apps, the Google Play Store places a tracking cookie on your device so that the next time you open their app, it will remember exactly where you were when you first used it.
2) Google also collects data about our search history and sends us targeted ads based on that information.
3) They also track us across all of our devices, so that if you go to a website using your computer, all the websites you visit after that can be tracked and used to serve you relevant ads.
4) Google goes even further with its tracking methods by trying to collect information about our location in the real world. They do this through Google Maps and Google Now features. The more information they have about where we are in the real world, the more useful their services can be for us. If a user is able to search for coffee shops in his neighborhood it makes it easier for him to find that shop then if he was only given a list of coffee shops in his town or city.
5) Google also lets outside companies access your data through their ad network. These companies pay Google for the opportunity to serve you advertisements, so Google makes money from these relationships. Over 90% of all online advertising revenue is going to Google because of this business model.
6) Information about your searches can also give insight into your personal interests and preferences, so these ads can be made even more relevant. If you search for a camera and then a few days later that camera shows up in an advertisement on your screen it is because Google knows what you like. This makes it easier for ads to sell products that consumers actually want, making advertising profitable for both advertisers and consumers while simultaneously creating a convenient experience.
7) Google is also able to use your IP address to link you with your searches. Your Internet Protocol address, or IP address, is like a fingerprint for your computer and can further be used to track what websites you visit and what keywords you have used in the past. An IP address can be used directly or in conjunction with other information like search history, cookies and GPS location data.
8) If you are a business who has a web site, to avoid legal liability with cookies quit using Google Analytics and look into tools like PrivateAnalytix, which has been created and run by my company.
How to protect yourself from Google free data collection
1) Use Incognito Browsing Mode: This feature allows you to surf the internet without leaving a trail. To use this feature you must have Chrome installed. Open your web browser, type in incognito into the address bar and press enter. Browsing will automatically switch from Chrome to Incognito mode and remain that way until you leave the browser.
Incognito mode is a great way to provide privacy in your browsing and is an essential tool to have as an internet user. But it was shown that even the incognito mode doesn't protect you from being tracked.
2) Use a VPN service: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) function encrypts all of the data flowing through it so that anyone who tries to tap into it cannot read your information. This strengthens the security of your computer and protects your data from being made available to advertisers, hackers or government agencies.
While some services will use unblock websites or unblock sites for free, this does not guarantee that they do not track you or that they do not sell personal information. The best way to ensure you are getting a VPN that is not surveilling you while also keeping your information and browsing private is to purchase a service from a third party that specializes in this type of security.
3) Use Mozilla Firefox or the Brave browser: Firefox has built in privacy features and encryption options that allow users to browse the web anonymously by using encryption and private browsing for their browsers. The EFF has 2 guides for using Firefox with privacy features turned on that we recommend.
4) Use DuckDuckGo: This search engine allows you to conduct your searches without sharing any personal information with the site itself. They do not track users or sell data, making it an ideal place to search without being tracked by Google.
6) Switch to Bing or Yahoo: These search engines do not track users which means that their search results are not influenced by how you use their services. Browsing with one of these search engines will mean that your personal information will not be collected and used for targeted ads.
7) Use Disconnect.me: This Firefox Adblock Plus plugin places a shield between you and Google’s data tracking. It blocks the tracking cookies that Google sets on your computer and gives you the choice to block third party cookies as well.
8) Use Tor: Tor is a free browser that allows users to browse the Internet anonymously. The IP address of the user is replaced with one from their chosen server in order to help preserve their privacy and prevent them from being tracked across their web browsing. When using this service, even searching for directions from your home will leave no trace on Google of where you live or whether you own cats or not based on your search history; it will keep this information completely private.