Catching Google red-handed in its grand schemes to get even richer and more pervasive has become almost a spectator sport.
Google has become a bloated leviathan of unfathomable proportions, and even its own employees are no longer able to comprehend the scale of the operation. While it is safe to say that most people are aware that Google and its ilk track the vast majority of our digital footprint, it seems like the company no longer cares who knows what when it comes to its anti-privacy practices. With that said, there are quite a few skeletons that Google would rather keep in its closet, as the team from CyberNews team asserts! (Editors’ Note: the views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication or its representatives.)
1. Google knows you better than you know yourself
Let us begin our exposé with something obvious. Namely, the fact that Google scans, records and stores—forever—your every Google search, email conversation, phone and email contact, purchase, YouTube view, calendar reminder, presentation, spreadsheet, and voice recording created using its myriad of technologies.
Keeping tabs on you by making you use more and more “free” products made (or acquired) by Google allows the company to build a picture of you so complete that it may be argued that the tech giant really knows you better than even your best friends do. In fact, are you really sure buying that gorgeous sweater last week was actually your idea? Do you even remember if it was you who found it online? Chances are, it was suggested to you by an ad that was automatically created based on the comprehensive portrait of your tastes stored in one of Google’s data centers.
While it should not be that shocking to learn that your data—even your medical records—is used by Google to paint a picture of who you are, the sheer scope of it all is really astounding, not to mention the implications of potential Inception-esque influences that Google can have on your preferences, tastes, and even political views.
2. Google’s cars hack people’s wifi and steal their data
While Google was busy siphoning your data online, its Street View cars were mining it in real life by hacking your wifi and collecting your account name and password as they map your street.
Google said it had stopped breaking into people’s unsecured wifi networks after the company ‘realised’ that it had been ‘inadvertently’ mining their data for four years. However, later evidence suggests that a Google engineer had planned the operation, and other company employees had known about it all along.
Fortunately, Google lost the subsequent lawsuit regarding its blatantly illegal Street View practices and had to pay a hefty sum for the privilege.
3. Google launches cyberattacks against the competition
As it turns out, Google is not only an anti-consumer corporate giant, but a cut-throat competitor as well.
Back in 2012, Google was ‘mortified’ to learn that its own employees had hacked a database that belonged to Mocality, a rival listings company based in Kenya. The database in question was hacked in order to siphon sales leads from Mocality to Google. Even more disturbingly, these Google employees then tapped the rival company’s phones and used the data they stole to make their own offers to Mocality’s clients. After the scandal went public, Google fired the employees that were involved in the hack.
But wait, there is more: in another instance of no-holds-barred corporate skullduggery, Google employees “tricked” Apple’s Safari browser into allowing Google to track Apple users’ browsing behavior. According to a report, Google managed to keep injecting tracking cookies into Safari users’ devices—even when Safari was set to block cookies. What was even worse, Google then blamed Apple for not protecting their users.
4. Google cooperates with domestic surveillance agencies
When it comes to surveillance and data gathering, Google has no equals. At least not in the private sector. With their original “don’t be evil” slogan that has been dead and buried for years, Google has cooperated with US surveillance agencies whenever there were piles of taxpayer money to be made. Back in 2013, The Guardian broke Edward Snowden’s revelations about how Silicon Valley companies—including Apple and Google—had ‘reluctantly’ participated in the NSA’s ‘unauthorised’ PRISM domestic surveillance program.
And that is not to mention the true origins of Google. Not to sound too conspiratorial, but according to an investigative report by Quartz, at least part of the research that resulted in the creation of the company was “funded and coordinated by a research group established by the intelligence community to find ways to track individuals and groups online.” Which makes Google’s cooperation with the NSA slightly less surprising.
5. Google helps foreign governments enforce online censorship
When you are a giant multinational corporation, the fact that you are cooperating with domestic surveillance agencies does not preclude any potential partnerships with foreign oppressive governments. Case in point: Google’s plan to launch a censored search engine in China, also known as Project Dragonfly. The modified search engine was supposed to omit anything the Communist Party of China deemed inappropriate for its subjects to see, such as websites and search queries related to human rights, democracy, and certain historical events that ‘didn’t happen’ in 1989.
Thankfully, after an internal protest that went public in 2018, including an open letter signed by hundreds of Google’s own employees, it appears that Project Dragonfly has been shut down for good.
We can only hope that this was Google’s only covert attempt to cozy up to an authoritarian government in exchange for massive profits. But as they say in Eastern Europe, hope is the mother of fools.
Aside from the documented controversies listed above, readers will no doubt have come across other known Google exposés involving Lady Day, its overbearing global presence, and questionable hiring practices.
Did you also know that Google services are not really free, or that its jaw-dropping wealth allows it to pursue weird projects such as teleportation and space elevators? The company is so humongous that the media sector may never find out all the secrets Google has under its sleeves. But it sure is fun reading how those closet skeletons somehow come to light—via Google’s own services!