Google Alarm – Alerts You When Google Is Watching!

In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Google CEO Eric Schmidt made the following comment which frankly, I find not only offensive, but very disturbing.

“We (Google) know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.”

If you feel like a pawn in a bigger game that you don’t understand, and you wonder just why this insatiable need exists for Google to collect more and more information about you, you’re not alone.

Schmidt can put it perspective for you though –

“I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,” he says……. You get a billion people doing something, there’s lots of ways to make money. Absolutely, trust me. We’ll get lots of money for it.”

Despite Schmidt’s claim last year that privacy is dead, and that people don’t care about privacy, any number of recent surveys refute this assertion. A much more realistic and balanced view on privacy, can be had at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic.org), is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C. “which focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values.”

If you’ve ever wondered how invasive Google really is, there’s a small Firefox addon on that will help answer the question.

Google Alarm puts up a small message box for any web site where information on you is being sent to a Google server. The screen capture below shows that Google collected information on me, at 53 of the sites I visited this morning. I must admit, I found this rather amazing.

image

The information collected, at first glance, seems rather harmless. But, with the ability Google has to correlate and data mine, (much of that ability jealously guarded), I have no doubt, that the captured information is anything but harmless.

Here’s a short video which shows Google Alarm in action. Just click on the video to run.

image

I’m not suggesting that you need to run this addon as a permanent fixture in your Browser, but I do recommend that you give a spin. If it acts as a wake up call on how powerful Google has become (it should), then it’s done its job.

Note: If you decide to install this addon, you’re better off choosing the “workplace-friendly” version which dispenses with the annoying sound alarm, and relies only on a flashing message box.

If you’re a Chrome user, a Beta version of this application is available.

Download at: the developer’s site.

Additional articles on privacy posted here, include –

Personal Privacy – A Dangerous Concept!

GoogleSharing Firefox Add-on – Stop Google’s Invasion of Your Privacy!

Google’s CEO’s Privacy Statement – A Freudian Slip?

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

16 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Browsers, Chrome, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google, Interconnectivity, Point of View, Privacy, Software, Surveillance, Windows Tips and Tools

16 responses to “Google Alarm – Alerts You When Google Is Watching!

  1. mrlokinight

    Hi Bill

    Eric Schmidt on the misuse of information for criminal or anti-social purposes:
    “The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity. In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it”

    Schmidt is a dangerous fool. He seems to believe that “governments” can be trusted & he forgets (as do most politicians) that a truly democratic government is in service to ‘the people’ & cannot “demand” anything without a mandate

    One only has to think back to Salam Pax (a.k.a The Baghdad Blogger) to realise that a citizens anonymity is an essential counter to the tendency for governments to get above themselves

    Peace’n’Love from (a.k.a) nightjar

    • Hey Nightjar,

      You’ve said it all – “Schmidt is a dangerous fool.”

      I recently viewed a 6 part series on propaganda, although I’ve been aware of both the creation, and the effects of propaganda, most of my adult life. Eric Schmidt is a propagandist. Every time Schmidt pontificates on the privacy issue, he means to manipulate for Google’s benefit.

      What I find most disturbing is the absolute lack of concern the average person has for the insidious nature of the information that’s collected. The potential for misuse is staggering.

      Thank you for pointing to Salam Pax – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salam_Pax

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Bill,

    This is definitely an eye opener… I was just reading about Google Alarm last night. In regards to privacy, the more and more I help the “everyday” computer user I find that they are very complacent when it comes to their personal information. Only thing we can do is keep preaching the word…

    Rick

    • Hey Rick,

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s all about complacency.

      I find the older I get, the less able I am, when it comes handling the “dumbing down” of society. Our lives are been constricted more and more every day, and average person simple has no sense of what’s happening. I think we’ve already reached the point where any of this is reversible. I find that stunning.

      Bill

      • Cmee

        Bill,

        I don’t think I have ever commented here but I do read and quite often at that.

        Here is where you hit the nail on the head:

        “I think we’ve already reached the point where any of this is reversible. ”

        So, so true.

        • Hi Cmee,

          Thank you for taking the time to comment. Particularly on such an important issue.

          We are, unfortunately, dealing with the proverbial “stuffing the Genie back in the bottle.” It’s an impossibility.

          Bill

  3. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Google are bastards. And so is anyone else who keeps information on people in this way. They don’t have the right, or our permission. And they never will.

    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      I agree – Google and the like are bastards, or worse.

      Unfortunately, in many cases we do give them permission to collect our personal information. Virtually every web site/service has a privacy policy (in many cases difficult to find/difficult to understand), which a visitor tacitly agrees to, just by visiting, or using a service.

      We need enforceable laws that prohibit the collection and storing of personal information, and not laws that regulate this. We need outright prohibition.

      Won’t ever happen – politicians have absolutely no courage.

      Best,

      Bill

      • Mal

        Hey Bill,

        One thing I’ve noticed when using Hotspot Shield, it will come up with a message to disable google tracking, and redirect to their search engine. Hotspot Shield is now version 1.49, for those who didn’t know. I like it, keeps those snoops like Google away.

        Cheers

  4. Liam O' Moulain

    Bill,

    When we allow things to happen to us, we get what we deserve.

    Unless people start to take back control of their personal information and their own lives, we can only expect this situation to get much worse.

    The average person is just too damn complacent, and too damn lazy, to insist laws be enacted to force Google, and other info criminals, to stop this.

    Liam

    • Hey Liam,

      “When we allow things to happen to us, we get what we deserve.” – it would be difficult to argue with that. Historical events have shown, time after time, just how true this is.

      Thank you for commenting on such an important issue.

      Bill

  5. I guess the “Google is NOT your friend!” bumper sticker says it all. 🙂

    Too bad Google Alarm isn’t available for Internet Explorer … more than half the world can’t use it. 😦

    • Hey Rod,

      We live in a world of bumper sticker philosophy here in North America. Not a bad thing I don’t suppose, given the limited intellectual capacity of most North Americans to deal with complex issues.

      We’re dealing with a company that has taken the exploitation of people to unprecedented levels, yet the average person fails to grasp the significance of the bumper sticker. It just blows my mind!!

      You’re right of course – IE users have been left out in the cold on this one. Which, as you point out, means “more than half the world can’t use it.” Now that sucks!

      Best,

      Bill

  6. Siam

    Yikes. Definitely an eye-opener. It is worth giving it a spin, as you suggest Bill. However, I have now disabled it as it becomes a bit intrusive after a while. It would be good if the developer enabled it to be manually enabled, or enabled it to be accessed from the FF status/task bar when desired.

    Thanks for posting about it, Bill. As always, you keep me on my toes!