I reckon George Orwell has a lot to answer for. Anyone who has read 1984 will have deep-rooted fears of “Big Brother” watching their every move. In some places, like the UK, it seems to have come true. In urban areas, everywhere you walk seemingly there is a security camera recording you. The authorities will tell you that this lack of privacy is the cost of keeping the town centres safer.
Many people also get rather hot under the collar when the subject of online privacy crops up. They tend to object to companies like Google, Facebook & Amazon (they are the ones usually in the firing line) knowing to much about them.
Let’s have a look at this. Let’s figure out why they want to snoop on you and whether it is a good or bad thing. Also, is there a way to stop it? We’ll see…
Who do you know that doesn’t use a Google product? Lets think about just a few of them (there are loads more)…
Google free search engine
Gmail – the free email client
Goo.gl URL shortner
Google CalendarAndroid OS and the Play Store
etc etc etc
The neat thing about all of these products is that they are both powerful and completely free to the end user (although some have paid upgrades). But free at what cost?
Sometimes, we can forget that companies like Google are, actually, businesses. Many see their services as some kind of God-given freebie that they can use & abuse and moan about at the same time. This is why people get “upset” about companies such as Google knowing what they like online, what they search for, what videos they watch, what their buying habits are…even where they are using GPS and Google Maps.
What those complainers don’t realise is that Google needs this information to deliver a better service, both to the end user and to advertisers that fund the nice shiny freebies that people love to use.
You see, only by knowing your customer can you ever hope to deliver what your customer wants. If you don’t deliver what your customers want, they don’t stay as your customers. It is that simple.
So, everytime you do something that is registered by Google, they can add to your experience by delivering adverts that are more likely to be of interest to you. That is both providing a tailored service to you as well as the advertiser. If they didn’t, then your user experience would be worse and advertisers would go elsewhere.
This is also true of Facebook. The company has to tread a fine line between user experience and privacy whilst remaining solvent by delivering a fantastic proposition to advertisers.
So, if these companies did not gather information, they would cease to exist in the long term. Then you would have an online world where nothing was free. You would have to pay an annual fee to be on Facebook or even to upload You Tube videos. Search results would be even more rubbish that they often are now and these services would be denied to billions of people because they would not be able to pay for these services.. In short, you, the internet user would lose out.
So next time you are at a dinner party and people a moaning on about Google (or Facebook), please remind them that no-one is holding a gun to their head forcing them to use these products. Tell them to cancel their Google accounts, get rid of their Gmail account, smash their Android phone or tab under their boot and stop using Google products completely. It should be possible for anyone to have an online life without, say Google. But it would be a poorer experience.
Now… Just on the bottom of this post – I grabbed my “paypal.me” name for my business the other day. You should do this (before your name gets taken). So I decided to test it out with a “buy me a beer” link…click on the image below to see what a “Paypal.me” page looks like
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