Google Is the Man Behind the Curtain

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and friends are shocked and disappointed when they learn that the mighty and terrifying wizard is just a desperate, insecure man hiding behind a curtain, pulling levers to manipulate a monster created to control others through fear. If yesterday's online search for those water shoes you need for your whitewater rafting trip this summer that then prompted the bevy of advertisements for water shoes from every vendor under the sun in email and social media advertisements aren't enough to spook you wizard-style, it's time you educate yourself about the details of everything Google is up to when you use it.

Former Google CEO turned Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt infamously said, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." While that may be true morally or ethically, all bets are off the table digitally when it comes to Google, which occupies nearly 70% of the search engine pie. In the words of John Albin of SEMGeeks, "Google owns trillions of bytes of information, and they use this information to sell ads, create their own products and build a better Web experience for users." Yes, Google has a privacy policy, but it enables them to still do the following:

While you are using Google, they are busy collecting things like your location, storing that information, ready to use it when needed.

Whether it's your phone, computer or tablet, Google knows what device you're using - the model, operating system, and mobile network.

Anytime you use or update an app(lication), Google collects and then stores information, from those apps as well as through your browser.

When you enable location services, Google is able to collect your IP address, details of your searches, your phone log and general browser activity.

Google uses cookies and anonymous identifiers to interact with services they offer to their partners, including advertising services or Google features.

So if you were thinking about committing a crime that involved preliminary research, think twice. Because the first witness to have tracked that research and be called to the stand will be Google. So what can you do about it? Don't commit the crime to begin with, and take these steps in order to limit Google's invasion of your privacy:

View your Google Account History and click on the dashboard in order to review and control access to your account.

View and then edit preferences regarding ads.

Check out your profile settings to see how they appear to others.

Set your browser to block cookies connected to any Google services.

Google once contemplated trying to predict the stock market and then abandoned it, recognizing that was illegal. Schmidt may no longer be at the helm, but he is on the record as saying, "Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it."

As with your personal online presence, do what is within your power to control what's out there and what others are taking from you. Google's not going anywhere and only growing more powerful. So long as they're giving you the option to control their influence, take advantage of it. You don't need to pull the curtain back in order to know what's behind it. Google is the man; he sees you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake.