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    France Administrator Hervé's Avatar
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    Default An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data

    I tried cutting Google out of my life, but couldn't use the internet without it

    Kashmir Hill Gizmodo
    Tue, 29 Jan 2019 18:16 UTC


    (click on picture to watch video)
    Reporter Kashmir Hill spent six weeks blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple from getting her money, data, and attention, using a custom-built VPN. Here's what happened.

    Week 3: Google

    Long ago, Google made the mistake of adopting the motto, "Don't be evil," in a jab at competitors who exploited their users. Alphabet, Google's parent company, has since demoted the phrase in its corporate code of conduct presumably because of how hard it is to live up to it.

    Google is no stranger to scandals, but 2018 was a banner year. It covered up the potential data exposure of a half million people who probably forgot they were still using Google+. It got caught trying to build a censored search engine for China. Its own employees resigned to protest Google helping the Pentagon build artificial intelligence. Thousands more employees walked out over the company paying exorbitant exit packages to executives accused of sexual misconduct. And privacy critics decried Google's insatiable appetite for data, from capturinglocation information in unexpected ways — a practice Google changed when exposed — to capturing credit card transactions — a practice Google has not changed and actually seems proud of.

    I'm saying goodbye to all that this week. As part of an experiment to live without the tech giants, I'm cutting Google from my life both by abandoning its products and by preventing myself, technologically, from interacting with the company in any way. Engineer Dhruv Mehrotra built a virtual private network, or VPN, for me that prevents my phone, computers, and smart devices from communicating with the 8,699,648 IP addresses controlled by Google. This will cause some huge headaches for me: The company has created countless genuinely useful products, some that we use intentionally and some invisibly. The trade-off? Google tracks us everywhere.

    I'm apprehensive about entirely blocking Google from my life because of how dependent I am on its products; the company has basically taken up residence in my brain somewhere near the hippocampus.

    Google Calendar tells me what I need to do any given day. Google Chrome is how I browse the internet on my computer. I use Gmail for both work and personal email. I turn to Google for every question and search. Google Docs is the home of my story drafts, my half-finished zombie novel, and a running tally of my finances. I use Google Maps to get just about everywhere.

    So I am shocked when cutting Google out of my life takes just a few painful hours. Because I'm blocking Google with Dhruv's VPN, I have to find replacements for all the useful services Google provides and without which my life would largely cease to function:
    • I migrate my browser bookmarks over to Firefox (made by Mozilla).
    • I change the default search engine on Firefox and my iPhone from Google — a privilege for which Google reportedly pays Apple up to $9 billion per year — to privacy-respecting DuckDuckGo, a search engine that also makes money off ads but doesn't keep track of users' searches.
    • I download Apple Maps and the Mapquest app to my phone. I hear Apple Maps is better than it used to be, and damn, Mapquest still lives! I don't think I've used that since the 90s/a.k.a. the pre-smartphone age, back when I had to print directions for use in my car.
    • I switch to Apple's calendar app.
    • I create new email addresses on Protonmail and Riseup.net (for work and personal email, respectively) and direct people to them via autoreplies in Gmail. Lifehack: The easiest way to get to inbox zero is to start a brand new inbox.
    Going off Google doesn't come naturally. In addition to mentally kicking myself every time I talk about "Googling" something, I have to make a "banned apps" folder on my iPhone, because otherwise, my fingers keep straying out of habit to Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Calendar — the three apps that, along with Instagram and Words With Friends, are in heaviest rotation in my life.

    There's no way I can delete my Gmail accounts completely as I did with Facebook. First off, it would be a huge security mistake; freeing up my email address for someone else to claim is just asking to be hacked. (Update: While other companies recycle email addresses, many Googlers have informed me since this piece came out that Google does not.) Secondly, I have too many documents, conversations, and contacts stored there. The infinite space offered by the tech giants has made us all digital hoarders.

    And that hoarding can be a bonanza for tech giants, allowing Google, for example, to createa "Smart Reply" feature that crawls billions of emails on Gmail to predict how you'd like to respond to a friend's missive. Yay?

    This experiment is not just about boycotting Google products. I'm also preventing my devices from interacting with Google in invisible or background ways, and that makes for some big challenges.

    One morning, I have a meeting downtown. I leave my apartment with enough time to get there via Uber, but when I open the app, it won't work. Same thing with Lyft. It turns out they're both dependent on Google Maps such that I can't even enter my destination while blocking Google. I'm astounded. There are no taxis around, so I have to take the bus. I wind up late to the meeting.

    Google is a behemoth when it comes to maps. According to various surveys, the vast majority of consumers — up to 77 percent — use Google Maps to navigate the world. And a vast majority of companies rely on Google Maps' API to power the mapping on their websites and apps, according to data from iDataLabs, Stackshare, and BuiltWith.

    Even Google's mortal enemy, Yelp, uses it for mapping on its website (though it taps Apple maps for its iPhone app). Luther Lowe, head of policy and Google critic-in-chief at Yelp, says there aren't great alternatives to Google when it comes to mapping, forcing the company to pay its foe for the service.

    In its Maps API, Google has long offered a free or very cheap product, allowing it to achieve market dominance. Now it's making a classic monopolistic move: Google announced last year that it's raising its mapping prices significantly, leading developers across the web to freak out because Google Maps is "light years ahead of its competitors."

    I become intimately acquainted with Google Maps competitors' drawbacks using Mapquest for navigation; it keeps steering me into terrible traffic during my commute (probably because it doesn't have the real-time movements of millions of people being sent to it).

    Google, like Amazon, is woven deeply into the infrastructure of online services and other companies' offerings, which is frustrating to all the connected devices in my house.

    "Your smart home pings Google at the same time every hour in order to determine whether or not it's connected to the internet," Dhruv tells me. "Which is funny to me because these devices' engineers decided to determine connectivity to the entire internet based on the uptime of a single company. It's a good metaphor for how far the internet has strayed from its original promise to decentralize control."

    In some cases, the Google block means apps won't work at all, like Lyft and Uber, or Spotify, whose music is hosted in Google Cloud. The more frequent effect of the Google block though is that the internet itself slows down dramatically for me.

    Most of the websites I visit have frustratingly long load times because so many of them rely on resources from Google and get confused when my computer won't let them talk to the company's servers. On Airbnb, photos won't load. New York Times articles won't appear until the site has tried (and failed) to load Google Analytics, Google Pay, Google News, Google ads, and a Doubleclick tracker.

    As I sit staring at my screen and drumming my fingers, I get flashbacks to computing via dial-up in the '90s, when I used to read a book while waiting for websites to open. It's amazing to see how often sites are trying to serve trackers, ads, and analytics from Google before their own content.

    Mere hours into the first day of the Google block, my devices have tried to reach Google's servers more often than the 15,000 times they tried to ping Facebook's the entire week before. By the end of the week, my devices have tried to communicate with Google's servers over 100,000 times, comparable to Amazon, at 293,000 times during its block. Most of Google's pings seem to be in the form of trackers, ads, and resources built into websites.

    Many of the sites I visit want to load Google fonts — a free, open-source resource the company released in 2010 — which are downloaded from Google's servers and then cached in the browser. Having quick access to a variety of fonts that would not otherwise be available on your computer generally helps sites load faster, but it has the opposite effect for me during the block.

    Given that Google has so many ways to track people's digital activity already, I'm disturbed to see how ubiquitous the use of Google fonts is on the web, but the company has promised that it won't use them to track a site's users. So there's that.

    "Of all the shady **** Google does, this one doesn't seem that shady," says Dhruv, when I consult him about it.

    To their credit, the tech giants have helped create a faster, more efficient internet infrastructure; unfortunately, it's one that's littered with their trackers and ads. My blocker is a crude beast, throwing the proverbial baby out with the privacy-invasive bath water.

    "I'm extremely worried about Google's surveillance," says Sean O'Brien, a lecturer in law at Yale Law School who founded the Yale Privacy Lab, by phone.

    And not just any phone. O'Brien has an "Android phone with no Google on it." Google bought Android in 2007 in "the best deal ever," and then started insisting that phone companies that used the operating system, which is about 80 percent of the market, bundle Google apps and make them the default options. That little directive led European regulators to hit the company with a $5 billion fine last summer in an antitrust ruling that now has Google charging a licensing fee for apps and services that most phone makers have become dependent on.

    To de-Google his Android, O'Brien had to install a custom operating system. "The irony is that the phones it's easiest to do this on are the Google developer phones: the Nexus and the Pixel lines," O'Brien says. So the operating system is Google-free, but the phone is made by Google.

    (Damn. That means this isn't a smartphone option for me during the last week of the experiment when I plan to block all five big tech companies at once.)

    O'Brien says he's worried in general about all of our technology being used to surveil us in every aspect of our life, but that he's most worried about Google.

    "Google's the biggest threat in sheer size and the amount of data they have. And they're really good at crunching that data," he says. "If you can get out of Google's messed-up ecosystem, do it, but otherwise try to use only one or two apps. Even me as an activist on these issues, a privacy maximalist, I can't completely cut myself off."

    Because I'm blocking Google, Dropbox thinks I'm not a real person.

    I had cut myself off completely from Google, but it's making my job really hard. The invisible hands of Google are everywhere: I'm locked out of the system we use here at Gizmodo to publish blogs because I have historically used Google as my log-in. I also discover I can't use Dropbox to send selfie-videos about the blockade to my video producer, Myra Iqbal.

    To figure out why Dropbox isn't working, I look at the HTML of its home page — the otherwise invisible code that makes up the website — and discover Google is mentioned dozens of times. Dropbox even links out to Google's privacy policy from its own homepage, because it uses Google to make sure a web visitor is a real person. Because I'm blocking Google, Dropbox thinks I'm not a real person and won't let me sign in.

    I am trying to do research for a story that will take me to South Africa and need to see street-level views of buildings there. I realize I don't know how else to do that without Google Maps' Street View, so the research has to wait. Google has so thoroughly mapped the world that I feel partially blind without it. Damn you, Google. You've given us some really useful products over the years, even if they weren't welcomed by everyone.

    If I stick with this, it will be a more costly way to live. While everything I use this week is free, some services won't be if I become a heavy user. Protonmail charges after 500 MB of data; I've got 14 times that in my free, personal Gmail alone. Making the switch to decentralized, privacy-focused companies means you might actually have to pay for a service because they're not necessarily monetizing your data.

    A bigger drawback is that Google is really damn good at a lot of the things it does, and I miss those things. For example, DuckDuckGo works for my internet search needs but isn't quite as spot-on as Google Search. And yes, it's privacy-invasive that Google is mining all our data all the time, but I love that when I get an email about a flight, Gmail automatically tells Google Calendar to pencil it in. Is that worth the trade-off? Millions of people seem to think so.

    My overall impression from this week is that Google touches almost everything on the internet. I run into it on almost every site and every app that I use. Blocking Google from my life was almost as hard as blocking Amazon, on which much of the non-Google internet relies.

    And one day, blocking Google could be even harder. With Sidewalk Labs, a product from the company to "smarten up" urban areas, Google's trackers will extend into the real world, tracking not just how we move around the web but how we move around our cities. That would lead to tracking that Dhruv and I might not be able to stop.

    Next up: Microsoft.


    Related:
    Life Without the Tech Giants

    I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible

    I Cut Facebook Out of My Life. Surprisingly, I Missed It



    How often my devices have tried to communicate with each tech giant while I was blocking them


    "La réalité est un rêve que l'on fait atterrir" San Antonio AKA F. Dard

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    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data

    This is so, so interesting. I watched all 5 videos she made:
    1. I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible
    2. I Cut Facebook Out of My Life. Surprisingly, I Missed It
    3. I Cut Google Out Of My Life. It Screwed Up Everything
    4. I Cut Microsoft Out of My Life—or So I Thought
    5. I Cut Apple Out of My Life. It Was Devastating
    I live in a different world. I don't have a Facebook page or an Instagram account, no Twitter either (though she's not talked about that). I don't use Amazon as it doesn't accept PayPal, and I don't have a debit or credit card. (Yes, you can buy things from other places online! Just not all at the same place. But once you know where to go, it's simple.)

    You don't need Google Drive or Dropbox. Use WeTransfer.
    You don't need Netflix or Amazon Prime. Use Pirate Bay.
    To record something, I use a dictaphone.
    To take photos or video, I use a camera.

    And, this is the key: I don't have a smartphone.

    We're talking about social media addiction. (And smartphone addiction, too.) You can see it in every part of her life.

    I'm not yet totally convinced she really wants to kick all this, as opposed to just doing a clever journalism thing. We should see how she is in a couple weeks' time.

    My $10 bet *, though I'm rooting for her (she seems like an extremely likeable person) is that she'll have relapsed back into everything, with being a working mother as the excuse.

    * Edit to add:
    See her conclusion, I Cut the 'Big Five' Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell. I should have bet more. Although she learned a lot (and she really did), she's relapsed already.

    Last edited by Bill Ryan; 21st November 2019 at 22:47.

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    Default Re: An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    This is so, so interesting. I watched all 5 videos she made:
    1. I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible
    2. I Cut Facebook Out of My Life. Surprisingly, I Missed It
    3. I Cut Google Out Of My Life. It Screwed Up Everything
    4. I Cut Microsoft Out of My Life—or So I Thought
    5. I Cut Apple Out of My Life. It Was Devastating
    I live in a different world. I don't have a Facebook page or an Instagram account, no Twitter either (though she's not talked about that).
    But you do have a YouTube account, Bill, and YouTube is owned by Google ─ or perhaps better put, by Alphabet, which is the corporation behind Google.

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    I don't use Amazon as it doesn't accept PayPal, and I don't have a debit or credit card. (Yes, you can buy things from other places online! Just not all at the same place. But once you know where to go, it's simple.)
    I have a debet card, and I don't use cash anymore in my daily life. However, I do also have a PayPal account, and I don't own a credit card.

    I also never shop at Amazon, and I think I've only ever made two (very small) purchases online so far ─ one with PayPal somewhere back in May 2019, and one last night by way of home banking. The latter involves my debet card and a standalone card reader ─ not connected to the computer in any way, shape or form ─ that looks somewhat like a pocket calculator, on which you have to enter certain codes and then you must manually enter the reply code from its screen into the pertinent fields of the bank's home banking page. It's all very complex, and everything's encrypted.

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    You don't need Google Drive or Dropbox. Use WeTransfer.
    I don't use DropBox, but I do use Google Drive, albeit only for storing backups of certain things, so that I can easily restore them if they get lost without having to restore a full system backup.

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    You don't need Netflix or Amazon Prime. Use Pirate Bay.
    To record something, I use a dictaphone.
    To take photos or video, I use a camera.
    I have an older digital camera ─ Sony, I think ─ but its resolution is fairly low by today's standards. I don't often take photos anyway.

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    And, this is the key: I don't have a smartphone.
    Ah, I've got two of them ─ one of them is only a backup phone ─ but crucially, I only really use them as feature phones. I send text messages to my brother, and I use it for calling.

    But it's nice that it can tell me the weather forecast and the news headlines, even though I don't always use my phone to look at those. As the matter of fact, right now my phone is lying on the bedside shelf in my bedroom ─ where I usually keep it ─ and I only ever take it away from there when I'm going out the door, because then I would want to have a phone with me for emergencies.

    The reason why I'm keeping it in the bedroom is that it's close to a wall power socket, and so that people would be able to reach me when I'm asleep. I also don't wear a watch and I don't have an alarm on my bedside table, so then it's easy for me to check what time it is by tapping the button on my phone that activates the screen ─ the lock screen has a clock on it.

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    We're talking about social media addiction. (And smartphone addiction, too.) You can see it in every part of her life.
    That is indeed also the impression I got when I read that article ─ for lack of time, I have not watched the videos yet.

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    I'm not yet totally convinced she really wants to kick all this, as opposed to just doing a clever journalism thing. We should see how she is in a couple weeks' time.
    Again my impression as well. She's also replacing certain known evils by other known evils. She realizes she's got a problem, but at the same time, she's in denial about how big a problem it is, and oblivious regarding how to really cut loose from that addiction.

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    France Administrator Hervé's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data

    "La réalité est un rêve que l'on fait atterrir" San Antonio AKA F. Dard

    Troll-hood motto: Never, ever, however, whatsoever, to anyone, a point concede.

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    Default Re: An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data







    Google quietly removesdon’t be evil’ preface from code of conduct ...
    ~no need2follow anyone only consider to broaden (y)our horizon of possibilities
    ~new: Stop5G.net & FB Groups/Stop5G

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    Default Re: An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data

    For me,Tresorit is the best alternative to wetransfer,because I can send up to 5Gb for free instead of 2Gb offered by wetransfer and is end to end encrypted

    On the other hand a chain formed by Brave/DuckDuckGo,opening email with Tutanota - also end to end encrypted and even have the option to have a password to open emails by recipient/s - and sending files through Tresorit is the best option for me

    On the other hand I reduced wi-fi influence from 30 meters to 12-15 meters using Slim Spurling's rings and combination of them - a work/research still in progress to reduce it to the room area only which is an intuitive work based on experiment,observation and feelings.
    "Your planet is forbidden for an open visit - extremely aggressive social environment,despite almost perfect climatic conditions.Almost 4 billion violent deaths for the last 5000 years and about 15000 major military conflicts in the same period."

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    Default Re: An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data

    Every now and then I click a bunch of videos and ads and various searches for items that I actually have no earthly interest in at all just to mess with them. It's fun to watch them immediately link me to new items of the same type or other videos but when it's stuff I've dictated to them to show me I somehow feel better about it. Like two can play this game if that is what it is. So okay, play the game.
    The genius consistently stands out from the masses in that he unconsciously anticipates truths of which the population as a whole only later becomes conscious! Speech-circa 1937

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    Default Re: An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data

    All I'm worried about are the kids who were born into this smartphone/social media circus. As a parent, you can't really ban them from using it all, or can you? This must be an individual adult decision to remove oneself from all This. There's also the abuse that such a child would have to go through at school if it did not have everything that others have.. It would also had to be very strong individual able to succeed in life without being stigmatized

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    Default Re: An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data

    1.2 BILLION people’s data – including social media profiles and contact info – found on unsecured Google Cloud server

    RT
    22 Nov, 2019 22:23
    Updated 13 hours ago
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    © Pixabay / marcusspiske

    A massive four-terabyte trove of sensitive personal data belonging to over a billion profiles has been found on an unsecured Google Cloud server - its owner still a mystery - in one of the largest single-source data leaks ever.

    The mountain of data, including phone numbers, email addresses, and social media profiles, was sitting unprotected on an anonymous server hosted on the Google Cloud when security researchers Vinny Troia and Bob Diachenko found it while scanning for vulnerabilities last month. After they reported the massive exposure to the FBI, it disappeared within hours. It’s not clear who accessed it before Troia and Diachenko, and what they did with the data, but the sheer enormity of the leak, with 1.2 billion unique data profiles potentially slurped up by malicious actors, is enough to cause alarm.

    The information was likely obtained in four chunks from so-called “data enrichment” companies, Troia suggested in a blog post on Friday announcing his discovery. These entities allow a customer to use a single piece of information on a person, even just their name, to access potentially hundreds more data points - anything from email address to preferred social activities. Two data enrichers - People Data Labs and OxyData.io - were discovered to be the sources for the data on the rogue server.

    However, after communicating with both companies, Troia was satisfied that the server did not belong to either. Its owner could have bought the data from them and just left it lying around unsecured - without any further information about the server’s owner, there was little that could legally be done.

    That doesn’t solve the problems of the 1.2 billion people whose private information is now floating around in the ether. Data enrichers pass the responsibility for securing the data they sell onto the customers as soon as the transaction is completed. If that customer’s security lapses, no one is responsible for telling the person whose data is now being pilfered by who knows how many malicious actors that they’ve - as a popular site for learning what your data is up to puts it - been ‘pwned.’ As usual, data privacy law lags far behind technology.
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    Default Re: An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data

    Quote Posted by Hervé (here)
    1.2 BILLION people’s data – including social media profiles and contact info – found on unsecured Google Cloud server

    RT
    22 Nov, 2019 22:23
    Updated 13 hours ago
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    © Pixabay / marcusspiske

    A massive four-terabyte trove of sensitive personal data belonging to over a billion profiles has been found on an unsecured Google Cloud server - its owner still a mystery - in one of the largest single-source data leaks ever.

    The mountain of data, including phone numbers, email addresses, and social media profiles, was sitting unprotected on an anonymous server hosted on the Google Cloud when security researchers Vinny Troia and Bob Diachenko found it while scanning for vulnerabilities last month. After they reported the massive exposure to the FBI, it disappeared within hours. It’s not clear who accessed it before Troia and Diachenko, and what they did with the data, but the sheer enormity of the leak, with 1.2 billion unique data profiles potentially slurped up by malicious actors, is enough to cause alarm.

    The information was likely obtained in four chunks from so-called “data enrichment” companies, Troia suggested in a blog post on Friday announcing his discovery. These entities allow a customer to use a single piece of information on a person, even just their name, to access potentially hundreds more data points - anything from email address to preferred social activities. Two data enrichers - People Data Labs and OxyData.io - were discovered to be the sources for the data on the rogue server.

    However, after communicating with both companies, Troia was satisfied that the server did not belong to either. Its owner could have bought the data from them and just left it lying around unsecured - without any further information about the server’s owner, there was little that could legally be done.

    That doesn’t solve the problems of the 1.2 billion people whose private information is now floating around in the ether. Data enrichers pass the responsibility for securing the data they sell onto the customers as soon as the transaction is completed. If that customer’s security lapses, no one is responsible for telling the person whose data is now being pilfered by who knows how many malicious actors that they’ve - as a popular site for learning what your data is up to puts it - been ‘pwned.’ As usual, data privacy law lags far behind technology.
    Wow...

    So the conclusion is:"Don't use any cloud storage."

    For me the best storage places are any devices or items out of computer or Internet.
    "Your planet is forbidden for an open visit - extremely aggressive social environment,despite almost perfect climatic conditions.Almost 4 billion violent deaths for the last 5000 years and about 15000 major military conflicts in the same period."

  20. The Following 6 Users Say Thank You to EFO For This Post:

    Aragorn (24th November 2019), Bill Ryan (24th November 2019), Cara (24th November 2019), ExomatrixTV (24th November 2019), Hervé (24th November 2019), Kamikaze (24th November 2019)

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    Netherlands Avalon Member ExomatrixTV's Avatar
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    Exclamation Re: An Idea On How Pervasive has Google Become in Sniffing out Personal Data

    Quote Posted by Hervé (here)
    1.2 BILLION people’s data – including social media profiles and contact info – found on unsecured Google Cloud server

    RT
    22 Nov, 2019 22:23
    Updated 13 hours ago
    Get short URL

    If (Quantum) A.I. has, lets say, 1 hour access to all that personal (Meta) Data would be equivalent to how many humans do the reading physically in what amount of time?

    Most do not really comprehend WHAT exactly you can do (what kind of tasks) using (Quantum) A.I. accessing all of that in short period of time that normally would be impossible for humans to do in their own life-time.

    For one you can search for anomalies in (super?) human behaviors. Tracking certain individuals with "suspicious" behavior. That if "flagged" by the (Quantum) A.I. system exposing 1000s of extraordinary gifted people in almost all countries who MAY serve & help to unslave humanity but are seen as a (possible) "threat" to the Deep State.


    Cheers,
    John Kuhles 24-11-2019

    A.I. is Progressing Faster Than You Think!
    Last edited by ExomatrixTV; 24th November 2019 at 17:16.
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  22. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to ExomatrixTV For This Post:

    Aragorn (24th November 2019), Hervé (24th November 2019)

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