The Virtual Mirage Search Engine is there at the top of the page (or will be soon after this posts) for your benefit. It is an anonymous search engine. There is no way for anyone to backtrack you when you use it. You may know that Google is tracking you, but most people don’t realize the extent of their efforts to learn YOU.
Why Does Google Track You
Unlike searching here on Virtual Mirage, when you search on Google, they keep your search history forever. That means they know every search you’ve ever done on Google. That alone is pretty scary, but it’s just the shallow end of the very deep pool of data that they collect on people. What does Google share with the government? What does it buy?
Even if you don’t use any Google products directly, they’re still trying to discover as much as they can about you. It’s all in the code. Google trackers have been found on 75% of the top million websites. This means they’re also trying to track everywhere you go on the internet, chewing through your browsing history.
Most people also don’t know that Google runs most of the ads you see across the internet and in apps – you know those ones that follow you around everywhere? Google stopped being a search company anymore – they’re a tracking company. And they bring in many billions of dollars every year as they do it. They are tracking as much as they can and you see examples in annoying and intrusive ads, including recording every time you see them, where you saw them, if you clicked on them, etc.
If you do use Google products, they track you even more intensely. In addition to tracking everything you’ve ever searched for on Google, they also track every video you’ve ever watched on YouTube. Many people actually don’t know that Google owns YouTube; now you know.
And if you use Android, also owned by Google, then Google is also usually tracking:
- Every place you’ve been via Google Location Services.
- How often you use your apps, when you use them, where you use them, and who you use them to interact with. (This is just excessive by any measure.)
- All of your text messages, which unlike on iOS, are not encrypted by default.
- Your photos (even in some cases the ones you’ve deleted).
If you use Gmail, they of course also have all your emails and contacts. If you use Google Calendar, they know schedule. There’s a pattern here: For all Google products (Hangouts, Music, Drive, etc.), you can expect the same level of tracking; that is, pretty much anything they can track, they will.
If you use Google Home, they also store a live recording of every command you (or anyone else) has ever said to your device! Yes, you heard that right – you can check out all the recordings on your Google activity page.
They will track everything you do on the internet. Even if you tell them to stop tracking you, Google has been known to not really listen, for example with location history.
You Become the Product
Why does Google want all of your information anyway? Simple: as stated, Google isn’t a search company anymore, they’re a tracking company. All of these data points allow Google to build a robust profile about you. In some ways, by keeping such close tabs on everything you do, they may know you better than you know yourself.
The result of all that tracking is that Google uses your personal profile to sell ads, not only on their search engine, but also on over three million other websites and apps. Every time you visit one of these sites or apps, Google is following you around with hyper-targeted ads, trying to influence your behavior.
It’s exploitative. By allowing Google to collect all this info, you are allowing hundreds of thousands of advertisers to bid on serving you ads based on your sensitive personal data. Everyone involved is profiting from your information, except you. You are the product.
The Myth of “Nothing to Hide”
Some may argue that they have “nothing to hide,” so they are not concerned with the amount of information Google has collected and stored on them, but that argument is fundamentally flawed for many reasons.
Everyone has information they want to keep private: Do you close the door when you go to the bathroom, or cover your windows when it gets dark? Privacy is about control over our personal information. We don’t want it in the hands of everyone, and certainly don’t want people profiting on it without our consent or participation.
In addition, privacy is essential to democratic institutions like voting and everyday situations such as getting medical care and performing financial transactions. Without it, there can be significant harm.
On an individual level, lack of privacy leads to putting people into a filter bubble, getting manipulated by ads, discrimination, fraud, and identity theft. On a societal level, it can lead to deepened polarization and societal manipulation as we’ve unfortunately been seeing multiply in recent years.
You Can Live Google Free. Start by clearing your Google search history. It might feel like you are trapped in the Google-verse, but it is possible to break free.
For starters, just switching the search engine for all your searches goes a long way. After all, you share your most intimate questions with your search engine; at the very least, shouldn’t those be kept private?
Virtual Mirage is just a blog, not a billion dollar machine that wants to spy on you. It’s also not the only anonymous search engine, but for those of you who frequent this blog, I can assure you that it’s free to use and free of spyware. And it’s part of this blog, which is evolving to be of more value to you as you visit.
-Larry Lambert, Happy Jack, Arizona, April 2020