Google is wonderful. They allow you to have access to a myriad of free things that make your life simpler. It makes it easy to share data to your contacts, set up appointments, chat with them online, get the daily news, make money with adds, purchase items through web sites, and a metric crap ton of other things.
But, did you know that Google will track you like a malicious stalker?
Oh yes, it does.
Let’s take a look at what all it does and tracks…
(To follow along on your own computer, head on over to the Google Accounts page and click on View data stored with this account link under the Personal settings/Dashboard – https://www.google.com/accounts/ManageAccount).
– A free program that enables website publishers of all sizes to display relevant ads on Google and earn money. You can place ads within Content, on mobile devices, through searches and in feeds. The ads are targeted and it will give you access to a network of advertisers.
– This could be dangerous, but it does help you make money.
– This portion of Google allows you to build and host web apps on the systems that power the Google apps. There’s no need to worry about hardware patches, backups, etc. But, it’s in their hands and do you really trust what they’re doing with that data? Not to mention, do you really want proprietary information on their servers?
– This allows you to keep your credit cards online and use the Google Checkout service to ‘check out’ when paying on some sites. Could be dangerous if someone is able to crack into their database…
– This is a simple start page that contains multiple ‘dashboard’ items. This is very configurable, fairly safe unless you’re using a public computer and forget to log out.
– Simple top headlines recommended for you based on what you view regularly
– This has been replaced with Sites
– This will give you the custom search results that you want to add to your search pages. Could be useful, could be harmful, depending on what you’ve got set up.
– This will hold contacts, discussions, meetings, documents, brainstorms, tasks, conversations, etc that you have with people within your Google contact list. This can be VERY damaging. Are you sure you know exactly ‘who’ your contacts are?
– This will let you advertise through Google for whatever you’re looking to get out there. It keeps a hold of your billing information, adds, budgets, etc.
– The Google version of a free user blog interface, it’s not bad for first timers or people who really don’t want to think about a lot of customization and just want to throw something up there.
– This will hold notes, document, spreadsheets and just about any other file that you can think of. It’s good for journaling, accessible just about anywhere, able to share files with friends, relatives, co-workers, etc. You can set who can see what, but be careful; the wrong document shared to the wrong person could lead to a BAD situation. You don’t necessarily want the Mullah of BadPlaceCountry to have the plans to secret away his top military intel guy, do you?
– Similar to Yahoo Groups, it contains a lot of different information based on what you post, read, etc. Good place to get information and a good place for a little social engineering or data mining.
– This can be VERY damaging if you’re not careful. It contains all of your ‘specially saved’ maps that you have created over the years including your ‘my saved places’. It also has a list of public directions/places that you may have created.
– This was actually supposed to disappear months ago with the live version of Docs, but it still lingers. It’s a basic note keeper. Not bad overall, but still be careful of what is stored in there as it could have negative consequences if you have sharing set wrong.
Picasa Web Albums
– Exactly what it states, it’s a web gallery for pictures. Be careful with what you post and what settings you make on it, it could be very bad if something you put up there get’s into the public gallery section by mistake. Do you really want that picture of you in a thong with the goat, stripper and gallon of jello in Los Lobos getting out to your contacts?
– Basically it’s chat from Google. You’ll need to download an app for it if you don’t want to be in a browser window, but it will give you chat on both the PC and Mac, within GMail, iGoogle, orkut, etc. Similar to AOL IM, Yahoo IM, MSN IM, etc. It does keep a track of your contacts as well as chat history if you don’t have things set right.
– This is where things get a little scary. It tracks ALL of your web, images, news, products, sponsored links, video, maps, blogs, books, trends, bookmarks, etc that you access while you’re logged into your Google Account. I noticed items in there dating back to 2007. WOW, I’ve been remiss to clear that out. I have since rectified that mistake and will be more careful with it in the future. If the data within this search engine were ever to get into someone else’s hands instead of just your own, it could be VERY damaging. A good thing to keep clear especially if you use a public computer and/or are married, dating or just have someone that likes to snoop your accounts if you live with someone and they have access to your computer.
– You can monitor just about anything on the web. Again, could be damaging, OR could help you do that bit of ciber stalking that you’ve always wanted help with. It’s also a good way of keeping tabs on what information is out there concerning you.
– It’s a calendar, it’s sync-able with multiple other services, easy to use and easy to goof up and make things public. Watch and be careful with this one. The wrong invite to the wrong person could spell disaster. Do you really want your target to know that you’re going to make a ‘house call’ when they’re ‘supposed to be on vacation’?
– It’s a mail program, you can get your Buzz items in it, other e-mail accounts, etc. Not too much is needed to be said about this, we all know the dangers involved. (If not, I’ll be doing a post on the dangers of e-mail later).
– INVASION OF PRIVACY ALERT
– This can lead to some severe issues. You can track drug interactions, age, sex, height, conditions, medications, allergies, procedures, test results, immunizations, insurance, files, images, just about anything medical related is available here if you put it up there. This can be a HUGE security risk.
I suggest not using it unless you really don’t mind if this information get’s out of the hands of Google. If you’re not careful, it could lead to everyone in your contact list knowing about that embarrassing rash you picked up in Vegas last weekend on leave…
– It’s the mobile version of Google. Ties in with all the other services that I’ve listed here, it’s just as dangerous as the rest if you’re not careful.
– Simple Google News/RSS feed reader. You can share things out and can really strangle yourself if you’re not careful. Watch what you ‘like’ and ‘share’ on there. EVERYONE can see your likes and shares, so, if you don’t want them to know that you like that animal porn video you just watched, be warned.
– This is Google’s version of VOIP. It can receive voice mails, text messages, record calls, very dangerous if you’re not careful. You can go from VOIP to landlines and back. Treat this as you would your cell/sat phone or home phone.
– Keeps a track of the videos that you’ve watched, what you share, etc.
And there you have it. The services Google has that tracks your information and data. I’d suggest heading out to the Google Account page and making sure that you’re covered as well as verifying that whenever you leave a computer, ALL accounts are logged out. Never leave the browser save your passwords or logins and don’t forget;
Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you…
Information Security Correspondent
Norm W. is an information security engineer currently employed as a CONUS civilian contractor. He has worked in the computer industry for the past 20 years and holds several security and non-security related IT certifications. Norm has worked with multiple agencies in the private and public sector as well as foreign companies and agencies to resolve information security issues.