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Google can't track every single click of your web surfing. Only most of them.
Posted by Matthias Gelbmann on 27 February 2012 in News, Blogger, DoubleClick, Google +1, Google AdSense, Google Analytics, Google Servers
If you are anything like me, you love a lot of what Google offers. As soon as I fire up my Google Chrome browser, I head over to Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs or Picasa. And whenever I stop wasting my time on Google+, I continue doing so on YouTube. These services are mostly free and reliable, why should I think twice about using them?
There is a reason. Google most likely has more data about people in its data bases than any other organization in the world. More than the former Soviet KGB could have hoped to get in its wildest dreams. If you have teenaged kids with an Android phone, then Google almost certainly knows quite a few things about them, that you don't. Google may know where they are at any moment via Google Latitude, who all their friends and acquaintances are via their synchronized contact list, what they did last night via their uploaded pictures, and what they say about you via Google Talk.
Now, one might say if you are worried about this, then simply stop using these Google services and you are off the hook.
If you don't go near the Internet, then that's probably the case. But if you happen to live in the 21st century, Google will still collect data from your website visits via services they provide for webmasters. We collect statistics about a number of such services for our surveys. These services are
Only 36.5% of the web is Google-free.
This is a very conservative estimate, because there are several popular Google services that we don't monitor: embedded YouTube videos, embedded Google Maps, Google Site Search, Google Checkout and Feedburner are some examples. However, the services that we left out tend to be used on individual web pages only, whereas the services from our surveys are typically used on all or on most pages of a site. Therefore, the percentage of web pages that are Google-free is almost certainly even lower than 36.5%, but probably not much lower.
What does that mean? Suppose somebody wants to stay away from Google out of concern for privacy or for any other reason. Suppose that person does some research on the web and visits any 5 websites that are not owned by Google. Then the chance that none of these sites uses any Google service, so that no traces are left on any Google server, is 0.65%
The probability of providing data to Google
There are a few things one could discuss concerning that figure, I will try to address some of them:
Whatever your personal conclusions are, I hope that this little investigation will contribute to making data collectors, surfers, webmasters and law makers alike aware of the magnitude of the problem. We have reached a critical point where it's next to impossible for an individual to decide where and when he or she wants to give away some data to the biggest data collector. It all happens with or without you.
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Andrew Schwartzmeyer on 27 February 2012
And then you also have people who use Google Voice (me included): which gives them all of your SMS and phone call communication. They give you the option of recording calls, so they certainly have the ability to as well.
Stefan on 28 February 2012
> I personally must say that I trust Google more than I trust any government in the world, including my own
Don't forget that Google has to obey US legislation, and legislations of other countries it operates in. So, even if you trust Google, do you trust Governments that can make google obey to user data requests? I don't :)
Jamie S. on 28 February 2012
Is there a list of the domains in that chart given in the article?
Reply by author Matthias Gelbmann on 28 February 2012
@Jamie: We have that list, it is the basis of our surveys, but you can't download it, if that's what you mean.
You can, however, check the technology usage of any site via our site info page: http://w3techs.com/sites
NorthernCanuck on 1 March 2012
Yes, Google must obey US legislation. Presumably this includes the Patriot Act, which requires US companies to hand over data -- including personal data -- on anybody such companies may be dealing with, including on people from other countries. The Act does not require *any* notification that peoples' data has been passed on.
You can bet data held by Google, Facebook, etc. is routlinely requested by US authorities.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. I'm just saying...
Pam on 25 April 2012
This was so dead on, almost scary actually! I often refer to them as "The Google God's" on my website, guess I didn't realize how literal that was! :)
Thanks for the great read Matthias!
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