Google. Your information for free programs!

AS SEEN IN SPECTRUM MAGAZINE (Cambridge Chamber of Commerce)

If you are ever lost and have your smartphone, Google Maps is one of the best programs to use whether you’re walking, biking or driving. Similar technology allows the public and private transit system to provide you with exact details of when trains and Ubers are arriving and departing. However, this amazing convenience all comes at a price. Your personal information!

Facebook has openly stated that anything you like or any emotions you apply to a post or personal comments, including photos, are being scanned and used for advertising. Facebook is so committed to scanning your personal information and photos they have purchased multiple 3D recognition programs over the past 3 years. This technology requires you to deactivate a privacy setting in your account otherwise it will recognize your photo and link it to every photo within its network. There are two sides to think about when it comes to information tracking, personal and business, the personal side being extremely invasive. Your entire world is being monitored, tracked, scanned and used on a regular consistency from a third party service. The convenience of this system is how it learns my habits, like eating pizza on Friday night, then the following week tells me what specials are available nearby me at 3 pm Friday afternoon. Another example of convenience is when I go to a movie, Google picks up my location, knowing I have a history of going to Italian restaurants it will notify me about nearby Italian restaurants that are not busy and accepting reservations. While eating our meal, I receive a notification that traffic is getting worse and it suggests I leave at a certain time to catch the train or take my Uber to the movie. This is a great tool to use, however, I am giving up my personal information to the software programs.

On a professional note, this information is absolutely critical when it comes to advertising. In my days of radio, there was a saying that 50% of advertising worked and 50% didn’t. You just didn’t know which way it would go. Both Google and Facebook give you the tools to set up your business and market your message online through their tools and systems. Once set up, they allow you the opportunity to advertise to a specific target audience in any area of the world (national, regional, local) to direct your advertising message to an age demographic, sex, ethnic culture, etc.

At FPM3, my business has been working with this marketing data to advertise for clients over the years and the information has always provided phenomenal in results. The average spend per customer ranks in the pennies all the way up to $50 conversion per person. That is not to say that advertising has always worked to use this online medium, but the tools provide an understanding of when it really is or is not working. What is the price of having access to all these free programs and applications? The price is your personal information to Google and Facebook to allow them to make money through advertising which is done directly by the business or by agencies like mine.

Being tracked for whatever reason can be quite disturbing and we could discuss all the negatives about it, however, let me give you an example, as a business owner that I truly appreciate being tracked. In one case I had the CRA challenge one of my travel expenses. They wanted proof I actually was visiting a location that I was trying to claim in my taxes. Timeline is a feature in Google that tracks your location minute-by-minute including the photos you take. I always take a photo of a paid receipt with a description for business reasons, no matter where I am. This photo is instantly logged in my Google Map timeline. With this tool, I was able to prove I was at my claimed location and was able to provide the proof with a receipt allowing my full taxable payment. Because of this phenomenal tracking tool, I was able to prove and validate my submissions.

But let’s say you don’t want to be tracked and have your information shared and given to anyone especially a company. To prevent this you can attempt to remove your “Location History” from Google Maps, a setting that will stop tracking where you are. However, Google still needs access to your phone when it comes to using email and any other programs. To turn that setting off, head to the Activity controls dashboard and turn “Web & App Activity” off (Google will flash up a warning checking if you want to Pause Web & App Activity? Click Pause in the bottom right to confirm). Once complete, you will also no longer be able to use any programs that utilize Google. This could make your phone useless. Unlike Google, if using Facebook for personal reasons, you can set it to the security setting default – don’t track. If you do complete a search with Google or Gmail it will be tracked (location, region, etc.) and none of your emails are 100% removed or deleted. They have stated on numerous occasions that no matter what emails are sent and received they will be saved on their servers even if they have been deleted on your end. They are stored on a server within the Google system that can always be accessed and tracked by google.

Last year Authority’s in South Carolina were able to subpoena Google and had access to emails along with the location of a person in question from their search results. This data was used in court as proof that the individual was on site during the crime and as a result charges were laid.

The future of technology will continue tracking our habits, actions, and lifestyle. Our phones are tracking how many steps we take, what our heartbeat is, our sleeping habits and even how fast we are moving. All this information is being shared with applications that are given to us for free, at the cost of our private information. Google last year alone made 95 billion dollars on advertising using people’s private information. The benefit out of this as a business owner is access to the same data every other business has to use as a tool for growing business sales and marketing dollars in a more effective profitable manner.


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