Googling Security: How Much Does Google Know About You?

Author: Greg Conti
Pages: 360
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
ISBN: 0321518667

Introduction

Have you ever thought about the price you pay for using Google’s services? They say it’s all for free, but you’re actually paying for it by allowing them to collect personal information every time you use them. So, how much does Google REALLY know about you?

About the author

Greg Conti is an assistant professor of computer science at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. His research includes security data visualization, usable security, information warfare, and web-based information disclosure.

Inside the book

At the very beginning, it’s important to note (as the author does, too) that he’s singling out Google because of its innovative omnipresence and leadership in today’s online services market. That does not mean that the things he reveals in this book can’t be applied to services from other vendors, because they can. The goal of this book is to educate us so we can all make informed choices about our use of “free” online applications.

Google gathers information through a lot of different sources, and one of them is us. The great majority of this data consists of things we often don’t even think of as personal information, like search queries, locations of interest on Google Maps, news stories we follow. But the thing is, collected over time, they paint a pretty accurate picture of our interests and activities, and the author includes throughout the book viable scenarios that will really make you think.

From this book you’ll learn about logs, what do they contain, how the data is retrieved and how it can be traced back to you. You’ll learn that deleting cookies or changing your IP address won’t help one bit with the anonymizing of your Net presence if you’re accessing information through your Google account (this one is a no-brainer for experienced users, but novices sometimes don’t even know what a cookie is). You will find out about the possibilities of tracking the hopping of the user from site to site and of methods of targeted advertising…

Every chapter is followed by end notes that offer explanations and indicate the sources from which specific information is taken and, true to form, when these sources were accessed last.

When you come to chapter 9, you’ll be relieved to know that the author has included countermeasures to prevent, or at least minimize the flow of information from you to Google. From technical protection and tips on how to reduce the quality of that information to self-monitoring tools – you’ll be able to protect yourself.

Final thoughts

This is definitely a book for everyone who uses the Internet, but it will certainly be more of an eye-opener for regular, not overly technical users. That being said, you have to be at least familiar with concepts like data retention, IP addresses, social networking, embedded content or Googlebot. Otherwise, this book will seem written in a foreign language.




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