Before we talk about the Google Collective and how it affects you, I wanted to take a moment to thank Bizzvenue for the opportunity to spread the word about internet security. After you’re finished taking the steps below to secure your information, I recommend checking out their article on the Pros and Cons of Using Cloud & Mobile for Work, which offers a different perspective on some of the things we’re about to address!
We use Google-brand products without even thinking about it. It’s even entered our language as a well-accepted verb. Let’s address all the things that you might use Google for in a given day, in addition to the web search that brought the company to internet stardom:
- You might have a Chromebook, which has an entire operating system designed by Google.
- Your email is probably a Gmail account, maybe accessed on the most popular browser, Google Chrome.
- Google AdSense might be a source of income for you, and you might manage your finances with Google Wallet.
- You might have a blog on Blogger, with an accompanying Google+ page, and your PageRank is probably central to your blog’s success.
- You might share documents with your family, friends, and coworkers on Google Drive, and keep your life organized with Google Calendar.
- In your down time, you might visit YouTube, read on Google Books, or plan your jogging route with Google Maps (where you can also look at your own front porch).
- Not to mention, of course, your Android phone, and its app store, Google Play.
- Even when you sign up for other websites, you might use reCAPTCHA, which is owned by Google.
Does that have you thinking about the role of Google policies in your life? It should!
Is the Google takeover good or bad?
On the one hand, Google accounts are free and convenient. Since the company’s services sync up well with each other, it makes sense to use Gmail and Google Calendar together, for example. In addition, a bunch of sites will allow you to sign in with your Google account, increasing ease of access. Instead of inventing a new username and password each time, you can create a new account with a single click. On the other hand, when all your information is centralized, serious privacy breaches could affect you deeply. When accounts get integrated, a Gmail hack might leave your Google Wallet exposed as well. How much of your personal information is stored on Google Drive right now?
How trustworthy is Google?
How to Protect Your Information
Let’s take a look at how to protect your information, whether you’re planning on continuing to use Google or not.
–Protect your individual accounts
It doesn’t pay to protect yourself from Google and forget about the common hacker. To keep your accounts, whether Google-based or otherwise, safe, it’s recommended that you choose a strong account name and password, which is unduplicated elsewhere, and to change the password every few months. Don’t open suspicious emails, and sign out when you’re finished using any service. Also, make sure to protect your computer with a good anti-virus software and a firewall, and update all your software regularly.
–Take advantage of the About Me page
This new service collects all your Google information in one place and allows you to control it. To visit your About Me page, go to https://aboutme.google.com. You can edit the information there and then go to the “privacy checkup” in the bottom right corner. There you can control your YouTube privacy, your web and app activity, info about your devices, and ad settings. If you like, you can turn targeted ads off completely. This move displays good intentions from Google, but it’s not enough.
–Delete sensitive searches from your Google history
If you want to keep certain information out of Google ads, you can delete searches individually from Google’s advertising database at http://history.google.com. From the same page, you can also go into Settings and turn off your web history, which will keep Google from saving any of your future searches.
–Use a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is like a tunnel between your computer and the sites you access. When you use an unprotected internet connection, people can see what sites you’re connected to and what you’re doing. With a VPN, the tunnel blocks anyone from even seeing the “packets” of information that are sent to and from your computer. Then a VPN service will encrypt your information, meaning that even if someone got their hands on your data, they couldn’t interpret it. Lastly, if you’re creeped out by Google’s ability to know exactly where you are, you can use a VPN to obscure your location. Using a VPN will improve your security all around. Not only does it prevent people from intercepting and looking at your information, but it prevents malicious software from being installed on your computer as well, by improving your anti-virus protection. To learn more about VPNs, visit Secure Thoughts.
–Don’t use your Google information to sign into other apps
There are plenty of sites that will allow you to register by merely authorizing your Google account to connect. While it’s convenient, it’s not particularly secure. That site probably doesn’t have the sort of security that Google does, and if it gets hacked, your Google account might be at risk too. It’s much better to use a unique username and password for each account you have.
So…. do you trust Google with your information? What internet security services are you using? Let us know in the comments.
This guest post was written by Jen. If you would also like to submit a guest post, click here.