We all hear about the risks of insecure internet use, but most of us don’t pay attention. People who shout out loud that the internet is not safe anymore come across as mad prophets declaring some imagined catastrophe.
In fact, while we’re going about our business as usual, online privacy has become a rare commodity that very few enjoy.
We tend to think that if you are a normal person who doesn’t pass national secrets through emails or take part in secret cults via the dark net, all the warnings are not for you.
We are too lazy to use any browser that is not Google, we are too lazy to switch our social media and email passwords, and we are too lazy to change our browsing habits.
Most people don’t realize just how much our data is breached and the risks involved.
We don’t realize that over the past five years, the capacity to extract personal information from your searches and online activities has reached unprecedented levels. The online privacy of most web users has never been worse!
Google’s retargeting algorithm is now capable of identifying your behavior and personality to an unbelievable level of precision. It’s not just about leaving cookies on your computer and exposing you to ads – it is about collecting an unprecedented amount of your personal data.
Among the information that Google collects are:
- Your Google Maps location history
- Your browsing search history
- Images you sent via Gmail, Google Drive, etc.
- Your Google Voice records
- Your YouTube searches
- Google Apps information
You can actually request the file Google has on you via your Google User account.
However, this file usually weighs over 2 GB.
Remarketing – the most effective and annoying technique to make you buy stuff
Remarketing, sometimes called retargeting, is a digital advertising tactic where targeted ads promote products to people who visited a site. It’s why some products seem to follow you around the web. Search once for a pair of boots and ads for them will pop up on your Facebook newsfeed, your Google ads…
95% of visitors don’t buy the first time we see an ad. This makes sense. We like to have some familiarity with a product before purchase. However, Google offers marketers so much information and options, that it enables them to virtually hunt you down, following you wherever you go.
Google offers many marketing channels such as AdSense and AdWords. These channels are so widespread that almost anywhere you go, targeted ads will follow you.
As online privacy decreases, it becomes harder and harder to escape marketers’ grip. It causes many people to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need.
The boom of the online casino industry is an example of online marketing that became just too good.
Even if you don’t fall for seductive ads that influence your purchasing decisions, they are simply annoying and intrusive.
How repeated exposure to ads can make you vulnerable to subliminal suggestions
Never underestimate the power of repeated exposure to ads.
The heads of the Nazi propaganda machines claimed that “the different between truth and lie is how many times you repeat it.” Unfortunately, this has been proven right in an unexpected way.
Modern marketing uses similar strategies to propaganda. Ads almost never appeal to your rational mind. Advertisers prefer to use repeated simple ads that usually convey subliminal messages.
When you see the same ad again and again, you start having a positive feeling toward the product. This is known in psychology as the mere exposure effect. This manipulative strategy causes you lose your clarity of what is best for you and rather buy what “feels good.”
Sometimes a repeated ad campaign simply annoys you. This is usually because you are not the target audience of that campaign.
Ads work by creating a subconscious association between the product and something highly desirable, like beautiful models having fun.
However, to really affect the subconscious mind the message has to be repeated at least a few times.
Knowing your personal data, combined with the ability to follow you anywhere, gives Google huge marketing power.
The proof is that marketers are willing to pay big dollars to publish with Google.
In 2016, Google’s revenue amounted to $89.5 billion. Marketers wouldn’t invest so much unless they see effective results.
Google, Facebook and other commercial search engines don’t earn money from users. They earn money from advertisers. Their loyalty is first to them. Obviously, Google is investing a lot of resources to perfect its influence on private users.
Online marketing is a highly competitive business. The best marketers and affiliates use dirty psychological tricks, emotional manipulation and almost anything that can give them a marketing advantage.
If you are an intelligent consumer who wants to avoid buying things you don’t need, you want to avoid playing into the hands of manipulative marketers.
The only way to do it is to keep your information private.
Why hackers like your online behavior?
Another reason to keep your information private is the threat of hackers. In recent years, hacking techniques and hackers’ tools have became extremely effective. Your Facebook, email and browsing data are easily breached. Even information such as passport numbers, social security and such can be used for forgery and deceit.
There are many ways to take get your email passwords and usernames. Phishing, keylogging, cookie theft and session hijacking are a few of the most notorious.
Most of these risks can be prevented by better browsing habits and by using a private search engine.
So how can I be digitally invisible with no sweat?
Being digitally safe might sound like hard work, but it is easier than it seems. With a few good habits, you can minimize annoying ads and risks of hacking.
The first thing to do is to use a reliable private search engine rather than using data aggregators such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
As explained above, data aggregators collect a scary amount of information on you. This data can be hacked, sold or even submitted to the government upon request.
Unfortunately, Google’s Incognito mode is not sufficient.
Even though Google creates fresh cookies for Incognito mode, it still gathers your data and is able to use it later on.
The only safe way to search the web is by using high-security private engines that don’t keep personal info whatsoever, such as MyPrivateSearch, SearX or DuckDuckGo.
Using private search engines is a good online privacy habit, along with changing passwords frequently and using different password for every site.
The myth that made Google so successful is that it gives the best search results. The truth is that Google algorithm has been modified so much to prevent fraud and ranking manipulation that it has actually forfeited quality for safety.
Other modern search engines don’t need to fight SEO manipulation as much as Google. So they can display the best results rather than the safest results.
Changing your browsing habits is not hard. It is just as simple as using a standard search engine.