From the time you get up until you go to bed, it probably won’t be 15 minutes without using any Google product or service. Do the test. Just by unlocking your mobile, you are already in their hands. Google literally controls your life, even if you find it hard to believe.
Only 20 years ago, Google was reduced to a simple search engine that became popular because it sought information and web pages quickly and accurately. Two decades later he tells you which restaurants you have to eat at, chooses your music, label your photos associating them to each family member or friend that appears in them, pays for your purchases, suggests the movies you should see, and the apps that may interest you. And that’s just a short summary … Google controls your life, even if you refuse to believe it.
It is a little sad that Marvin Lee Minsky, the father of artificial intelligence, is no longer with us just as his creature begins to take its first steps, and the prophecies it portrayed 50 years ago come true. A mathematician at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Minsky is one of the most eminent geniuses of the 20th century, rather than few people who know him.
He laid the foundations for artificial intelligence, but he also patented the first virtual reality headsets … in 1963! Or the confocal microscope, which has helped medicine so much. He was also the main advisor to the 2001 movie: A Space Odyssey, bringing HAL 9000 to life (he even nearly died on the set, in an accident). And he gave the idea to Michael Crichton for his novel Jurassic Park.
Marvin Minsky invented most of the concepts of artificial intelligence, especially those related to neural networks. And although I was convinced that artificial intelligence would save the world, I was also afraid that this power would get out of hand. “When the computers take over, we may no longer be able to get it back. We would survive as long as they tolerate us. If we are lucky, they may decide to have us as their pets,” he said in an interview with Life magazine in 1970. Quite a prophecy, considering that at that time, there were no home computers or the Internet. Do Google, Facebook, Amazon, and artificial intelligence control our lives?
We all assume that Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple spy on our activity. What searches do we do, what websites do we visit, what products do we look at, where are we, etc. But those data are collected anonymously, right? As long as they are not associated with my name or my phone number … Besides, I am not a famous person, and I have nothing to hide, why would they pay attention to me? Overall, it is also not very annoying that they show me some personalized ads while browsing …
Let us reflect a little on this line of thought. Google is a company that offers almost all of its products for free because the money is earned by selling the data it collects with those products to advertisers and companies. Of course, we are not speaking, as Google does not sell it to anyone, and no other company has access to it.
Google uses them for personalized ads and other campaigns when a company contracts the services of Google, but only it has access to that data.
The shield “the information that is collected is anonymous” has no value, because an advertiser is not interested in your name. It doesn’t need to know who you are. It is enough to know that your ads reach people according to what you consume, your habits, your tastes, and where you are, through the IP address, the GPS of the mobile, or your Google account. Your name, or your phone number, is not important to sell you things.
It is one of the Internet’s concerns (the collection of supposedly anonymous data), but it is no longer the only one.
Before this data was basically text, it was used to personalize ads. In a second phase, the compilation of photos and the voice, fingerprints, facial recognition … But what is truly disturbing begins now, when artificial intelligence comes into play. We penetrate unknown territory …
Your activity on Google
To silence criticism of the alleged privacy intrusion, Google recently created an exclusive website called My Activity on Google. Here, everything Google knows about you is collected through your Google account. If you have never adjusted privacy in My Activity, log in and log in with your Google account (the one you use on your mobile, for example).
You will see your Google searches, Google Maps locations, YouTube searches, the videos you have seen, the apps you have used, your contact list, your calendars, and the voice commands with the Google assistant … Even random snippets of audio that the voice assistant records, “as training.”
It is a reasonably straightforward way to figure out what Google knows about you. You can delete what you want or mark what you don’t want Google to store, but that’s only part of your activity with Google. Other information is collected anonymously, without associating it to the account.
First phase: The search engine, the ads, and the web
As we have said, Google began its journey with its popular search engine. In a short time, it sent Yahoo !, Altavista and others to unemployment, until becoming the universal search engine.
The Google search engine is available in 129 languages. It conducts 92.7% of all Internet searches and records 3.5 billion searches every day.
The information that Google captures with this tool is immense. Facts about products that interest you, songs you like, famous people who like you (or poorly), the most wanted toys at Christmas, political trends, ideas, diseases that people suffer … All this information, when based on hundreds of millions of individuals, it has immense value to advertisers and businesses. It is not only when it comes to display personalized ads on the websites you visit, but also when designing the next product for a toy store, or a technology brand. Also, the movies that are shot, the music that you listen to, or the books that are written.
Google influences your life through the leisure and consumer products you receive, many of them based on usage and popularity statistics from the Google search engine.
Google does business with the information it collects in many different ways, although it is the most popular through Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords).
If a company hires Google Ads, it has access to the immense information collected by Google. Again, as we said at the beginning, not literally, since Google does not allow access to your data to anyone. But through personalized ads, companies know that their product will be seen by people interested in that type of product and that it will appear on more websites than anyone else, because countless websites display advertising through Google Ads, charging a percentage if Someone buys or visits the advertising through them.
Google also influences the success or failure of many companies. It’s positioning in the Google ranking (a ranking that decides an algorithm that only Google knows and that changes often), determines that certain websites receive more or less advertising since many advertising campaigns are carried out based on popularity That is a website or a product that appears in the top positions of the Google search engine.
To better manage how it collects and organizes this information, in 2008, it launched its own browser, Chrome, which currently occupies 61% of the market. 6 out of 10 devices that visit web pages use Chome. It is not only a browser. It is a hub from which almost all Google services can be accessed, with a button: mail, Drive, Google Maps, Google Docs, etc.
That 92% of the Internet uses your search engine already allows you to collect infinity of information. But a search engine is used from time to time. What if you could extract information from something you use more often? And that it is not a simple search, but an interaction between people. That would provide new types of salable data.
Google launched its email service, Gmail, in 2004. It soon became the preferred email manager for users. Creating an account was quick and easy, worked well, and offered a larger mailbox and attachment size than the competition.
To complement the email manager, it launched in 2012 Google Drive, an online store of files to store emails, and its attached files. As well as our own documents, photos, videos, or whatever we want, in the 15 GB of space Free available.
Both Gmail and Google Drive invite you to use Google’s office applications, the alternative to Microsoft Office: Google Docs and company. A word processor, a spreadsheet, presentations … You can contact your colleagues by Gmail, save your documents in Drive, and work in the cloud. And a group, with Google Docs and derivatives. Google Calendar, the Google calendar, is perfect for coordinating and organizing teamwork.
With all these tools, Google collects data while you are at home or work. How to link this content? Google Maps and Google Street allow you to create routes between two places, anywhere in the world. By the way, they recommend restaurants, shops, products on sale, and interesting places to visit … Without realizing it, Google influences where you go when you go away from home. He directs you along a specific route. You go to dinner at a restaurant that has an offer coupon, you go to the cinema to see the movie that Google has positive reviews. You stop in a certain town famous for its wines. Because on the Google Maps route it is interesting to visit.
Second phase: Multimedia
Suddenly, almost without realizing it, the Google cloud saves our searches. Our activity on the websites, our emails, files, photos, videos, documents, location, places we go. Shopping centers where we buy, cinemas that we visit, the days we leave home. The weekends that we make a getaway when we travel abroad … Our life, in short.
Until recently, most of it came from text content. But there are important aspects of the information that are not text. For example, the videos we watch or the activity that our voice generates.
With YouTube, the world’s most popular video service, Google knows everything we see. It is the second most visited place on the Internet … after the Google search engine. Five hundred hours of video are uploaded every minute, and 1 billion hours are viewed every day.
Thanks to the recommended videos based on your accumulated data, or through an algorithm through searches. Google can make a movie, video game, or song a success or a failure. Surely when you have finished watching a video, click on a linked video that appears at the end. Or on a recommended video on the side. And when you search, you’re left with the top 10 or 20 results, which YouTube has carefully selected. Without thinking about it, Google controls your life by making you watch the videos it selects. And with it, the movies, games, or music are first.
Third phase: The mobile
Google has a significant presence in computers. But its leadership in the collection of information was consolidated with the birth of the smartphone.
In a masterpiece that has become its most profitable decision, Google developed the Android operating system to stand up to Steve Jobs’ iPhone. As it already did on computers, its muscle, represented by leading services such as the Google search engine, Gmail, Chrome, Drive, etc. This gradually carried over to the mobile phone, soon made it the preferred operating system. Taking the on the way to companies that refused to use Android: Nokia, Blackberry, and Motorola.