How Google Tracks Your Personal Information

An insider’s account of the dark side of search engine marketing

Today, Google provides marketers like me with so much of your personal data that we can infer more about you from it than from any camera or microphone.

There have never been more opportunities for marketers like me to exploit your data. Today, 40,000 Google search queries are conducted every second. That’s 3.5 billion searches per day, 1.2 trillion searches per year.

When you search on Google, your query travels to a data center, where up to 1,000 computers work together to retrieve the results and send them back to you. This whole process usually happens in less than one-fifth of a second.

Most people don’t realize that while this is going on, an even faster and more mysterious process is happening behind the scenes: An auction is taking place.

Facebook’s Monopoly Tyranny is no Longer a Zuckerberg Secret

Meanwhile a huge trove of Facebook emails that just leaked and it shows the true nature of the Zuckerberg legacy. The UK Parliament published a trove of top-secret Facebook executive emails on December 5th. tl;dr it’s exactly what you’d expect.

  • Mark Zuckerberg personally approved Facebook’s decision to cut off social network Vine’s data. (so much for a capitalism of fair competition)
  • Facebook tried to figure out how to grab users’ call data without asking permission. (likely spying on their real-time conversations)
  • Certain key apps were white-listed and given greater access to user data even after a broader clampdown. (Netflix and Airbnb among the favored friends)
  • Mark Zuckerberg privately admitted that what’s good for the world isn’t necessarily what’s good for Facebook. (Where’s the world tour Mark?)
  • Mark Zuckerberg suggested users’ data was worth 10 cents a year. (Heck, is that even worth selling?)

In the process of creating one of the most corrupt business models ever invented, Facebook chose profits over its users. In a weird twist of fate it’s the UK that seems to have stood up to Facebook, where American doesn’t even regulate its offending tech companies.

.. The leaked Emails show Execs discussed the single biggest threat to Facebook. They ended up disrupting journalism, diverting internet traffic and turning into a weaponized platform used against the state, democracy and capitalism, slowing down rivals and thwarting innovation itself allowing Chinese companies like Tencent and ByteDance to overtake them.

.. Facebook staff in 2012 discussed selling access to user data to major advertisers, basically selling your info without your consent. Facebook’s profit seeking greed led to the centralization of data where the richer get richer on the poor public’s data.

.. There is evidence that Facebook’s refusal to share data with some apps caused them to fail. Facebook picked the winners in a fake internet, even deceiving advertising that video (on its platform) was the next big thing. Facebook was later found to have falsified video metrics significantly to deceive advertisers and brands.

You can view all 250 pages of the Facebook documents right here.

What Facebook Knew and Tried to Hide

Even when the Facebook leaders understood the problem, they tried to hide it.

Right after the election Zuckerburg was dismissive of the idea that Fake News influenced the election.

People within the company thought he was out of touch.

At the time Facebook was under pressure.

Trump had won the election using social media, but Facebook was dismissive.

Facebook employees saw the tip of the iceberg .  They had been following Russian

Mark wanted to find a technical fix.

Sheryl was thinking about the legal risk and was wondering whether they would find out things they didn’t want to know.  Sheryl was thinking about what the consequences would be.

Sheryl yelled at the security team for investigating Russian interference without formal approval.

The leadership was concerned that Washington was controlled by conservatives who would have an adverse reaction to an investigation or efforts to curb this activity.  Conservatives already think Silicon Valley is a bunch of hippies.

There was pressure within Facebook not to publish anything linking activity back to Russia.  Sheryl(?) also signed off on a policy not to take down the Russian troll accounts.

Mark Zuckerburg was traveling the country, milking cows, and acting as though he wanted to run for President.

Sheryl Sandberg was running her own “Lean-In” brand.

Alex Stamos (Security Chief) briefs the audit committee and the board’s response is to yell at Mark(?) and Sheryl(?)

The leadership holds a big meeting and Sheryl yells at Alex Stamos for

  • not briefing her fully
  • admitting that they hadn’t fully got a grip on the situation
  • suggesting that Russia would likely do this again in the future

Alex has gotten in trouble in the past for being too transparent

The Cambridge Analytical Scandal illustrates:

  • The consequences of surveillance capitalism
  • The potential of Facebook to influence elections

Apple CEO Tim Cook castigates Facebook for their business model.

Facebook conducts an advertising campaign and privately goes on attack using the Washington PR opposition research campaign, which uses the NTK network which publishes propaganda.

Confronted with a Propaganda Scandal, they turn to a PR campaign to create their own Propaganda.

Attacks Apple and Tim Cook.  Attack George Soros, arguing the Facebook’s criticism was masterminded by George Soros.  In taking on Soros they are getting into the smear and conspiracy business.

 

Related:

Damage Control at Facebook: 6 Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation

Introducing PostgreSQL Anonymizer

The extension can be used to put dynamic masks on certain users or permanently modify sensitive data. Various masking techniques are available : randomization, partial scrambling, custom rules, etc.

Here’s a basic example :

Imagine a people table

=# SELECT * FROM people;
  id  |      name      |   phone
------+----------------+------------
 T800 | Schwarzenegger | 0609110911

Step 1. Activate the masking engine

=# CREATE EXTENSION IF NOT EXISTS anon CASCADE;
=# SELECT anon.mask_init();

Step 2. Declare a masked user

=# CREATE ROLE skynet;
=# COMMENT ON ROLE skynet IS 'MASKED';

Step 3. Declare the masking rules

=# COMMENT ON COLUMN people.name IS 'MASKED WITH FUNCTION anon.random_last_name()';

=# COMMENT ON COLUMN people.phone IS 'MASKED WITH FUNCTION anon.partial(phone,2,$$******$$,2)';

Step 4. Connect with the masked user

=# \! psql test -U skynet -c 'SELECT * FROM people;'
  id  |   name   |   phone
------+----------+------------
 T800 | Nunziata | 06******11

Of course this project is a work in progress. I need your feedback and ideas ! Let me know what you think of this tool, how it fits your needs and what features are missing.