Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Not Paranoid? You will be after reading this!

If you were paranoid earlier and if you just like how that feels, why not install the Google Alarm Add-on to your browser. I get all kinds of things in my in box including alerts from different publishers. Today as I opened one of them I came across an article about a little utility add-on called Google Alarm.

In short the utility warns you of any time that you visit a website that gathers information on you. Let's just say that its a bit of a wake up call for those who are not as aware of what goes on behind the scenes on a website. I downloaded the utility just to see how it works and possibly share it with others, just to make sure they better understand just how much big brother Google is watching.

For example when I went to log on for this blog entry the little utility popped up and warned me that Google Analytics was gathering information on my visit.  No don't worry GA did not just take a snap shot of me sitting half naked in front of my computer, but what they have done with their street level stuff, if they would they could and I am sure there are malicious individuals out there who would try to do something of that nature.

While I was downloading the add-on I noticed that there is a silenced version of this utility called the "office friendly version".  This is because its siren like buzzing  that goes off along with the visual alert shown above is extremely annoying and any office where speakers are attached to computers, would become a cacophony of disharmony to anyone and all present. How nice of them to think of such a version.

Many webmasters are using Google Analytics as a tool for analyzing their websites, and they include a small piece of code on their pages in order to do so. So even though you may not visit a Google owned property the code embedded in a page that you may visit will trigger the alarm.

A page of the Montreal Gazette site
For example I visited one of the pages of my local newspaper's website, and while the main page sounded no alarm an individual article or story does because of the embedded coding that is used. For example here you will see that not Google Adsense annd YouTube are on the page lurking. But what is even more alarming, every pun intended, is the figure that shows a statistical count of just how many websites I visited that embed Google coding. Of the twenty-eight websites visited since I activated the add-on, on twenty-three of those Google was somehow gathering, my IP, which in turn could identify where I was geographically, the the socio-economic type of community and I live in and with a whole bunch of other algorithms, make a number of different things happen on a particular page of their client who wants their advertisement pop up in front of just the type of person you are.  

As I logged on to blogger, a Google property

Now here is just another way that you might want to use this add-on, that is of course if you just want to convince the naysayers of Google's market share. Just install it and ask them web surf for a while, and that handy little squealing alarm will remind them.

So just to make sure you are totally convinced that Google has as much of the market as the marketing pundits say they do.  The  alarm pop-up on the right is from a screen capture of just before I logged in to blogger in order to write this post. Yes, for all of you who weren't aware, blogger is too a Google owned property and our Google Alarm tells me this right at the top.

Now if you weren't paranoid before reading this little ditty, you will be now. Just to make sure that I'm not lying to you and that I didn't fabricate the images here in Paint.Net go and read the article that put me on to this little utility, and to see that it is not just sites that are in the English language that you should be concerned about but any site you go to. For example here is the Google Alarm popping up on Ukrainiska Pravda website and clearly one can see that the webmasters at the site make use of Google Analytics to know where there traffic is from.
Google Alarm as I visited the UP site

So like I said, if you want to be a little more aware of who is watching your web surfing habits, if this blog entry hasn't been enough. Find the Google Alarm Add-on here

I may have forgotten to mention, this is an add-on for Firefox browsers. I haven't used IE for years and never will if I can help it, and recommend Firefox to all my friends.  Glad you stopped by! And by the way, I have Google Analytics encoding on my blog pages so I know exactly where you came from! :)

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