Is Google Watching You?

By Hector Cisneros

Cover of
Cover of The Watcher
Is Google watching you?  

A better question is, “Who isn't watching you?”  You hear about it in the news every day. The NSA is grabbing tons of consumer information without any legal authority. Weekly you hear about security breaches at large corporations like Target and other major department stores.  Banking institutions are being hacked for millions of dollars, yet billion of consumers are passively giving up their privacy to free email services, social network subscriptions and smart phone applications. Software applications have had "so-called" artificial intelligence installed since the late '90s. Word processors guess at what you mean while you type. Smartphones often do the same. What does all this mean to your privacy? This article will explore how the internet has removed most of your communications privacy. Now Google, social networks and the major software players all have their sites trained on what you're doing with the intention of getting more of your money. Worse of all, legions of criminals and even our own government is spying on all of us. So read on and learn. Forewarned is forearmed.

Let's Start by Looking at How Google Tracks You


English: Gmail logo
English: Gmail logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The other day I went to send an email via Google’s Gmail service and I mentioned in the body of the letter that I had attached a document. I forgot to attach the document and pressed send. Immediately Gmail paused and asked me if I meant to attach a file. Gmail was reading what I had written!! You will also notice that the ads listed in Gmail also correspond to items you have recently viewed in your browser. Sometimes it’s even something you’ve written about. What it boils down to is that Gmail is scanning everything you write and then passing this information onto to Google before you ever press send.

Google tracking is not limited to your “free” Gmail account. Virtually every service Google offers tracks your movements and keystrokes.  Last July, when there was a huge buzz about Google privacy policy changes, a small software company came out with a plug-in for Google Chrome that would sound and display an alarm every time Chrome would send tracking information back to Google. This program created quite a stir because once you loaded it the alarm would go off constantly because Google was tracking almost every keystroke.

Google Being Sued?


Currently Google is being sued by several countries for excessive invasion of privacy. Now, even Google’s competitors have jumped on the anti-privacy band wagon. Microsoft started an anti-Google campaign saying Don’t Get Scroogled by Google. Microsoft even came out with T-shirts and coffee cups that people could buy.  They also ran several TV commercials nationwide taking potshots at Google’s privacy policies. Recently Google removed your capability to control your privacy setting on android devices running Android 4.42. I won’t bore you with a long list of application services that Google uses to track you. It’s safe to say that all of them track you in some way.

Many Other Companies are Also Taking Advantages of Us


When it comes to data mining it’s not just Google who’s doing it on a land office basis. Yahoo, Bing (owned by Microsoft) and most search engines track you as well. Also any free service you acquire from the internet virtually guarantees spyware of one form or another. They track how often you use their apps, they will often load adware on your devices, they will hound you to buy other applications and service and they will record where you are and what other functions you may be using. This is especially true of smart phone and tablet applications. You should read the disclaimers that show up when you install any free app. Most say things like they have access to your contact data base, ip address, system access and more. That means that application can control vital functions of your smart device!

Courtesy of www.xbox.com
Recently Microsoft released its new XBOX One game console and guess what? It requires you to login to Microsoft in order to play the console! Earlier I alluded to Microsoft Scroogled marketing campaign against Google.  But the reality is that Microsoft has been spying on you for a very long time. All Microsoft applications call home and the Windows operating system calls home every day to check for updates and to make sure your applications are paid for! They also use the crash recovery monitor to send system information back that tracks what you are doing (what apps were running) at the time of the crash.

What About Social Media?


Let not forget to include in our discussion how Social Media tracks your conversation. Any social network you subscribe to literally owns the information you have keyed into their database. Every post, URL, picture, podcast and video you have uploaded belongs to them. They systems scan every keystroke and match it to ads that run on their system. They are scrutinizing every personal and private entry you make. On top of that, your employers and anyone you are connected with can see your posts! This can includes criminals disguised as beautiful blonds and little old ladies that just want to be friends.  Be very careful with what you post on any social network. Do not disclose your age, personal address, when you are on vacation, when you’re not home, where you bank, or any kind of private or financial information. Cyber criminals are monitoring social networks more than ever. So much so that the FBI has raised the threat level for social networks to the highest level.  Read their articles on the FBI’s website. Add to this the ongoing threats from hackers using widely available free hacking tools, deceptive email tactics and phishing websites and you have an internet onslaught that’s wilder than the wild, wild west.

Let’s Not Forget the NSA!


Great Seal Bug from NSA archives
Great Seal Bug from NSA archives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To make things even worse our own government is spying on us. The NSA is gathering hundreds of terabytes of data from Google, all social media sites, Microsoft, Apple Yahoo, Bing, cell phone companies and many more internet players. This has gotten so out of hand that the congressional oversight committee that monitors the NSA recently stated that they had gone too far in their data gathering strategies and they have to stop gathering information without a specific threat.

In addition, it not just the internet that is eroding your privacy, its anything connected to internet.  Smart devices are everywhere. The Boston Bomber was caught because people where taking pictures of the racers coming to the finish line. Internet security cameras are all the rage with home and business owners. Often times one or more of their cameras are pointed outside covering the entrance to their properties. The next time you’re at Wal-Mart, look up before you enter and smile you’re on Wal-Mart candid camera.  And just to make it really interesting, people are now starting to wear smart eye wear (such as Google Glass) to record their surroundings. There are smart watches and tiny spy cameras everywhere. Some large retailers have been caught tracking their patrons store movements via the customers smart phone IP addresses and if you have an app for that store running, more than likely you will receive a text, email or popup suggesting you check out their latest special on whatever they are trying to push on you, the unaware consumer.

So how do you minimize your loss of privacy when using the internet? Well we have done our research and have provided several alternative internet browsers, email, search engines and anti tracking tools to help you, our readers get the privacy they deserve.

How to Keep Your Internet Life More Private
  • Don’t use Chrome, Internet Explorer or Safari as your browser. Some alternatives include; SRware http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron.php  Comodo http://www.comodo.com/home/browsers-toolbars/browser.php
  • Don’t Use Google, Yahoo or Bing, (and others) as your search engines . Best alternatives; Duck Duck Go https://duckduckgo.com/ Start page https://www.startpage.com/ Ixquick https://ixquick.com/ and Blekko http://blekko.com/
  • A great Plug-in app is Abine’s DoNotTrackMe https://www.abine.com/. It works with Chrome and Firefox and does a decent job of minimizing ad tracking software. This can block web tracking, cookies and email tracking. Another woth mentioning is Web of Trust www.mywot.com/‎. This plug-in does not stop track of any kind but it does warn you about URL’s that have bad reputations so that you will avoid them..
  • Don't use the top five social networks (Facebook, YouTube, Google Plus, Twitter and LinkedIn). Here is a list of social networks that provide much greater privacy. Everyme, 23Snaps, Notabli, Nextdoor, Yammer, Couple, Path, Family Wall, Edmodo, and Photocircle.
  • Tablets, Smart phones and other smart devices need professional protection! – Make sure you are running an antivirus/malware application on your smart device. Make sure its on all the time. Only use apps that have been around for a while. They should have lots of downloads and say they do not use adware. Also buy the apps you use unless you are just trying it out.
  • Don’t use free email – A paid email service like Hushmail can provide no-ad private email for very little money. If you must use it, try using a masking application like DoNotTrackMe or use encryption software like the kind provided by TrendMicro or Voltage.
If you want to see a YouTube video on this subject, check out our WebTV show on call "Is Google Watching You! Its the TV version of the radio show. Keep an eye out for the cool hidden Easter eggs we have added to the TV version of the show.

In this article, I discussed the current state of internet privacy and the rampant lack of security that is available for the average user today. We discussed Google’s many transgressions and how many of the largest companies in the world are tracking us and abusing our privacy by tracking our smart devices and internet usage without any abatement in sight. We also covered how social networks own our content and track every post and tweet. Added to this mess are cyber criminals trying to steal our financial information and identities while the NSA is bent on collecting every shred of information that leaves a device bound for the internet? Last we have provided several alternatives to you our readers so that you can achieve better internet privacy. The list includes alternative internet browsers, email services, social networks and search engines and anti tracking/protection tools, that will reduce the amount of scrutiny you will receive.

If you liked this article, share it with your friends and co-workers. If you have a comment related to this article, enter it in the section below. I have always been amazed by the level of trust the American public places on Internet companies. Let’s hope that this trust (and the trust in our courts) is well-founded.  I hope the informative in this article was helpful and worth sharing with your friends. 

Until next time, that's my opinion, I look forward to hearing yours. 


Happy New Year to you and yours!


If you like this article, you can find more by typing “Drones or robots” in the search box at the top left of this blog. If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below.





Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”

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2013, The Best of the Best in Internet Marketing - Events to Remember!


Online Internet Radio at Blog Talk Radio with workingthewebtowin on BlogTalkRadio

By Carl Weiss
With Christmas only a day away, that means that New Year’s Eve can’t be far behind.  So as a little something extra for your Christmas stocking I thought a little retrospective on some of the topics we covered this year would be in order. 

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Hector's the Connector’s Social Media Predictions for 2014 and Beyond


Check Out Internet Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with workingthewebtowin on BlogTalkRadio

By Hector Cisneros
Courtesy of blog.buzzoole.com

Social media has seen radical changes over the last three years. Their level of acceptance and use has Social networks now have the eyes and ears of billions of subscribers. The impact of organic search ranking is indisputable today. Also, its effect on product acceptance, adoption and loyalty has become so important that large companies are spending vast amounts of advertising money to create and measure its influence on their product sales and profitability. Cyber criminals are also taking advantage of this mass migration to social networks. My last two prediction articles have come in with a 95% accuracy rating and this year I am going out on a limb with a few of my prognostications. So read on and find out what I foresee the New Year will ring in for Social Networking in the year to come (including Facebook, Google+ LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pintrest and Blogger).
exploded. Many of the top social networks are now monetized and have become publicly held companies.

The only constant in Social Media will be change!  The top five Social networks (Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn) will continue to create new features and buy up small players to add more capabilities and gain an edge over their competitors.
Social Media Camp - NYC - 2011
Social Media Camp - NYC - 2011 (Photo credit: deanmeyersnet)

Social Equity will finally get respect.   Now that the industry has accepted the fact that content is king in the search market, pundits will begin to understand the value that a company can gain when it  builds a strong social following. It the past businesses considered their customer base as a sellable asset. Now business buyers will start to learn the value of a loyal social media following and how it can be turned into a marketing and communications machine for any business.

Small businesses will embrace Social media as a meaningful and measurable marketing medium.   
In the past, one of the biggest complaints about social media was that you could not measure its impact on your business. This is no longer the case. All of the major social networks have added at least some form of built-in analytics to measure activity. Google Analytics also has
added a plug-in for social networks and other vendors are busy creating or adding measurement tools to help business gauge their return on investment.

Google will continue to consolidate its services.   Google will continue to consolidate services into Google+ and expand its services for the mobile market! As Google continues to consolidate its prime properties into Google+, Google+ will continue to grow as it cannibalizes services from its competitors. Once Google gets their feature mix and ease of use in line, products like Event bright, Skype, Yelp and Yammer will be replaced with Google +'s competing features that include their Events Calendar, Hangouts, Google Local and Circles just to name a few. Also as Google continues to move search into all of its products, subscribers will begin their day with Google+ instead of having their home page opening with Google Search.

Blogging will become mainstream.   Businesses will finally recognize that blogging is an essential element of their online strategy. WordPress will continue to dominate the blogging market but  Blogger will continue to make headway as Google adds functionality and integration of its other products into its fold. Expect to see lots of new blogging productivity tools to help bloggers upgrade the
quality, look and feel of their posts along with tools to address the ever growing e-reader and mobile user markets. Blogger already comes with Google Analytics built in, but look to see further add-ons as businesses move from just using Blogger as a publishing platform to a website and e-commerce platform for integrated follower interaction.

YouTube jumps to the next level as it finally gets considered as a social network.  The addition of its news feed and timeline activity features will make this a reality. Also Google is actively working to make this medium business friendly so that it can further monetize this segment of their market. Look for Google to figure out a way to utilize YouTube to create video ads on Google Search. They already have the technology to create short animations from photos. The next step will be using this tech for video ads.

Facebook will continue to monetize the news feed and introduce new items including animated ads.
Facebook
Facebook (Photo credit: stoneysteiner)

They still haven't realized the importance of being business friendly. 
It never ceases to amaze me that such a large company can be so arrogant. They have no real high touch support mechanisms in place, rarely answer email inquiries and have little or no customer service. Facebook still doesn't have an adequate support mechanisms for business customers. They have no direct contact phone number and their ability to arbitrarily make changes by running features up the flag pole often infuriates its subscribers. They will remain vulnerable until they finally embrace customer service as their new mantra. 

LinkedIn will add new features including video resumes for employment candidates.   2014 will find LinkedIn concentrating on growing its pay per click and recruitment businesses. Last year they looked to growing their influence overseas and improving their mobile platforms. These will continue into this year and 2015. Also look to find LinkedIn searching to buy smaller social media companies as well as expanding its functionality and depth.

Pinterest gets purchased by one of the top five social media players.   Currently Pinterest is not showing a profit but it is a candidate to be swallowed by one of the big media companies. Google alread
y has its own photo platform and Facebook has Instagram so it might be Twitter or LinkedIn that makes the leap. My choice would be LinkedIn as they have the money and could benefit from a photo gallery platform. It's also possible that one of the large media networks (like Time Warner) or one of the other tech giants such as Apple or Microsoft will step-in.

Twitter will continue to lose money.   This trend will continue until they make their social network more business friendly. Right now they are concentrating on big businesses for income but they lag when it comes to enticing mid-sized and small business. Currently they like to throw speed bumps at business clients who are actively trying to grow their twitter following. Many of their rules are obscure, confusing and arbitrarily enforced. This causes many small businesses to get suspended even when they haven't received any complaints. Also their pay per click platform leaves a lot to be desired. They have added some analytics functionality but currently they are far from providing tools that compel small businesses to adopt them as a Pay Per Click platform.

Cyber criminals will become more sophisticated in their data mining techniques.   Social media is already one of the top ways for criminals to gather victims' personal data in order to hack their systems or assume their identity for financial gain. With the government’s nearly hands-off approach to cyber crime, expect to see lots of new black hat tools designed to explicitly attack the social media networks.

In this article I discussed my social media predictions for 2014. My prognosticating covers the span of the big five players (Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn). I also look at Pinterest, the effects of cyber criminals on social networks and potential global trends that could manifest in the year to come.
Whether Google moves to social network dominance, Facebook stumbles and falls or Twitter becomes profitable, my predictions will be tested by the maelstrom of change that 2014 will certainly ring in. If you liked this article share it with your friends and co-workers. If you have a comment related to this article enter it in the section below. I always enjoy researching and writing my social media prediction for the coming year. I hope this one was informative and enjoyable for you.  


Until next time, that's my opinion, I look forward to hearing yours.

May the coming year be enlightening and profitable for you and your family.

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “Predictions” in the search box at the top left of this blog. If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 



Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”



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Hector the Connector's Internet Marketing Predictions for 2014 and Beyond


Discover Internet Internet Radio with workingthewebtowin on BlogTalkRadio

By Hector Cisneros

A correct reading will be given
A correct reading will be given (Photo credit: ian.crowther)
Every year I make internet marketing predictions based on my research and intuition for the coming year. I have been right 98% of the time so far. 2013 proved to be a wild ride for businesses engaged in internet marketing. Social Media was a roller coaster of updates, upgrades and growth. Reputation management jumps to the forefront as businesses realize they are vulnerable to negative social press. Blogging and YouTube became mature services with widespread adoption taking place. A little birdie named Hummingbird shook up the search market significantly and many venerable household icons like TV news, and retail brick and mortar sales gave way to their digital counterparts. So if you think these events were out of this world wait till you see what's coming next year in 2014.

Google is Coming!


I predict Google will continue to dominate search while Yahoo and Bing struggle to figure out how to make headway against the 800-lb Gorilla. Google will spend 2014 continuing to consolidate and unify
its services. This includes all the features in Google+, Gmail, YouTube, Search and its dozens of other internet properties and services. Until other search engines realize that they will have to provide more value for the money spent, they will continue to lag far behind Google.
English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...
English: Google Logo officially released on May 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Google will continue to tweak its search engine algorithms as it did in 2013. Google launched Hummingbird which was a major search algorithm update. It knocked many internet advertisers off page one and got them lost in cyberspace. We will see this trend continue until internet marketers accept the fact that trying to game the system is futile or until a different search provider comes to the forefront. Google has made content king for search, (i.e. relevant, timely and useful content) leaving most businesses having to accept pay per click as their only real alternative to search marketing.

Where Will You Get Your News?

Español: Logo Vectorial de YouTube
Español: Logo Vectorial de YouTube (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
US Internet news readership will exceed TV news viewership for the first time in 2014. Will this be joined by TV show viewership the following year? I bet it will. However, if your counting Youtu
be’s 4 billion daily views, than total online views already exceed annual TV viewership by a lot.

Social media will continue to evolve and grow more specialized as new players try to carve out a niche for themselves. Its influence on search engine results, product adoption, and consumer acceptance will only grow, as consumers start to rely on social ratings and social testimonials as decision making tools when making most purchases.
This is icon for social networking website. Th...
This is icon for social networking website. This is part of Open Icon Library's webpage icon package. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blogging and video will also affect how search is utilized as more people receive greater bandwidth. Consumers will continue their move to access information from the internet instead of conventional news services like TV, Newspaper, radio and magazines. Video will continue to garner more clicks than any other type of search listing so make sure you're creating videos in 2014. I also predict that Google will debut video ads in Search and in their display network.

Online Retail Comes of Age


Online sales will continue to grow as its momentum continues to speed up. 2013 was the first year that Black Friday online sales exceeded Black Friday brick and mortar sales. The only thing that can slow this growth is if the government decides to enforce interstate sales taxation. However even if this law is passed it will not stop internet sales growth because of the advantages it has over conventional marketing. Since internet marketing is on demand, more ubiquitous, infinitely more measurable and more cost effective than conventional advertising, it will continue to grow and dominate marketing.

The King is Dead; Long Live Content as King


Search Engines Love Content by Go Local
Search Engines Love Content by
Go Local (Photo credit: Go Local Search)
Content marketing will finally get recognized by the advertising industry as the defacto gold standard for the internet and conventional marketing. Carl and I have been touting multi-media content marketing as the best way to achieve organic position since 2010. It is also the best way to generate traffic and to make sure Google search algorithm changes don’t knock you off age one.

Internet marketing will become more automated. 2013 saw many large PR and other marketing firms that sell services to advertising agencies release new PR, Search and Social Media marketing tools. The release of these 2.0 SAAS products will mean that 2014 will usher in the beginning of an adoption phase of these products by large and midsize advertising agencies. This will be followed by a 3.0 phase in 2015-2016 where these systems will begin their widespread adoption at marketing firms and advertising agencies in general. 

Move Over Desk Top, Here Comes More Mobile


Mobile marketing will continue to grow as the billions of Smartphone users learn how to use their new devices and become addicted to their convenience. Also, businesses are ramping up their internet
Mobile-phone-advertising
Mobile-phone-advertising (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
marketing efforts to accommodate these consumers. Mobile websites and landing pages are being built in large numbers. Blogger along with other platforms are providing mobile versions of their products automatically!

Text messages will continue to grow. This will be driven primarily by the fact that our younger populations are addicted to texting and the fact that Text messages are less likely to be ignored by Smartphone users. This service will continue to grow and flourish, despite the banning of texting while driving in many states.

Drone marketing & delivery will grow. 2013 saw drones being used in war and now in sales.  Amazon made a big splash when their PR department launched stories about the potential to deliver products via aerial drones. 2013 saw many such publicity stunts.  Expect to see many more in
Parrot AR.Drone
Parrot AR.Drone (Photo credit: myprofe)
 2014 with drones pulling advertising banners, dropping flyers and delivering free gifts to create some buzz (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Book marketing via teasers will grow - eBooks are restarting to outsell paperback and hardback books at a fast pace. The widespread adoption of tablets and eReaders has ushered in the digital reading age.  The widespread creation of Blogs, desktop publishing and the fact that it's easy to publish eBooks on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, is creating an avalanche of new eBooks published by people who 5 years ago would have never thought of becoming authors. Expect to see more businesses using these tools to promote and build their brand in 2014 and beyond.

What’s Your Reputation?


Name and Reputation Management will continue to grow. Many businesses discovered in 2012 the harsh reality that they were vulnerable to negative press on social and product rating sites. As long as people can anonymously post opinions on products and service, businesses will have to engage in reputation management to mitigated negative press and to improve their positive press.  Companies who initiate a social network program to garner testimonials and positive press will really reap their benefits. Those who ignore this necessary segment of their marketing will suffer loss of brand credibility and customers. Once the damage is done, businesses will find it much harder to fix their reputation than if they were proactively working to maintain their positive image.

In this article I discussed my internet marketing predictions for 2014 and beyond. Understanding where Google is heading, what changes are coming in social media, what is trending and what is changing in marketing are all worth knowing. Staying abreast of the shift from conventional marketing to digital content marketing is critical for all businesses. Seeing the paradigm shift from analog to digital will continue to profoundly and fundamentally change the way we market our products and services into the future. If you found this article to be useful, share it with your friends, family and co-works. If you feel you have something to add or just want to leave a comment do so below. It has been my pleasure writing down my thoughts and sharing my 2014 predictions with you this year. I look forward to seeing my predictions come true during the coming year and sharing more of my findings with you in the year to come.  I Thanks again for reading and sharing.

That's my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

On behalf of Working the Web to Win, we wish you and yours Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “Predictions” in the search box at the top left of this blog. If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below.

That's my opinion, I look forward to hearing yours.



Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”

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