Don’t be evil

Interesting. At least, i suppose that’s one word to describe it.

This morning before I went to work I was at home looking through the news and such, and I came across a video that I though might be interesting to one of my students. I watched a few minutes of it to make sure it was what I thought it was, then paused it and went to work. There I searched for it, found it, and clicked the vid to que it up for my student. I hit play, and it picked up at the exact same spot I’d paused it… back at home.

Different machine. Different network and ISP. Different browser. Different OS.

It knew exactly where I’d paused.

Nah, nothing there to be creeped the fuck out about, nothing at all.

The ONLY connection that I could identify was that for work we use Chrome machines, and are given all things Chrome to use, including (of course) GMail. To look at work emails and schedule at home I’d opened up my gmail account and a shared spreadsheet. It was opened in the browsers in both places.

Different machine. Different network and ISP. Different browser. Different OS.Both had an email account opened in one tab, it tracked what was going on in other tabs and browsers when I don’t use Google search at home.

Like I said, nah, nothing to be bothered by, right?

I will not now, nor ever, buy or use any Google product that is not provided by work, and I’ll never again open their applications on my home machine if I can possibly help it.


15 thoughts on “Don’t be evil

  1. It gets worse – I work at home in my home office, and use Chrome as my default browser. Today I stood up, headed to the bathroom, and my wi-fi enabled toilet opened the lid AND the seat as I entered the room! How did it know where I was heading and planning to do!

  2. Youtube is a google domain. If you are logged into the browser with gmail, that account will be logged in for all google owned domains open in that browser. This is not just a google thing, all account sessions are per browser, not per tab. You can open multiple tabs for your bank as well, and the account login will be shared for all of them. If you want to log into youtube without having everything you watch associated with that account you either need to open a private browsing tab (for either youtube or gmail, it does not matter which) or use a different browser. I guarantee that if you check your home youtube page you will see your work account logged into that page. That is how you got tracked, you used the same youtube/gmail account in both places.

    • Yes. I kind of deduced the “per browser instance” thing; at least that’s what I thought I said in my post. Pardon my wording if it wasn’t clear. Yes, time to start using private tabs, more separate windows. And stop using Google products except as an “as required by work” thing. And time to start looking for, and using more often, alternatives to Youtube.

      No the privacy genie can’t be put back in the bottle. That doesn’t mean we have to simply hand them everything on a silver platter with a tip and smile. I’d rather hand it over not at all, but if I must I’d like it to be with a sneer and a shiv.

      • The whole thing is meant to be a convenience feature so you can swap devices and not lose what you were doing, but the result is $%(*&#$ creepy. Especially when it feeds into different sites and platforms you didn’t know was sharing the data…..

      • If you change your mind re Chrome, you can dial the sync-ing back and see if the creepy factor recedes.
        Uncheck everything.
        Or establish separate identities. That requires discipline and, sooner or later, you’ll slip and do something characteristic of one identity while signed in as another.
        Information wants to be free.

        • Information may want to be free, but corporations want to collect it all, correlate it, package it, and monetize it in any way possible, privacy be damned. Government want to monitor, control it, and direct it, and the people along with it. No, thanks.

  3. This is why I like TOR. That, and the fact it lets me see websites that the work PC machinery objects to.

    • Can you point me to a “TOR for dummies” place? Will it work on a MacBook? I’m fairly computer illiterate

      • the place to get started with TOR is, and the “for dummies” bit goes, “find the latest official Tor Browser Bundle for your computer, use that”.

        because keeping your privacy online gets incredibly eggheaded; the sheer amount of precautions you have to take adds up to a scary long list. the TOR project people roll them all up into what they call a “browser bundle”, which is a combination of the TOR anonymous proxy software itself plus a browser pre-configured to (1) send all its traffic through that proxy software, and (2) not leak any private data through side channels.

        point the second is where they have to restrict things that WILL annoy and frustrate you. things like refusing all cookies, disabling all javascript — which will prevent a lot of modern websites from even loading — not including flash, and so on and so forth.

        it IS possible to re-enable some of those disabled features, and keep a partially (mostly, in most circumstances) private browser. but every thing you turn back on is another compromise, and some of the compromises interact with one another in ways sometimes a LOT more detrimental than you think. the pre-packaged browser bundle is as safe as you can get, because it compromises the least, but that also makes it the most frustrating.

        me, i use a standard-ish firefox browser sending all its traffic through a TOR proxy on my desktop PC, which lets me do things like use facebook occasionally and watch youtube videos when i want to. i’ve locked it down with a laundry list of plug-ins and configuration settings to not run any flash or javascript unless i specifically grant temporary permission for it; not retain any cookies past my closing the tab the cookie came from; not load media files except through the same proxy server it gets regular HTML from (yes, this has to be enabled separately, and it’s a PITA); not load any advertising at all if i can stop it, because that’s just asking for trouble; and a few others i’m sure i’ve forgotten. setting it all up, well, i’m a professional sysadmin and programmer — anybody else might want to just get a TOR browser bundle.

  4. It’s reasons like this I don’t multitask browser tasks. If I check mail, when done, I close the browser, run CCleaner to delete browsing history, then reopen a browser to do something else. ANYTHING I do on the web that requires a password, I only do that one thing, when done I close the browser, clear history, then restart the browser to do something else.


    The bastards can track me, but I’m going to make it as difficult as possible. I might not win the gunfight but I’m going to shoot back before I go down.

    • Again, take a look at TOR. For one thing, it routes your connections all over the world, obscuring where you come from. For another, by default it keeps no history at all. The main drawback (because of that routing) is that it’s fairly slow.

      • Electronic Frontier Foundation makes an add-on called Privacy Badger, if you don’t want to go as far as TOR, to block tracking cookies. Opera has a click on VPN service. Of course, you have to trust them not to collect and share your info.

  5. Google is part of an illegal monopoly. CNN is part of another illegal monopoly. So is the Ivy League. I would like to see the administration get the judiciary straightened out enough that it can do some trust-busting.

    • Great idea.

      Not happening. Google is far too useful to the NSA and other government agencies in tracking people’s activities to let it get broken up, unless it’s a token, superficial, for-appearances-sake-only sort of breakup.

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