WASHINGTON, D.C. Dec. 10, 2018 – Today, Campaign for Accountability (“CfA”), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, released a new report, Quitting Google, showing it is virtually impossible to avoid Google’s omnipresent tracking despite the company’s claims that “competition is just a click away.” In conjunction with the report, CfA released a new browser extension that alerts users when Google products are tracking them online.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Google says competition is just a click away, but the truth is there’s no escaping the company or its tracking. The only way to stop Google from tracking you is to take a time machine back to the 1990s.”
To show how misleading Google’s mantra is, CfA is releasing a step-by-step guide showing how to quit Google and a browser extension that shows users when they’re using one of its services on the web. As a first step, quitting Google requires switching search engines, ditching the Chrome browser, deleting all Gmail/Google accounts, throwing out all Android devices, deleting all Google apps, and eliminating all Google hardware products such as a Google Home or a Chromebook.
Beyond Google-branded products, many consumers are not aware that other tech services are owned by Google. Nest, a leader in smart thermostats, security cameras, and other smart-home devices, is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Similarly, Waze, the popular navigation app, was acquired by Google in 2013.
Even after quitting the personal use of Google-owned products, it is still very difficult to prevent Google from tracking someone. Google can collect personal information from emails sent to users with a Gmail account, from calls or texts to anyone who owns an Android phone, or from visits to a house with a Google smart-home device. Google uses the personal data gathered from these products to build advertising profiles of individuals and generate billions of dollars a year in revenue.
Even if someone ends their friendships with people who use Google products, Google still tracks them on the internet. Around 80 percent of the world’s most visited websites use Google technology either to display ads or to monitor website traffic. To educate the public about the extent of Google’s background tracking, CfA built an extension for Google’s web browser, Chrome, that produces a simple red banner at the top of the screen if a domain uses Google ads or Google analytics.
Screenshot of www.irs.gov while using CfA’s new browser extension.
Stevens continued, “No matter what you do on the web, from filing your taxes to contacting your therapist, Google knows about it. While Google’s omnipresence is deeply distributing, consumers don’t have a choice. Unless you want to go back to the Stone Age, you can’t quit Google.”
Campaign for Accountability is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.