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So how does Google know...

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by TheLaw, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. TheLaw

    TheLaw Well-Known Member

    This one is of interest to me and makes me wonder...

    For the past week or two I've been using a gmail account with the word "law" in the user name. Not sure if that even makes any difference. But what I have noticed is that an ad for a competitor has been coming up everywhere Google serves adsense ads. I was taken to a landing page for a godaddy domain and the top ad, having nothing to do with law, was for the competitor. Then I'm on an aquarium site just a few days later. While some of the ads are fish related, one large 250x250 is of the same competitor!

    Unless this competitor is spending massive amounts of money to sponsor something, I'm assuming that I'm being shown ads based upon some information they are collecting about me. I logged out of gmail but those ads are still being shown everywhere. I'm wondering if it may even be related to my ip address as I used my mobile phone to view the same Godaddy ad and I've received completely different ads. In fact, all the ads I was served from Adsense make me wonder what other information is being used to serve ads since they relate to credit issues, mortgage foreclosures and other legal matters, items that I have been reviewing for my legal site but am unsure as to how and why they'd appear on unrelated sites and obviously directed towards me.
  2. User

    User Well-Known Member

    Probably just a cookie on your machine, though the key is to just load the free Adblock Plus and be done with it. I haven't see ads in years.
  3. TheLaw

    TheLaw Well-Known Member

    I don't know what cookie would know all about the foreclosure items - the only way it would have known that is to track pages I'll view and edit on my own site. It makes me wonder just how much information is being collected, when, where, etc. It's disconcerting the way this is working and that even small things I may have skimmed might be collected on the back end in various ways.

    Regarding adblock, I have a problem with it - it not only blocks ads but it blocks anything served by ad servers, including items that are important house "ads" that I'd want to know. On many of my sites they use (as do I) doubleclick and other ad servers to serve important bulletins, classes, etc. Second, if ads aren't served then most of the free Internet goes away immediately.
  4. jmurrayhead

    jmurrayhead Well-Known Member

  5. TheLaw

    TheLaw Well-Known Member

    Yep... good one. It says specifically that they may track you via IP address. So if you're using any type of cable modem or DSL, which will typically use only a static IP address, they probably have compiled a complete dossier of information concerning all of your activities.

    When we serve a text ad on Google Search or on the sites of our AdSense for search partners, those ads may be served based on a variety of factors, including: your recent search queries, the language we believe you prefer when performing your search, and standard log information, including cookie and device information, IP address, browser type, operating system and the date and time of your request.

    The ads being served to me probably relate to the amount of time I spend on my sites and, as of late, adding content to the bankruptcy/foreclosure areas. My site does have some Google services, e.g. DoubleClick and Adsense. They probably have my IP locked down and are using that for when I search numerous other sites which have nothing to do with that topic.

    Makes me wonder about searches at Google.com and how much is stored. That could include everything from innocuous subjects such as issues concerning your favorite sports teams to rather personal and private information that a person would not ever want revealed. My mind is whirring with science fiction that is coming through on the antenna on my tinfoil hat...
  6. jmurrayhead

    jmurrayhead Well-Known Member

    lol yeah, it's quite scary what kind of data they probably have about each and every one of us. :eek:
  7. Forsaken

    Forsaken Well-Known Member

    Every piece of information Google gets its hands is stored.

    Every big company does this as well though, so it isn't just Google, Google just has the most resources (information wise) that they can utilize.
  8. TheLaw

    TheLaw Well-Known Member

    Yes, I'm aware of that. But not every single company can have access to your private, intimate world and store information that you probably assumed never would have been stored. I'll bet that less than 1% ever consider that Google searches may not be "anonymous" or stored forever and attributed to someone's "permanent record."

    I can imagine a parade of horribles although it can be any company in this position so it's not limited. You have a baby sitter who may have come over a few times and she uses Google to search for the most offensive sex sites imaginable. After she's done, she erases the history since she's not stupid. Unknown to you, Google has stored every single search in its servers and has attributed those lurid searches to your IP address. Six months later you find yourself in a messy divorce with your wife who claims you've been abusing your daughter. In fact, she has another minor girl accusing you of abuse too, calling you a serial offender. Could your Google searches be subpoenaed by the prosecutor?
  9. jmurrayhead

    jmurrayhead Well-Known Member

    gee, if they see my pr0n searches, I'm in BIG trouble :cautious::ROFLMAO:
    Eliteoomph, Dan and Forsaken like this.
  10. whynot

    whynot Well-Known Member

    Restrict them to do that.
    In IE :
    Tools > Internet options > Privacy > Sites > Address of website: google.com

    In FF:
    Tools > Options > Privacy > Exceptions > Address of website: google.com
  11. mjp

    mjp Well-Known Member

    Sure, why not?

    They would only relate to your IP though, not to a person. You could make those connections in other ways, but Google can't.

    Every online service provider of any size is subpoenaed for information pretty regularly. It's part of my job to deal with those subpoenas for a web hosting company, and I see at least one a month. Usually they are from law enforcement rather than individuals or companies, since DMCA pretty much covers most of those kinds of complaints (trademark, copyright).

    We always give up data when there is a valid subpoena and decline to provide any data without one. That's a pretty standard stance, and most everyone who manages your data online will probably do the same thing.
  12. TheLaw

    TheLaw Well-Known Member

    Yes, of course. I was posing this more as a rhetorical question but you add a good amount to the conversation and raise some good points. I was actually in the e-discovery business myself for several years and could have dealt with you. :)

    In the example I gave, Google might not find itself in a position to answer to a subpoena/court order if it's just a fishing expedition. But if there is relevancy to the case/prosecution, e.g. a partial record of searches for bomb making on a hard drive, then certainly Google might be required via a court order to provide the electronic evidence to law enforcement. Now here's an interesting question... what if a search engine company was a party being sued? Hypothetically they could pull up a dossier of everything you've ever done on their system and put that to use against you. Perhaps you might be convinced to drop the lawsuit. It creates an interesting issue of privacy rights, expectations and contractual agreements.
  13. grant sarver

    grant sarver Well-Known Member

    Well, I would be surprised if Google was not in bed with the CIA and the FBI. Would make sense to use the resources of Goggle when they're already crawling everything. They often partner with companies that have special talents. Now that's a scary thought.
  14. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    I think every Google search you ever do could be retrieved if someone had the legal authority to request it.
    Casey Anthony's google searches
  15. TheLaw

    TheLaw Well-Known Member

    That's an unfortunate, sad case. I am guessing is that the authorities were able to pull from the history or other data left on the computer's hard drive without the need for Google to supplement with additional information. But what if the data on the computer was corrupt and insufficient to prove - but enough to reasonably suggest - that such a search took place? I don't recall seeing a case yet which would give anyone an indication as to how long search histories are maintained and what criteria is used for creating dossiers of information. It would be interesting to see whether data on searches might be kept for many years.
  16. James

    James Well-Known Member

    Wouldn't it be necessary to state in a privacy policy the amount of years that data is stored, or - by law - is it enough to just say that data is stored?
  17. Floris

    Floris Guest

  18. TheLaw

    TheLaw Well-Known Member

    What is the law and what are people's expectations can be two completely different things. If you want to see a humorous, if not disgustingly hilarious parody, check this out:


    Thanks Floris - this is the info about Dashboard:


    ...Also, the Dashboard shows only data that you generate or that Google records that's specifically associated with your Google Account. For example, searches you perform when you're signed in to Web History, or a shipping address you've stored in Google Checkout. There are other kinds of data that Google records when you use its services, but which are not associated with your Google Account. To protect your privacy, that data is intentionally kept separate from your Google Account and thus is not visible on this page. Here are a few examples...

    This is data generated using your Google account. How about searches you perform from your home which aren't a result of data being generated from your Google account? Is the static IP address recorded and all searches from that site, which may be used generally to serve ads to that IP address irrespective of any Google account? This all might be tinfoil hat stuff but I found it interesting that all of my adsense ads have been nailing legal services down even on sites which have nothing to do with law. It's certainly more than contextual and I was curious to know how deep the rabbit hole goes... :)
  19. Sadik B

    Sadik B Well-Known Member

    It's interest based advertising. Basically every site uses adsense or some form of Google product. Every google account/IP has latest interests browsed history which accumulates through these channels. Googles then shows you ads as per your most recent interests.
  20. Kevin

    Kevin Well-Known Member

    You have a number of configuration options available to you with AdBlock+, at least with the FF implementation, so that you can selectively disable it on sites you specify (eg: yours, those who you want to help support by seeing their ads, etc.) and you can also fine tune the filters based upon the URL structure so you could still also receive some data from certain ad servers if you so wish. It's been a long time since it was just doing a blind 'block everything from server X' on/off switch.

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