Google uses tracking to keep services free

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By Joshua Christensen

Every time you watch a YouTube video, Google is secretly watching with you. Illustration by Joshua Christensen
Every time you watch a YouTube video, Google is secretly watching with you. Illustration by Joshua Christensen

Tech giants, especially Google, all track users online though browser cookies. Malicious intent is not their purpose, it lets Google give away useful products like Gmail. Should users desired to disable online tracking, understanding how and why companies track them is useful.

Websites use cookies to store tracking information. They were originally used for storing the contents of a shopping cart, remembering a username, or how far along in a video someone was. Now cookies are used to store a tracking identifier. Cookies can be stored by any website, sites that use Google driven statistics, ads, or just Google.com, and can place cookies to start tracking viewing history even when they aren’t logged in.

“I don’t think Google should track me when I use YouTube because the information about me is priceless and a service like YouTube would cost $5 a month. It’s just not worth it,” Mason McKelleb, senior, said.

Google uses cookies, IP addresses, and Google accounts to keep track of search history across its services. Advertisers want more personalized ads, so that their new product, for example a dress, is marketed to their target demographic, the people they decide are most likely to buy it, in this case, teenage girls and young women. This information is then used to sell extremely selective ads and keep YouTube free.

“I think that some company shouldn’t know more about me and my habits than I do. Who knows who they are and what they want to do with my information?” Justin Chang, freshman, said.

Google is leading the charge in managing the data collected. By visiting the my activity page, users can view what has been collected. The activity controls  page lets people turn off and on different methods of collection which puts users in control of their data when they don’t want a website to know more about them than they do.

“Much of our business is based on showing ads, both on Google services and on websites and mobile apps that partner with us. Ads help keep our services free for everyone. We use [tracking] data to show you these ads, but we do not sell personal information,” informs Google’s privacy page.

While ads can be useful to users and large companies, knowing how these services work helps keep users in control of their personal data.

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Joshua Christensen, of the class of 2020, is the co-online editor the staff. He is native to Utah but has also lived in Iowa. He loves to write news and sports pieces, but he also writes for the opinion and features sections. This year he will manage the website and hopes to avoid a catastrophic systems failure. His favorite food is pizza and chow mein noodles. He hopes to get a degree in Computer Science from BYU. His goal in life is to be successful, move to Utah, travel, and create an award-winning app.