The fact that Google gathers personal data on its users using a variety of their services is in no way recent news. It has long been known that this internet giant has a database where various search patterns and habits of their users are stored.
These are even publically accessible using said user’s Google email and password. The explanation, or rather excuse, for doing this is that the data being collected is carefully guarded and that ultimately it cannot be used to compromise the user in any way.
They continue to explain that the data is used to better the services provided by Google and to further enhance Google’s advertising capabilities by offering relevant ads during internet browsing.
They heavily negate claims that said data is shared with third parties, mainly law enforcement agencies, without the user’s knowledge or approval. All of this shows quite a considerable lack of interest in their users’ online anonymity.
If all of the above is true, then why are our voice search queries recorded using their virtual assistant on both Android and Windows 10. Every time somebody uses voice command to search for something on the web, it is recorded and later even transcribed and saved in that database.
Every time somebody uses voice command to search for something on the web, it is recorded and later even transcribed and saved in that database.
Luckily, this database is also readily accessible by the user and can even be altered; deleting it completely is the recommended course of action in order to preserve our online anonymity. After that, there is a way to turn off the permission for recording any further voice commands.
After that, there is a way to turn off the permission for recording any further voice commands.
Turning off Google Voice Command Recording
- First of we will have to follow this link in order to log into the recordings database.
- After entering our email and username, we will be presented with the list of recordings that represent our voice commands to Google’s virtual assistant and their transcriptions.
- In the left sidebar, there is a “Delete Activity By” button that will allow us to delete entries from the database.
- After clicking on it, we should choose “All Time” from the “Delete by Date” dropdown menu.
- By clicking “Delete,” the process will be completed and all of the records, including our voice command recordings, will be deleted.
Turning off Further Recording
While this has deleted all off the records that Google has acquired about us since we started using their services, it still does not prevent them from continuing to collect records. Luckily, this can be disabled as well and here is how:
- Again, we will have to visit this link.
- Instead of clicking the “Delete Activity By” button, this time, go to “Activity Control.”
- Here you will be presented with several switches that you can turn off, turn off all of them.
By following above steps, you have successfully denied Google permission to track and log your online activity and in turn increased your online anonymity.
Google and Entering the Dark Web
While we should already be aware that it is not possible to access the dark web using Google Chrome, there are still some ways that Google can record our dark web searches, which are mentioned on Tor’s official webpage.
As it stands, while using Tor, it is important that other browsers, like Google Chrome in this instance, is turned off.
It is also advisable not to use Google search engine with Tor and to log out of any accounts connected to Google, like Gmail or YouTube to make sure that our online anonymity is secure.
One last thing to note is that some search queries, like information regarding hidden services, will “mark” us to the law enforcements and in extreme cases make them actively monitor our internet usage and online activity.
While this is not tied specifically or solely to Google and its services, it is still advisable to consider using other browsers or at least a strong VPN.
Secure Alternatives to Google Chrome
For quite a long time now Tor has been the #1 browser for people looking to increase their online anonymity. It is also the only way to access hidden services located on the dark web.
Tor uses an ever-expanding network of nodes, computers which are mostly owned by people volunteering them for use in building up the Tor network.
This network serves as an intermediary between the user and the internet making it hard to connect their IP to the searches.
The downside of Tor actually lies in its popularity making it the most heavily monitored secure browser.
Despite this, Tor’s security is hardly compromised, and it will continue its work uninterrupted as long as there is a community to back it up.
There are as many routes taken to ensure online anonymity as there are browsers specializing in it. Epic is one of the more popular choices, and its philosophy is offering security through minimalism.
It is based on Chromium and if we had to compare it to anything it would be a heavily stripped down Google Chrome. An interesting feature about Epic is that it reroutes all their user’s searches through their company’s servers.
While this does increase online anonymity by making it harder to connect our IP to our specific searches, it also slows down our search speed, but not so much to make it not a very worthwhile exchange.
Another downside is the lack of malware and phishing prevention systems, but these can be avoided anyway but using a bit of common sense.
While not technically a browser, but rather a browser plugin, Cocoon Browsing offers some of the best online anonymity features on the web.
Aside from offering online anonymity through secure browsing, it also has built-in features like anti-Facebook tracking and end-to-end encrypted connection.
The only downside to this service is that it requires a monthly or yearly subscription. There are two versions of the service, Cocoon and Cocoon+, costing $1.49 and $2.49 per month respectively.
With every passing day, big corporations are gathering more and more data on their clients, and while said information is kept secure and confidential it is only a matter of time before it falls into the wrong hands.
In the end, many people will find that being monitored on the internet is intrusive to their online anonymity, despite the fact that the data logged is not accessible to the public.
While this data may provide some increase in comfort and utility when searching the web, it is still advisable to at least turn off all the tracking permissions on our browsers, if not using an online anonymity based alternative.