Gmail is one of the world’s most popular email platforms. Millions of people use it for personal email and for work. It has recently been revealed that Google is now tracking the purchases Gmail users make online. If you have received a confirmation email from a purchase that you have made, that data has been added to a list of your purchases that you can access from your Google account.
While this may not seem like a big deal to some people, for others it raises a huge red flag. It also raises questions about the liberties Google takes with its users. Let’s look further at the implications of this practice and how some individuals are trying to strengthen their own Internet security.
CNBC Blows the Whistle on Google
According to an article published in May 2019 by CNBC, Google has been saving years of information on purchases made by those who use Gmail. Every time a purchase confirmation is sent to a user’s Gmail address, the information is scraped and retained by Google. The search giant claims that this is done for the convenience of Google users and that it does not use the purchase histories to serve up ads to users.
Anyone with a Google account can visit http://myaccount.google.com/purchases to see the information that Google has collected. Some individuals report that data can go back five years or more. This has many users concerned, and some are angry because they feel like their privacy is being violated.
For its part, Google claims that the feature is done to “help you easily view and keep track of your purchases, bookings, and subscriptions in one place.” A representative for Google also told CNBC that the information is retained in a “private destination that can be seen only by you.”
Google claims that the information that has been collected can be deleted by the user at any time, but CNBC found that removing the purchase information is difficult for most users. Getting rid of the info basically requires you to delete all the receipts in your Gmail inbox as well as all the ones in your archived messages. This process is time consuming and also bothers many users who need to preserve receipts. CNBC confirmed that there is no way to delete the data without deleting every receipt from the Gmail platform.
What has many users concerned is that Google could be using the information that is gleaned from purchase histories to serve up ads with its various advertising platforms. The company denies that it is using the data to influence which ads users see when they browse the web, but many Gmail users are not convinced.
Google, Internet Privacy, and VPNs
Google doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation when it comes to online privacy. The company has come under fire before for how it manages user data. But what does this revelation say about Internet privacy in general? At VPNaccounts.com we think it means people are right to be concerned about their privacy online.
Most people understand that using the Internet comes with risks. One of those is having your personal data or browsing preferences exposed to individuals or even businesses that use such information in unethical ways, often without your knowledge. Google is not the only one to be questioned. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg found himself testifying before the US Congress in regards to Facebook’s privacy policies and how it uses data that is gleaned from users of the social network. The bottom line is that there really is no excuse for not knowing that you are at risk when you browse.
Thankfully, there are ways that you can mitigate the risk of having your data exposed. When it comes to the tracking of purchases by Gmail, the sad fact is that you will be better off using another email provider. If you make a lot of purchases online it may be best to purchase a private email address. To prevent your data from being observed and tracked when you browse the Internet, a VPN is also a good solution.
How a VPN Protects You Against Security Threats
A VPN uses an encrypted connection that exists between your device and the Internet. The data that passes through this encrypted tunnel is encrypted, meaning that it is scrambled in such a way that others cannot see the information. This type of encryption will help when you pass sensitive data across your device.
It should also be said that the websites you shop at should be running their own security protocols. Never buy from a website that does not use an SSL and other methods of data protection.
VPNs are also useful should you find yourself in the circumstance of needing to access restricted websites and services. Some countries do not permit certain web applications like Skype or messenger services like WhatsApp. You will also find that your Netflix account is blocked when you travel abroad. A VPN replaces your IP address with the IP address of its own server which can be located in the US or other countries the VPN offers. It will appear to the web service that you are accessing the site from your own country.
VPNs also help you get rid of browsing data that may be tracked by others that use your computer. There are no logs kept by most VPN providers of your browsing activity.
Remember, the Internet can be a scary place. Take the appropriate measures to protect yourself and you will have a more pleasant and peaceful experience online.