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The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller


What Google Can Share


The Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University seeks to bring together expertise in technology to better understand its impact on society. The official website, with the catchy name, archives the results of research. This includes the “No Boundaries” series which addresses the issue of surreptitious data collection of your highly personal and financial information by companies paid by commercial websites in the name of improving user experience. However, those data collection companies often sell the data they collect to third parties—usually advertisers, all without your knowledge.

By simply visiting any website, you can give away a lot of information about yourself. The researchers at Princeton have performed an extensive scan of what happens in the background and unseen by a user when visiting many popular websites. What they discovered may disturb you.

There are two commercial companies identified so far, and, that claim they collect “only anonymous data through anonymous cookies and technologies.” The Princeton researchers looked closely at the computer programming code used by these two companies. The “short list” of what these two companies are able to find out about us includes: age, date of birth, gender, nationality, height, weight, body mass index, eye color, location, home address, relationship status, education, occupation, net income, investments, credit rating, loans, loan types, amounts, credit card use including chargebacks, pets, details about a user’s vehicle including its registration and car insurance, tobacco/alcohol use, travel details… There was a lot more, but I stopped there because that last group of items got my attention.

While visiting in the States, I had made an airline reservation online. I used a US credit card, email address, and phone number. I point that out because my Mexican cell phone uses a different Mexican credit card, different email address and phone number. So far as I can see, all of the information I gave to the airline and the information used by my Mexican cell phone is then common name. Still, when I looked at my calendar on my Mexican phone, Google had somehow figured out that the person who had purchased an airline ticket was the same person who used the Mexican cell phone. It then automatically entered my flight’s date and time, airline name, and flight numbers on my calendar.

Soon enough I was going to tell my friends where I would be traveling in Europe this year; I just did not expect Google, a huge advertising agency, to get hold of my itinerary. Without a doubt, Google has already shared it with every advertiser on the Internet.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at)



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