What Google knows about you

Google knows where you’ve been, and that’s just the tip of a privacy-invading iceberg
It’s much more than just a search engine these days, but the data Google gleans from its users’ search history and other activities is still central to the company’s continued success.
Collecting and using other people’s information is Google’s bread and butter, providing it with the ultimate advertising commodity – the ability to target specific people – and effectively funding the many ‘free’ services the company offers.
In its privacy policy, Google says “we use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones and to protect Google and our users”.
But that’s only half the story. It’s also using your data to boost the effectiveness of its own business. The more user data it has, the more accurately it can target adverts – and the more powerful it becomes.
Google has tried to address privacy concerns by providing more transparency on how and why it uses people’s data, and by inviting users to view and control this information. The trouble is, there are dozens of different settings scattered around various web pages and devices. In this section, we’ll point you straight at the Google settings you need to change.

Your search and web activity
You probably won’t be too shocked by the fact that Google stores and uses data from your web searches. Even still, viewing everything the company has recorded about your web activities (by signing in with your Google account) is quite an eye-opener.
Your activity is shown as a vertical timeline and, depending on how many Google-related tools, services and devices you use, you could be presented with a list of not only every Google search you’ve performed, but also every site you’ve visited in Chrome, every route you’ve planned in Google Maps, every Android app you’ve ever used and more besides, all stretching back years.

Erase your Google search history by choosing the date range, then clicking delete
Thankfully, My Activity lets you control how much of this data Google stores. You can search for specific items or scroll back through your history to find something you want to delete. Click an item for more details, then click the three vertical dots button in the pop-up windows and click Delete, then click Delete again to remove the item from your history.
Alternatively, you can delete data in bulk by clicking the three vertical dots button in the top right-hand corner of the main page and selecting ‘Delete activity by’. Here, you can select the date range and the Google service (Search, for example) you want to delete data for from the drop-down menus, and click Delete, then Delete again. Or, if you want to get rid of the whole lot, select ‘All time’ and ‘All products’ from the menus.
To stop Google tracking your searches (and your browsing activity if you use Chrome), head here, turn off the blue slider, then click Pause.
Your location history
Google keeps track of your movements in the real world, as well as the online one. It follows you when you’re signed into your Google account, and you’re carrying your phone or tablet at the same time.
You can view your location history by signing into your Timeline. Select a date from the drop-down menus in the top left corner.
To stop Google tracking your location click the Pause Location History button at the bottom of the page, then click Pause in the window that pops up. Keep in mind that this won’t turn off the built-in location-tracking abilities of any devices you use.
For example, if you use an Android phone, you may also wish to tap Settings, ‘Security & location’, then Location and either completely switch off ‘location tracking’, or tap ‘App-level permissions’ and disable it for individual apps.

Tick this box, then click ‘Delete Location History’ to permanently erase it
Disabling location tracking won’t delete any previous location activity that Google has recorded. To do this, click the small dustbin icon to the lower right of the Timeline page’s main map image. In the window that appears, tick the box next to ‘I understand and want to delete all Location History’, then click Delete Location History. This will permanently delete your location history – neither you nor Google will be able to get it back.
Bear in mind that disabling location tracking and deleting your location history may affect the functions of some Google services. For example, Google Now, which answers your spoken queries, will no longer be able to provide you with information or suggestions based on your location.

Your personal interests
Rather creepily, Google builds a list of things you like (and don’t like), based on your search and YouTube activity. It uses this to create a profile that lets advertisers target you. Google claims this is to “make the ads that you see more useful to you”.

Disable personalisation adverts by clicking the blue slider, then selecting Turn Off
To see what Google thinks your interests are, head here and sign in with your Google account. Scroll down to the ‘Topics you like’ and ‘Topics you don’t like’ headings. You may find these are eerily accurate. You can click the X to delete individual likes and dislikes, and add new ones (click ‘+New Topic’), should you wish.
Alternatively, you can completely turn off targeted advertising by clicking the blue slider to the right of the Ads Personalisation heading, then clicking Turn Off.
Your gender and birthday
Like many sites and services, Google asks for sensitive details – including your age and gender – when you sign up for an account. The difference is that Google may share some of this information openly, unless you tell it not to.
Head here and look under ‘Gender, date of birth and more’. If you see a green globe icon next to any of the information shown here, that means it’s shared publicly – anyone can see it when they look at your Google profile.

Select ‘Private’ to stop people seeing personal info on your Google profile
To change this, click the globe icon and select Private. Even then, Google will continue to use your gender information to “provide more relevant, tailored content you might be interested in, like ads” unless you change yet another setting.
Go to this page and scroll down to ‘Your profile’. Click the pencil icon next to Gender and select ‘Rather not say’. Be aware that choosing this will also stop Google tools and services from referring to you as either male or female.
Your voice
If you use the Google Now assistant, or any of the company’s Home smart speaker products, then recordings of your voice may also be among the data stored about you on Google’s giant servers.
Like most voice-controlled assistants, Google Now and Google Home work by learning and accessing all kinds of personal data, so you should avoid using them if you want to avoid Google’s tentacles. Deleting or blocking access to your data effectively renders them next to useless.
To check for and delete any existing voice recordings Google might have, head here and click in the Search box at the top. Make sure ‘All time’ is selected under ‘Filter by date’, then untick ‘All products’, tick ‘Voice & Audio’ and click the Search (magnifying glass) icon. Click the three dots button in the Search box, then click ‘Delete results’, Delete.

Your devices

Remove devices from Google’s history so it no longer knows what you use
As well as tracking you and your activities, Google likes to keep a record of the devices you’ve used to access its services – not just Android devices but Windows PCs, iPhones and more. It might be less invasive than some of the other data the company keeps on you, but you may still wish to delete devices you no longer use – if you’ve lost your phone and you want to block access to your Google account from it, for example.

Posted in Cyber/Intelligence Security, Enterprise Solutions, Software Development, Technology Expertise, Web Services | Leave a comment

Four simple ways to keep your customers happy

How to retain clients’ business in the long run

Clients are savvier than ever when it comes to technology and their businesses, so it’s no longer enough for MSPs and VARs to offer the most in-demand services and leave it at that. If solution providers really want to retain clients, they must create a partnership that establishes them as a trusted technology advisor, and an integral part of the client’s business.

This may be easier said than done, but nonetheless there is some straightforward advice that technology solution providers can apply, whatever their service offering may be, to ensure that clients stay with them for the long run.

Create service delivery standards

Every interaction with a customer, whether it’s in person or remotely via automation tools, affects customer service levels. It’s important to create standards for those interactions so your customers always know what to expect from you.

One way to do this is by building a knowledge base of standard solutions to common problems. This way, any technician servicing any customer can quickly find the documentation outlining a particular fix and implement it.

Continue reading

Posted in Cyber/Intelligence Security, Enterprise Solutions, Software Development, Technology Expertise, Web Services | Leave a comment

Hackers target business supply chains

NCSC: Attackers compromised channel providers’ software updates in 2017

Hackers are targeting supply chain firms to gain access to commercially sensitive data from them and their customers, according to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

A large number of managed service providers (MSPs) were subject to such cyber attacks in 2017, according to the joint report by the National Cyber Security Centre (NSCS) and the National Crime Agency (NCA), which warned channel partners and their customers to take steps to defend against similar attacks this year.

The report, titled ‘The cyber threat to UK businesses 2017-2018’, explained how such attacks, including the compromise of a large number of MSPs, are normally designed to breach confidentiality and integrity, but may also be designed to affect availability, through methods such as supplying defective equipment.

Further opportunities for threat actors to interfere with the supply chain may also be afforded by inserting bugs into hardware and software updates for contracts where partners are responsible for the ongoing servicing of hardware or software.

Continue reading

Posted in Cyber/Intelligence Security, Enterprise Solutions, Software Development, Technology Expertise, Web Services | Leave a comment

How can you protect your clients from crypto-ransomware?

How can you protect your clients from crypto-ransomware?Here are some easy-to-apply rules to help keep your client’s data – and business operations – safe

Of all the various different types and families of ransomware, the most commonly-encountered is crypto-ransomware. Often referred to simply as ‘ransomware’, it refers to a form of malware where the files and data that are stored on the infected device are encrypted into an unreadable form. This means the data can only be retrieved by using the necessary decryption key, which the criminals then demand a ransom in exchange for.

Consumers affected by crypto-ransomware are usually faced with demands of £250 to £500, but ransom charges for businesses can be much higher as cybercriminals understand just how valuable an organisation’s data can be. If the ransom goes unpaid, the price will steadily increase until the decryption key is deleted, making it virtually impossible to recover the files. But even if a ransom is paid, there’s no guarantee the data will be decrypted.
A recent survey by Kaspersky Lab found that despite the increase in ransomware attacks, only 40% of companies consider ransomware to be a serious danger. This attitude can lead to security weaknesses that can be exploited by cybercriminals.

Continue reading

Posted in Cyber/Intelligence Security, Enterprise Solutions, Software Development, Technology Expertise, Uncategorized, Web Services | Leave a comment

The benefits of managed print services

Outsourcing printer management can save businesses time and money. So how can MPS providers convey the benefits to potential clients?

Traditionally, businesses would buy a range of printers, scanners and photocopiers for the different departments within the business. Their own IT team is generally responsible for the upkeep, like ensuring the ink and toner are stocked up, software is working and printer hardware is maintained. IT managers and decision makers do their best to match the printer fleet to business requirements, while providing scanning and document management capabilities to minimise paperwork and drive costs down.

Managed print services (MPS) takes a different approach, however, delivering printing, scanning and copying capabilities not through a set of products, but as a complete service. The deployment and management of all the hardware is outsourced to a single company, the MPS provider, who also handles consumables and maintenance, plus a print and document strategy, advice and support.

It is about more than just overseeing printers, and can include photocopiers, fax machines and anything else that generates paper. An MPS contract also normally includes managing all in-house printing and data capture devices.
If you offer managed print services, here are just some of the benefits your services can bring to other businesses.

Continue reading

Posted in Cyber/Intelligence Security, Enterprise Solutions, Software Development, Technology Expertise, Uncategorized, Web Services | Leave a comment

Large businesses ‘overlook’ supplier cybersecurity risks

IT professionals question due diligence process when on boarding new suppliers

Large businesses in the UK may be overlooking vulnerabilities in their supply chain when devising their cybersecurity strategies, new research suggests.

Despite being confident in their own organisations’ protections, IT security professionals are concerned that the due diligence security audits performed when taking on suppliers are insufficient, with only 35% of those questioned considering these audits to be ‘very comprehensive’.

Moreover, almost one in 10 of the 750 respondents told Citrix that these checks amount to simply asking a few questions during the initial pitch, with a fifth, 20%, confirming they do not communicate with suppliers when testing their cybersecurity recovery process.

“Recent cyber-attacks demonstrate that the supply chain can be the weakest link for a significant number of organisations,” said Citrix’s chief security architect, Chris Mayers.

“For example, the ‘NotPetya’ campaign began with an extremely effective supply chain attack, which had disastrous consequences for Ukraine’s national bank, airport and government department – proceeding to infect machines in a staggering 64 countries.

Continue reading

Posted in Cyber/Intelligence Security, Enterprise Solutions, Software Development, Technology Expertise, Uncategorized, Web Services | Leave a comment

#BizTrends2018: The Platform Economy

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is ushering in technologies that can enable us, the South African digital industry, to change the course of history.

The world over, fake news and brand safety is under the spotlight and it’s no different here in South Africa. The IAB has kickstarted a series of round tables for our members to discuss the challenges and agree on opportunities to address this rising problem with several collaborative initiatives in the pipeline.

These include verification seals for:

  • Consumers to be assured that their news source has been verified as credible.
  • Brands to rest assured that their online marketing messages are being delivered in those brand safe environments.

I believe both consumers and advertisers will push the industry to own our truth.

Private Market Places

As premium display advertising continues to decrease we will continue to see a rise in Private Market Places (PMPs), where private, invitation-only digital advertising deals are bought and sold programmatically over a curated list of premium websites. Programmatic campaigns will run transparently, efficiently and cost effectively across brand safe environments.

Continue reading

Posted in Cyber/Intelligence Security, Enterprise Solutions, Software Development, Technology Expertise, Uncategorized, Web Services | Leave a comment