the educational technology journal

Vol 22|No 2|November 2012
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The Cosmo Hotel offers a great space for hands-on seminars like the one I am doing on November 26.

Discovery Learning
and Lateral Thinking

Just say no!
What does Google know (and sell)?

By Jamie McKenzie, ©2012, all rights reserved.
About author

Many people, including students and teachers, use Google for searching without realizing how Google uses the tracks they leave behind to make money from advertisers.

Some people might not care that Google is doing this, and that is fine as long as they have some awareness of what it means to surrender.

Not long ago I was browsing the New York Times online, and I noticed that every time I opened their site, there was a big ad pushing me to book a room in a hotel in Hong Kong where I am offering a seminar in November.

Day after day the Cosmo Hotel ad appeared on the New York Times site, so after a while I wondered why the New York Times wanted me to book a room there.

I had already booked a room in this hotel, but a few weeks earlier I had searched for their Web site on Google.

When I looked more closely, there was a line of print like the one on the left. "Ads by Google" On October 30, they are pushing estate planning on me, guessing by my age that I am thinking of who will inherit my vast wealth? Fat chance!

The important thing to notice was the small question "what's this?." If you click on this question it takes you to a page explaining the adds and offering links to learn more (shown on the left).

"For more information about Google's privacy policy, including how to opt out, go to ww.google.com/ads/preferences"

The Google page is clear and helpful. Opting out is quite easy, and for those who like the ads, you can stay opted in, set preferences and enter demographics.

In a related article, "Escaping the Filter Bubble," published in September, 2011, FNO explored the pros and cons of Google learning our points of view and serving up search results tailored to those positions. This service is both convenient and disturbing, as we may end up impoverished rather than enlightened. Fortunately, there are alternative search engines that will respect your privacy. On need only search on Google for "alternatives to Google." There are quite a few lists such as http://www.howtogeek.com/113513/5-alternative-search-engines-that-respect-your-privacy/. These will point you to sites such as DuckDuckGo


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