How Much Google Really Knows About You


Photo Credit: Screen capture

Update: Google has just consolidated a lot of these features into the new My Account area. It’s got a better user interface and lets you view and erase your history as well as change your security settings.

Google keeps tabs on a lot of data about you. How and when you surf, the search terms you use, the pages you visit (if you visit them while logged into your Google Account from a Chrome browser, an Android device, or by clicking on them in Google.) Google also makes demographic assumptions based on analysis of that data.

You could avoid the problem entirely by searching in “incognito” mode. It’s a good option if you know you’re going to surf something (ahem) objectionable. But chances are that you’ve already been searching along and giving Google plenty of data to mine. Some of it may be more helpful than others.

Don’t panic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is a certain Big Brother-ish notion to all this stuff Google “knows” about you, but most of it is pretty ordinary, right? The Internet is powered by advertising. Wouldn’t you rather have ads that are relevant and might save you money on something you actually would buy? When you’re searching for something, wouldn’t you rather Google remember the sorts of things you usually click on in order to offer you results that are more relevant?

You can view what Google knows and erase only the things that you don’t want Google to consider when serving up your ads. Here’s an example. What if someone mentioned a Justin Bieber song and you Google it.

Hey, you don’t even like Justin Beiber, but now the banner ads in half your favorite websites are showing nothing but Justin Bieber. Erase it!

First step: log into your Google account and go to history.google.com 

You should see something pretty similar to the screen capture I made of my history. No Justin Bieber here, but I did search for demotivational posters. Maybe I want to delete those.

 

Photo Credit: Screen capture

Once you review your Google history, you can remove anything you don’t want to sit around in your Google history causing embarrassing ads or new and exciting discoveries for your children to accidentally find in your search history.

Just check the box to the left of the item and then click on the remove button.

You could do the same thing by clearing your browser history and cookies, but that only works on the computer you’re using.

Clearing it from your Google history works for searches from any computer where you were logged into your Google account.

But wait, there’s more. You can go beyond just deleting your history. You can actually download it, too.

 

Photo Credit: Screen capture

 If you’d like, you can download your Google history. Click on the settings icon and then click download. You’ll get a gigantic warning.

Download a copy of your data

Please read this carefully, it’s not the usual yada yada.

Create an archive of your search history data. This archive will only be accessible to you. We will email you when the archive is ready to download from Google Drive. Learn more

Important information about your Google data archives

  • Do not download your archive on public computers and ensure your archive is always under your control; your archive contains sensitive data.
  • Protect your account and sensitive data with 2-Step Verification; helping keep bad guys out, even if they have your password.
  • If you have decided to take your data elsewhere, please research the data export policies of your destination. Otherwise, if you ever want to leave the service, you may have to leave your data behind.

Why such the big warning? Well, Google can make inferences about your gender, age, and shopping preferences, and so can anyone else with that data. If you’ve ever visited an embarrassing website or Googled something that could potentially be used against you, you may want to think carefully about how you store this data.

A Good Day For America … Cap


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The Supreme Court Upheld The Affordable Care Act And The Fair Housing Act

It is a good day in America. This morning, in a ringing endorsement of the Affordable Care Act and the rule of law, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 in King v. Burwell to uphold health care subsidies. The Court did not just uphold subsidies, it strongly defended the law, sending a message that serious legal threats to the case are over. Millions of people can rest easy, knowing they will still have access to quality, affordable health insurance.

Chief Justice Roberts penned the opinion, and in it he granted a sweeping victory for supporters of the law and a crushing blow to its conservative opponents. The opinion reads: “In a democracy, the power to make the law rests with those chosen by the people. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

What’s most noteworthy about the opinion is how it was written. The Court did not employ the Chevron doctrine, which calls for the justices to defer to the relevant agency if a statute is ambiguous. Instead, the Court resolved the ambiguity of the law itself ruling that the Chevron deference does not apply to questions of “deep economic and political significance.” Because the Court did not employ the Chevron doctrine, the next presidential administration will not be able to reinterpret the law to strip away tax subsidies. In other words, if Congressional Republicans want to gut the Affordable Care Act, they are going to have to do it themselves, without the help of the Court. That’s a big deal.

Justice Scalia wrote the dissent, expressing his distaste for the Affordable Care Act colorfully. With the majority opinion upholding the law, “words no longer have meaning,” wrote Scalia. “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”

Justice Scalia, you can call it whatever you want. We will call it health care in America.

Because the Supreme Court did the right thing, the 16.4 million people that have gained insurance under the ACA can rest easy. The 8.7 million enrollees receiving tax credits do not have to worry about their insurance being made unaffordable. The 129 million people with pre-existing conditions no longer have to worry about losing coverage or facing significant premium increases. Women will not be discriminated against just for being women, and growth of health care costs can continue to slow.

While most of today’s attention has been on King v. Burwell, the Court ruled on another significant case this morning that should not be overlooked. In a surprising 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that housing policies could be deemed discriminatory based on “disparate impact.” In other words, discrimination can be proven by showing that the impact of a housing policy is discriminatory even if the discrimination was not intended. Even unintentional housing discrimination denies families access to the social, economic, and health benefits that come along with appropriate housing opportunities. And today, the Court recognized decades of long-standing precendent in ensuring the survival of an important tool to combat discrimination. For more details about this case, read this explanation from ThinkProgress.

BOTTOM LINE: After much wasted time and energy, the Supreme Court has rejected the second partisan attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act and helped solidify the future of health care in America. And with the fair housing ruling, the Court saved an important statute and acknowledged the ongoing fight to end discrimination. While both of these landmark decisions were fantastic, we should also remember something else: a more reasonable court may not have accepted them in the first place.

 

A power plant for the Internet: our newest data center in Alabama


 

Every time you check your Gmail, search on Google for a nearby restaurant, or watch a YouTube video, a serverwhirs to life in one of our data centers. Data centers are the engines of the Internet, bringing the power of the web to millions of people around the world. And as millions more people come online, our data centers are growing, too.We’ve recently expanded our data centers in Iowa, Georgia, Singapore and Belgium. And today we’re announcing a new data center in Alabama—our 14th site globally.This time, we’re doing something we’ve never done before: we’ll be building on the grounds of the Widows Creek coal power plant in Jackson County, which has been scheduled for shutdown. Data centers need a lot of infrastructure to run 24/7, and there’s a lot of potential in redeveloping large industrial sites like former coal power plants. Decades of investment shouldn’t go to waste just because a site has closed; we can repurpose existing electric and other infrastructure to make sure our data centers are reliably serving our users around the world.

At Widows Creek, we can use the plants’ many electric transmission lines to bring in lots of renewable energy to power our new data center. Thanks to an arrangement with Tennessee Valley Authority, our electric utility, we’ll be able to scout new renewable energy projects and work with TVA to bring the power onto their electrical grid. Ultimately, this contributes to our goal of being powered by 100% renewable energy.

In 2010, we were one of the first companies outside of the utility industry to buy large amounts of renewable energy. Since then, we’ve become the largest corporate renewable energy purchaser in the world (in fact we’ve bought the equivalent of over 1.5 percent of the installed wind power capacity in the U.S.). We’re glad to see this trend is catching on among other companies.

Of course, the cleanest energy is the energy you don’t use. Our Alabama data center will incorporate our state-of-the-art energy efficiency technologies. We’ve built our own super-efficient servers, invented more efficient ways to cool our data centers, and even used advanced machine learning to squeeze more out of every watt of power we consume. Compared to five years ago, we now get 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy.

Since the 1960s, Widows Creek has generated power for the region—now the site will be used to power Internet services and bring information to people around the world. We expect to begin construction early next year and look forward to bringing a Google data center to Alabama.

Posted by Patrick Gammons, Senior Manager, Data Center Energy and Location Strategy

Time To Fix Overtime … Cap


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The President Releases A New Draft Overtime Rule

You know the story: Americans are working longer but wages aren’t keeping up. Now, thanks to President Obama’s new overtime rule, that is about to change for nearly 5 million workers. Currently, the only salaried workers guaranteed the right to overtime pay are those earning less than $23,660 per year. The administration’s new rule more than doubles that—raising the salary threshold to $50,440. That means that millions of hardworking middle-class Americans are going to get fairly compensated for their work. And that in turn will help the whole economy.

Americans are overdue for an overtime update. In 1975, more than 60 percent of full-time salaried workers earned time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours per week. Today, just 8 percent do. The rule was put in place to protect the middle class, but the threshold has fallen so much that current overtime law no longer covers middle class workers.

The new rule will raise the salary threshold to cover all full-time workers earning $970 a week–or $50,440 a year–or less and prevent future erosion of overtime by automatically updating the salary threshold based on either inflation or wage growth over time. Under the new rule, workers and employers will also enjoy clarity about who should be earning overtime. CAP Action, along with the Economic Policy Institute, has created a website with more information about what the new rule will do and how you can help. On it, you can check out this handy calculator to see how the new rule could benefit you.

Strengthening worker protections like overtime pay will help ensure that workers are fairly compensated for their hard work and will put extra money in the pocket of millions of middle-class workers. But this fix won’t happen on its own–-already, special interest groups are working against the law. Now that the draft rule has been released there is an important comment period before the rule will become final and the Department Of Labor needs to hear your voice. Visit FixOvertime.org and submit a comment letter directly to Secretary Tom Perez explaining how the rule could help you.

BOTTOM LINE: Ensuring that a hard day’s work earns a fair day’s pay is good for everyone. Strengthening overtime protections is one of several policies that could put more money in the pockets of hard-working, middle class families, helping create an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. And more money in the pocket of workers means more money spent at local businesses, helping the whole economy

My doctor’s negligence nearly killed me


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A doctor’s negligence nearly killed me and left me $175,000 in debt. In most other states her malpractice insurance would have covered any costs but in Florida doctors aren’t required to carry it, putting patients lives and livelihoods at risk.

On January 11, 2013, I had surgery at the Office of Dr. Amaryllis Pascual. During the next 5 days, I began to feel ill, to the point that I thought I was going to die. When I finally checked into an emergency room, a CT scan revealed that Dr. Pascual had perforated my intestines and colon. It took two operations to save my life. Due to Dr. Pascual’s negligence I spent an extra 21 days in the hospital. The surgeons told me that if I had not gone to the ER, I would have died at home that evening.

My doctor — who forewent traditional malpractice insurance — was legally required to “self insure” herself by putting up collateral  assets of at least $100,000. But trickily she has avoided all obligations by filing for bankruptcy. Now, my insurance company refuses to cover my hospital stay and because Dr. Pascual has filed bankruptcy I have nowhere to turn and am left swimming in a sea of debt.

I am asking the state of Florida to require doctors to retain no less than $250,000 of malpractice insurance. Florida’s patients deserve protection from medical negligence and irresponsible physicians. Please join me.

I have fought very hard for the last two years to stay alive but Dr. Pascual’s unethical and deceitful practices just make me want to give up. I once had a nearly perfect credit score and now I may have to file for bankruptcy myself to protect myself from creditors whose money I relied on pay my hospital bills.

We will all have to trust a doctor at some point. Hopefully that medical professional will be responsible and have our best interest in mind when they treat us. But Florida makes it easy for those doctors who cut corners to get away with an astonishing amount of negligence with little or no consequences. This isn’t right.

Please join me in telling the State of Florida to require doctors to carry malpractice insurance. When you go under the knife, the last thing you should worry about is your pocketbook.