Earlier this year in January, Google publicly toyed with making some changes to its Extension WebRequest API that would effectively kill off reputable ad-blockers. This announcement was met with much sound and fury and Google appeared to fold after a few weeks of controversy and a bit of research on the part of the community. However all of this ultimately signified nothing as Google announced plans to move forward with nearly the exact same plan this week.
What changed? Well now Google plans to allow paying "enterprises" to retain access to the deprecated WebRequest APIs that ad blocker extensions in Chrome use. There is some level of debate over what that actually means in practice but what we all seem to agree on is that it means that out of the box, the handful of effective ad-blocking extensions for Chrome like uBlock Origin will cease to function. Users will only be left with half-ass ad blockers like Adblock Plus which allows companies to pay to have their ads displayed and is directly aligned with Google.
Once this change is unleashed, the developers of the reputable extensions are already planning on abandoning Chrome as a target platform. This effectively seals the fate of Chrome users. Much like the protagonist in the film Clockwork Orange, the eyes of Chrome users will be forced to remain open as they ingest the wealth of material fed to them by their handlers, or as we refer to them in this case, Google. The material of course is advertising trash.
Why is Google doing this? Google is doing this because they clearly believe that they aren't making enough money off of their users. Google is an advertising company. Every action they take is an effort to facilitate that. Google doesn't care about making the world a better place. Google only cares about making money and making as much of it as possible. To be fair, on the surface this isn't different from any other corporation. What makes the situation with Google so concerning is the fact that Google has achieved a de-facto status with many tools and services (Chrome, Search, GMail, Android). In these areas Google has clearly begun to brainstorm methods to more effectively monetize their de-facto status.
We've known for years that every single email which passes through a GMail account is scanned, analyzed and tracked. But we only recently found out that Google has codified some of the results into actual profile pages that users can visit. For example, GMail tracks your purchasing history and makes it available to you. It does this by scanning all of your receipt emails that you receive. Yet less than two years ago, Google claimed it was going to stop scanning GMail messages. This discovery proves that they were lying as this functionality wouldn't be able to work if emails weren't being scanned.
This means that Google is now a proven liar. A proven liar that relies upon targeted advertising to make the vast bulk of it's money. Every single free service and application that they offer is intended to be a means to this end. We as a society must stop worshiping at the altar of this sickness. I have been very open about my distaste for Google in the past and I have spoken many times about my quest to divest myself fully of Google. Personally the only proprietary Google product and/or service that I still use is YouTube. Beyond that I have successfully stopped feeding their bot net in every other way imaginable. It has not been easy, but things that are worth doing are rarely easy.
So what can you do to reclaim your independence, your pride and your self respect back from Google? Here are three changes that you can make today if you are truly so-inclined:
Dump Google Chrome and download a more reputable browser like Firefox right away. Recent versions of Firefox are nearly as fast as Chrome and while Mozilla doesn't have a flawless track record when it comes to privacy, they are at least trying. It probably helps that they don't have the same built-in conflict of interest that Google does.
Dump Android immediately. Android is a huge source of data for Google. Android with Google Play Services (which is what every Android phone is running out of the box) is constantly monitoring your activities and relaying information back to Google. While I am personally using Android without Google Play Services, the reality is that I can't recommend that as an option to the general public. It's too much of a pain in the ass to get started with.
That leaves me in a shitty position as I'm forced to recommend you switch to something that I don't personally use. Please go out and buy an iOS device. While Apple's laptops are quite shitty nowadays, their phones are still pretty damn good. If you don't want to mortgage your kids future to be able to afford one, buy an older model or a used one. At the end of the day, Apple's latest sustained campaign appealing to privacy advocates shows they are least care enough to say the right things.
Stop using GMail as soon as possible. GMail is one of the worst most privacy invasive services available on the web. It's also the most popular email service in the world. What's really ironic about this is that everybody I know seems to hate its UI, but they use it anyway. It really doesn't much matter what service you switch to just so long as its not free. Free services are monetized by harvesting data about you. There are no exceptions to this rule. It costs money to operate and keep those services online. The people running them are making money somehow. It's up to you as a responsible consumer to take this into account and act accordingly.
Some of you have no doubt scrolled down to the end to read the conclusion as you have already concluded that I'm insane. This is fine. If it's now considered insane to have self-respect and value your privacy and act accordingly, I'll gladly wear your slur as a badge of honor. Regardless of how you made it here, the real and only take away here is that your privacy is valuable and it is worth fighting for. If you aren't willing to fight for it, why should anybody else?