Awais Chaudhry

From SI410
Jump to: navigation, search

Google search Awais Chaudhry

White pages on the first page in Yahoo
When we think of online identity, we think of our social media accounts such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc, but online identity is much more than what I had imagined. Today, I was supposed to write about my online data identity which exists in the infosphere. When I tried to search my first and last name of, most of the search results included a reference to online social media accounts of people with names similar to or the same as “Awais Chaudhry”. However, when I tried to search for my first and last name on Yahoo, I found out that there were white pages under my name. So, I decided to take a look at what they had under my name. I was surprised to see that they had my name and then “related to” a list of people who were actually related to me. This left me thinking about how were they able to determine my relationships with people in real life online.

Third-party cookies

However, some of it started to make sense when I learned about cookies in EECS 485(Web Systems). I learned that whenever you visit a website, there are certain third-party cookies such as from Google or other advertising agencies that collect data about your behavior on those websites. As a result, the first thing I did was to go down to my Google Chrome site settings, and block third-party cookies because I didn’t want advertising agencies selling my information and chasing me on the web pages I follow. However, that still left me unclear on how exactly were they able to relate me to my relatives, maybe through my last name. Then, there was my name listed as 31 years which made me realize that they probably don’t have a concrete source of information for my records. However, in addition, there was the city name through which all of my relatives and I were connected. Then, they also had a phone number and landline number under my profile, but that information was locked under the paid membership of white pages. Therefore, even though some of the data was inaccurate such as age, other information such as my relatives, and the city was very close to being accurate.

Interesting points about Yahoo Search

The interesting point, however, about the searches on two different search engines was that I didn’t find the white pages about myself on until the 5th page or so in the browsing search tabs. However, for, I was able to find the white pages on the first page of browsing search tabs. Another interesting point was that the Yahoo searches were able to link me to a news article with my class fellows and me in it with pictures. So, not only did the search results returned the link to that news article, but my image from that news article was also displayed in the Yahoo Images tab. The fact that my picture showed up with the news was interesting because it was just a local news channel, but it was able to bring up those results. On the other hand, Google Image results didn’t have that picture up in the Google Images which was contradictory to my expectation because I have been using Google Maps, Youtube, Google Assistant, Gmail far more than I have ever used Yahoo. In fact, I currently own a phone that was developed by Google, and as a result, I was surprised by how Yahoo had so much more information about me.

Other results on search engines

Other than the results explained above, most of my search results returned random profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Pinterest, etc. of people who had the name “Awais” or something similar to my last name. So, besides my Facebook page, LinkedIn page, and white pages, it is probably hard to find something about my specific name because it’s a really common name in South Asia and Arab countries. As a result, most of my search results had profiles from those countries.

Data on Facebook

Now, moving onto my social media, I created my first Facebook account around 6 or 7 years ago, and that’s one profile that I like to keep updated from time to time. For instance, I add my job experiences, cities I have lived in so far because I, sometimes, look for jobs/internships through Facebook. Facebook also has the month/day of my birth data, although I believe that I hid the year recently. Also, I had noticed that a lot of information on Facebook was public of me such as my phone number, date of birth. Therefore, I took a privacy check one day and spent a couple of hours trying to hide information that wasn’t necessary for the public.

Google Photos tracking by location

My data in google Photos
Because of Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri which claim log recordings for "better personalization", for the past couple of years, my routine has been to check what's being recorded about my profile on the Internet and then customize the settings. Also, I was amazed one day when Google sent me an email about my timelines in Google Maps, which basically consisted of all of the places I have been so far in this year and pictures I took at those places[1]. It was hard to believe at first that how smoothly Google had used the data from my photos to link me to my current location and built an almost accurate timeline of the whole year. From one point of view, it was relishing to have my memories collected based on my location in Google Photos because I didn’t have to do any hard work. However, from another point of view, it was horrifying because my photos might have been used to train the machine learning algorithms of Google.

Google’s privacy policy

Because I use Google and its services on a daily basis, I decided to look into their privacy policy. The main categories of information collected by Google included “Things you create or provide to us”, “Information we collect as you use our services”, “Your activity”, “Your location information” etc. I had looked at my web activity before, but I had never looked at what type of information can Google collect. For instance, of all of the categories, the one that seemed to be the most undesirable one was the “Things you create or provide to us”. I read further into that category, and they said that “We also collect the content you create, upload, or receive from others when using our services. This includes things like email you write and receive, photos and videos you save, docs and spreadsheets you create, and comments you make on Youtube videos” [2]. After reading these statements from Google, the first thought that came to my mind was that these seemingly “free” services aren’t free after all as you are basically a data generator for Google to train their algorithms and machine learning models to build next-generation tools. This also brings me to my next point that if I, being a youngster, technology-oriented wasn’t aware that Google could basically use everything I read, write, send or share, then how are other people supposed to know about their rights, and responsibilities with regards to the ever-changing modern world.

Final thoughts

My data in google
In conclusion, I believe that even though my representation on the Internet wasn’t 100% accurate with a Google search, probably because I have turned off public visibility for my data, Google still has more than enough data about me that can help to advertise agencies target with straight with the products for the type of person I am. In the physical world, I am just a 20-year-old computer science student, but in the online world, I am described in tags such as “18-24 years old”, “Male”, “Android OS”, “Colleges and Universities”, “Computer Education”, “Detroit”, “Computer Science”, “Honda”, “Internships”, “Mac OS”, “Michigan”, “USA”, “Web Design & Development” and many more. The surprising fact is that all of these are right there on point in terms of what I have or own or use on a daily basis. Also, the other important part is that even though it seems like I am in control of my data, I am not really in control of my data as long as I have to keep using the “services” offered by Google. I believe that to be able to tackle this collective problem of data collection, we need to educate ourselves and others with regards to terms and conditions as awareness is the start to a solution.
  1. “Understand, Find & Edit Your Photos' Locations - Android.” Google Photos Help, Google,
  2. “Privacy Policy – Privacy & Terms.” Google, Google,