Step-by-Step: How to view and control the data Google is gathering about you.

As an Android user since the dawn of smart phones I have always supported Google in the culture wars. This love affair is near it’s end. For the first time since my attempt at carrying an iPhone 6 several years ago I will return to the Appleverse an see if I can scratch-n-sniff my way around an iPhone 12. My devotion to Google ends not because of Apple’s superior hardware (the One Plus 9 may be a better phone than the iPhone 12) but due to Google becoming a horribly controlling and insecure companion, watching and recording my every move with Android devices collecting data at rates 20 times that of Apple units.

But I’ve also learned that changing to an iPhone will only mitigate a slight portion of the information Google is harnessing about me. Maps isn’t the only app tracking my location, Chrome isn’t the only app recording my search history. Turning off “location history” does nothing to stop the collection of location data. Per Google it takes settings in Data and Personalization to really stop apps from tracking your location and collecting data from your searches. Once logged into your Google account through any browser go to: to take back control of the data Google has on you.

  1. Data and Personalization
  2. Activity Controls
  3. Web and App Activity
  4. Location History
  5. YouTube History
  6. Ad Personalization

Without further delay, here are the settings to change and what app services they’ll affect. From your Google account select Data and Personalization.

Under Data and Personalization look for Activity Controls and select Manage your activity controls at the bottom.

Find Manage your activity controls.

You’ll be presented categories of apps and services Google is using to gather data, ranging from your “Web & App Activity” to YouTube and Ad Personalization. Obviously what apps and services you allow Google to collect data from is a personal decision. Here’s how to cut off each and a description of what effect it will have on related apps and services.

First review your Web & App Activity settings. Notice that Google does NOT automatically save audio recordings saved to your devices by default. That’s a win. But they do Collect every shred of data and input into almost every other app or service accessed through Android, Chrome and some other Chromium based browsers.

Pausing Web & App Activity produces a warning detailing what may happen to some personalization in search and location services. You will be notified the “Setting is off” and given an option to “Delete old activity” from your web and app history. Pausing Web & App History is probably the first setting you should change if you’re serious about stopping what Google’s collecting.

Next up, Location History. For a long time people thought Pausing Location History was the thing to do to stop Google from tracking everyday travel to mundane destinations. Nope, for a while it’s been pausing Web & App Activity that really puts the brakes on Google’s data vacuum.

Note: Pausing Location History does not stop Maps from working. It does not stop Find My Device or other Google location services from working either. What you will notice is things like recommended addresses and previous addresses you’ve visited not automatically popping up when you start typing a new destination. Pausing Location History only stops Google from recording the locations you’ve visited, it does not stop apps from tracking location. That’s what Web & App Activity is for.

Your YouTube History is also collected by Google without permission or apology. Cut it off if you don’t want them knowing tracking how many Dr. Pimple Popper videos you’ve watched. I personally don’t fault Google for collecting YouTube history though. We need a recorded history of the pointless insanity warping the minds of future generations. Google’s probably bored as hell with my own YouTube history of cop chases and instructional videos about dishwashers and lawnmower blades. Bored but they’ll sell my contact details to Maytag and John Deere anyway. Just cut it all off unless it is genuinely important to you.

I have to admit Ad personalization was the Activity Controls category that shocked me the most. Click on Go to Ad Settings to really get an idea of the profile Google’s built on you.

In the Ad Settings dialog you will see “How your ads are personalized” using what Google refers to as “factors”. Here you are offered the opportunity to “choose any factor to learn more or update your preferences”. So is Google asking me to groom this data for them so ads can be targeted more effectively? Of all categories Ad personalization will make you feel you’ve been stalked ad-nauseum. The moment you realize Google knows more about you than your spouse or mother. Now for a real kicker, click the Advanced drop down arrow.

How about that? No opt in for Google to share the ad profile they’ve created with their “partners”. Nope. It’s the default. Uncheck this immediately. No telling how many countries Google’s already sold my profile to under the guise of ad targeting.

Once excluded you will be notified that Google will not provide your data for ads to be targeted at you on any non-Google websites.

It’s also important to note that within each category of Activity Controls Google allows you to Auto Delete any of the information they collect 3 months, 18 months or 36 months or you can auto delete any time using the Manage activity link for each category.

Truth is I honestly don’t know how much control over such data Apple provides compared to these Activity controls provided by Google but I do know this: Apple is selling devices for revenue and profit, Google sells your data to advertisers for revenue and profit. Take that to heart when making a decision about which company really has your privacy and security in mind. And make sure to review your Activity Controls in your Google account regardless of which platform you use any Google services on.

Chromebooks need work.

I decided to give it a try. I’m typing this on a 13″ HP, Core i5 with 16GB of RAM running Chrome OS v.87. Google’s got some explaining to do. Why does every Chromebook made still have trouble with stable wireless connectivity? Has Google gotten past blaming customers and their networks? And under these circumstances why in the hell did they decide to remove the option to “Keep Wifi on During Sleep” a few versions ago?

Will Google just ultimately admit defeat in the wireless driver battle and blame Linux like other distros? In their defense Linux has lacked in keeping up with wireless compatibility and drivers, OEM preference in development historically being given to Windows and OSx. Dell, HP and Lenovo are making progress with Linux support for a limited number of models but again, one big reason for the official support limitation is… wireless network adapter compatibility.

I can also add printer compatibility, obvious application compatibility and a few other limitations to the reasons a Chromebook is not suitable for my day-to-day productivity requirements. Until they have more stable network connectivity I’d say they’re barely suited for the Zoom meetings being hosted for children across the country right now. But they’re cheap and better than nothing.

When configuring a Google Nest for a Ruud or Rheem heat pump…

When configuring a Google Nest for a Ruud or Rheem heat pump make sure to select the B reverse valve wiring option, not the default O which is also selected if you choose “I don’t know” during the initial Nest Equipment setup procedure. The Equipment options, including the heat pump configuration, can be found under Settings on the main Nest menu. Ruud and Rheem are the only brands who energize the reverse valve for heating, not cooling, the opposite of all other manufactures. “The guys at Century Supply (Rheem/Ruud dealer) say they are the only one’s who got it right.” Debatable and probably dependent on where you live. Is going without heat or cold air more important to you if the reverse valve failed?

Millennial Boomer Divide

Been watching this article play out in real life for about a decade. Older generations out for more and more financial gain to the detriment of youth will result in a third world America faster than any hyped derivative of a deadly cold ever will. Just last week I heard my third, very financially stable “Boomer” tell me they thought of retiring this year but “didn’t know what they would do”. How about get the hell out of the workforce so some recent college grads can get some real work experience!? Very few generations prior to boomers had “all about me” on free flow. Just ask any one of them how they vote, the answer always has something to do with thier money. This is the generational divide and younger voters being pushed out if the economy will vote against Boomer money. In about a month you’re going to see it happen. This election cycle is about more social issues than financial, to the detriment of Republicans. Unless we want to talk about profits and returns to shareholders that are causing major social issues, like healthcare.

In trying to shut down critial social media Donald Trump is officially out of control.

Trump’s just mad he doesn’t get to be one of the Dictators he idolizes. He craves the mafia power of Putin and the media control of Kim Jong Fat Man, whatever his name is. Don’t be surprised when he doesn’t accept election results in November so Congress better prepare for that fight now, it will fall to the SCOTUS. His militant followers will may surround the White House to prevent enforceable removal, the national guard could become involved before it ends. Many of those people are looking for a fight, some still itching for a race war and a chance to use their “hunting rifles” that are not “assault weapons” in their “well regulated militias”. Often this is how dictatorships are born but ultimately it won’t work here. As events unfold remember this isn’t prediction, it’s logical conclusion.

I don’t understand Proshare’s SCC.

Why would Proshare’s Consumer Services short (SCC) be lower now than it was in late 2018? Was there more concern over the consumer driven economy over tariffs than there is over every hotel, bar and restaurant in the country being closed right now? When something like this doesn’t make sense I typically jump on it. With a 2018 high near $30 seems $14 to short consumer services in the coming months almost seems like no brains are required. Anyone who thinks the consumer economy is climbing out of Corona fear any time soon has lost touch. So many “happy day” investors looking for a place to park and gain in a perpetual bullshit market. Investing is supposed to be a risk and shorting mitigates gambling in a rigged market deigned only for Good Times.

Banking on the Quarantine

Here are a few tech companies doing very well during quarantine because of their services to support remote workers:

1. Citrix Systems, owners of, GoToMeeting, XenApp and other application services supporting remote workers and collaboration. Almost all hospitals publish medical applications via Citrix XenApp as well.
2. Microsoft. Thanks to Sharepoint, Office 365 (now “Microsoft 365”, and most importantly Skype.
3. The most prominent corporate collaboration tool in use by most enterprises.
4. Zoom Video Conferencing. If you can log in. Their servers were slammed on Monday and Tuesday but they have increased back end resources dramatically over the last 48 hours, thanks to a dump truck load of cash put in their driveway this week.
5. Cisco Systems. They probably sold more AnyConnect remote access VPN licenses in the past 2 weeks than they sold in the past two years. Hoping I don’t have to buy more!

There are a lot of non-tech companies profiting from this too. 3M, Dupont, very smart of GM and Ford to start making ventilators since their auto production lines are shuttered. It’s not 100% doom and gloom but I you’ve got to feel for those who made a decision to start their own business within the last couple of years. Then there are the gig workers and the bars and restaurants they rely on = 60 days or less until desperation and panic mode.

One big lesson US small business operators should learn from this situation: A couple thousand isn’t enough, start thinking in terms of tens and even hundreds of thousands in reserve before hiring full time employees. Any company that can’t pad one month of business downturn has no business hiring at all.

COVID-19 Panic Check

Time for another panic check. The media is producing comparison charts to make COVID-19 look worse than other historic outbreaks. They NEVER include N1H1 which started right here in the USA.

“The CDC estimated that from April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, there were 60.8 million H1N1 cases, with 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths in the U.S. alone. They also estimate that worldwide, 151,700 to 575,400 people died from (H1N1)pdm09 during the first year. Unusually, about 80% of the deaths were in people younger than 65 years of age”.
“Although it is not unusual in pandemics, over time, the fatality rate of COVID-19 has steadily decreased. For example, according to the China CDC study, in patients whose symptoms began between January 1, 2020 and January 10, 2020, the fatality rate was an astonishing 15.6%. But in the patients who didn’t report illness until February 1 to February 11, in China, it was 0.8%”.

“It’s worth noting that even after China got the death rate down to 0.7%, or even 0.4%, that’s still about four to seven times greater than the death rate for seasonal flu. (The rate for the flu is about 0.1%—or 1 in 1,000 patients.)”
It’s even lower than .4% in the US right now. Young, healthy people are not gonna die despite the number of empty cots in gyms published by the media. And toilet paper still isn’t going to save anyone with preexisting conditions indicating they could. Learn lessons from old people in Italy who run around kissing each other on the face while living 5-6 deep per apartment. Yeah, don’t do that.

Checkpoint SmartConsole just Sucks. 80.10 80.20

I’ve been deploying and managing corporate firewalls for over 27 years. Over the past two years this included an assortment of Cisco ASA (Firepower), Sophos and Checkpoint appliances. I can say without hesitation that Checkpoint SmartConsole is the absolute worst firewall management interface I’ve ever experienced. And Checkpoint wants a ransom to expand the number of appliances it can manage and deploy policies on.

I was told by our local NC Checkpoint rep that anyone who questions Checkpoint’s pricing will be shut down by their top brass in Israel because they’re ultra arrogant with regards to their perceived value. Apparently anyone who questions their pricing is just stupid and unqualified to judge. I’m qualified. Checkpoint SmartConsole is shit. Complete shit.

The catch is that I like the smaller Checkpoint, locally managed units and their interfaces are not too bad. The Checkpoint 3200 sold to us by RMSource in Raleigh, NC wasn’t up to the job. They didn’t bother to mention the need for Checkpoint’s “Management Console” licensing and put the management directly on the 3200. Later I’m told by Checkpoint that in order to deploy the licensed “Management Console” to push policy to multiple devices local management would have to be removed from the 3200 and it would have to be reconfigured or re-imaged from a backup. Never mind they were told this is our 24-7 core production firewall and they only get one shot at this. Vendor fail. They were fired. We never bought the Checkpoint Management Console. Not enough units to justify the price.

There are so many problems with “Smart”Console I don’t even know where to start. Let’s begin with the inability to make any changes in any security policy or the unit’s configuration without “Installing” the new policy on the 3200. This disconnects every VPN tunnel, every time. Interrupts active sessions. That’s just ridiculous bullshit. Perhaps this can be avoided with the fully licensed management console running on a VM? I don’t care. I’m not paying for it and any other firewall I’ve ever administered can have local configuration and security policies adjusted on the fly without interrupting any active sessions assuming the configuration of the ports, VPN or settings for any connection have not changed. Even the smaller Checkpoint units can do this. Not so with the 3200 and SmartConsole. It mole whacks every session, every time.

Want to see which specific VPN tunnels are connected and active? You’re not going to easily in SmartConsole which requires a few steps to launch Smartview and then run a Tunnel View… blah, blah…. fuck this. Why can’t I just click “Monitor”, “VPN tunnels” like every other security appliance on earth and see a list of gateway and remote access tunnels and their connection status? Aside from intentional complication, which it seems Chekpoint has mastered, I can’t think of a single reason they can’t make this as simple in Smart Console as it is on their other appliances.

There’s so much more to hate about SmartConsole. It can’t be upgraded in place, previous versions have to be removed before the latest release can be installed. It’s 2020. Fix your shit. The Gaia OS is as bad as it’s name and still a resource hog. What the hell is a Gaia anyway? Never mind, I don’t care. Or how about the fact that I still have updates pending on this damn 3200 that neither the Checkpoint vendor, RMSource, or Checkpoint support could ever get installed without errors? Again, they want to rip it down an start from scratch. What is it these people don’t understand about 24-7 up time meaning NO MAINTENANCE WINDOW for core key components? We don’t have hours to re-image or reconfigure our primary firewall. We will spend thousands to hot-swap replace this ill-advised 3200 before losing even one hour of production orders that flow through the thing. And guess what Checkpoint, we are.