Bryley Basics: How to determine what Google knows about you

Gavin Livingstone and Anna Darlagiannis, Bryley Systems Inc.

If you ever wondered why those pop-ups are becoming more targeted (and more invasive), you might be aware that your profile information (name, email address, location, etc.) and web-surfing habits are being shared with others.

It is an unwritten agreement:  Google helps you search the Internet and gives you handy applications (Gmail) and websites (YouTube), but it shares your information with others (i.e.: advertisers).  And, it collects and retains everything!

There are two main sites used to review what Google knows about you:

  • Web and App Activity – Details that you provide when you sign-up for a Google-owned web-site or application.
  • Ads Settings – Data that Google derives from your web-usage behavior.

The former is typically required, but voluntary (as in you can choose to not visit the website or not deploy the application); the latter is always collected and analyzed.

After logging in to Google, I discovered my Web and App Activity data included:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Gender
  • Age

From Ad Settings, it was pretty clear that Google stores years of information on every site visited, with implications that are Big Brotherish.  (I wanted to pull out my aluminum-foil cap and relocate to a cardboard box in the forest, but cooler heads prevailed.)  I found out that I had these interests (which were previously unknown to me):

  • Hair Care – My hair is mostly intact, but graying with age.
  • Bicycles and Accessories – Too old for that; probably get hurt.
  • Hygiene and Toiletries – Isn’t everyone at least a little interested in hygiene?

Basically, you can access and delete this data, but it takes some effort and you will endure constant nagging from Google when doing so.


Please visit Julie Bort’s excellent article (5/6/2016) from TechInsider: How to find out everything Google knows about you.

Why no-one wants to pay for IT support

Gavin Livingstone, Bryley Systems Inc.

I’d be rich if I had a $5 dollar bill (inflation) every time I heard:

  • “My son/daughter/niece/nephew (pick one) who is only 2/4/6/8 (pick one) years old was able to solve my computer problem; why do I need you?”
  • Lisa, a senior VP in our marketing department, handles our IT.”
  • “I’m moving to the Cloud, so I won’t need IT support.”
  • “I looked up the answer on Google; it was easy to fix.”

Sure, anyone with technical interest and aptitude can address IT-support issues, particularly those at the lower, end-user level (comprised of printers, computers, and mobile devices).  Many organizations have that one Lisa/Joe/Patty who helps with IT-support issues (in addition to working their full-time job) or is the dedicated IT resource within the organization; they feel it is cost-effective to have an internal IT person or an IT department, often citing the need for a warm body onsite who can respond instantly, particularly when the President can’t sync her iPhone.

However, IT is a complex field with many moving parts; it is difficult to be proficient, let alone expert, in all areas.  For example:

  • Lisa designed the computer network to be reliable, secure, and robust, but is overqualified (and not cost-effective) helping someone print a document.
  • Joe can change toners, but does not know what to do when the Internet is down; especially troublesome when your primary application is Cloud-based.
  • Patty configures Windows desktop computers and iPhones for employees, but cannot verify that the firewall is doing its job.

Basically, IT is a multi-facet discipline; successful IT support personnel have:

  • An understanding of the components (desktop computers, mobile devices, servers, firewalls, routers, Cloud, etc.) and their interdependencies.
  • A step-by-step troubleshooting mentality that works well under pressure.
  • A willingness to stay current with constantly changing and emerging topics.

IT is an expense, but also an enabler; it is usually fundamental to an organization’s success, often representing an opportunity to get ahead of a less-savvy competitor.  Given the breadth of technology options and the potential to develop new business or reduce costs, more organizations trust (and outsource) their critical IT functions to a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) or a Total IT Services Provider (TSP).

Truly effective MSP/TSP companies are dedicated to remaining IT savvy while focused on the business requirements and concerns of their clients.  These companies share similar characteristics:

  • A broad, experienced service team with varying levels of competence:
    • Technician (Level-1) – End-user oriented and experienced in the devices common to end-users: Mobile devices, PCs, MACs, printers, scanners, and the like.  They should work well with others, be experienced in end-user operating systems (Microsoft Windows, Google Android, MAC iOS), and have excellent troubleshooting skills.
    • Engineer (Level-2) – Network-device oriented and experienced in Cloud, servers, virtualization, Ethernet switches, firewalls, routers, Wireless Access Points, and other network devices. They must be good troubleshooters and understand network-level IT components.
    • Consultant (Level-3) – Implementers of Cloud-based solutions and local and wide-area networks. Social skills are expected; business skills are a must.
    • Chief Technical Officers (God-level) – Architects of Cloud-based/ hybrid-Cloud solutions and wide area networks. They must understand the technical functionality of all of the moving parts, while keeping the business needs and consequences in clear focus.
  • A proven, capable management team that can focus technicians, engineers, and consultants on the tasks at hand while preparing them, skill-wise, for an ever-changing world.
  • A defined set of business-oriented processes designed to manage, optimize, and secure (coincidently, Manage ● Optimize ● Secure is our tagline) their client’s network environments. These processes are not static, but tend to be ever-evolving and striving toward proactive automation and perfection.

In sum:

  • IT is a complex, changing discipline of multiple levels,
  • IT can enable new opportunities or reduce costs,
  • IT can make or break an organization, and
  • MSPs/TSPs can maximize your IT potential!