4 things clinicians should know about Google

I’m talking about Google. Why? It’s a big part of our lives. Deep Mind is venturing into the medical analytics and diagnostics field and no doubt you and most of your patients have used Google to expand your knowledge and get a snapshot of what’s happening in the world around a particular topic. Google has become such an entity the term “Google it” is now in the dictionary. Like it or not, it’s a big part of your life. Even if you actively try and avoid it, it will affect your life by the actions of others. Here are 4 facts you should know:

Their Chrome browser is data hungry

I love chrome. It remembers all your preferences with your Google login, has a range of Chrome apps, and has a suite of developer tools. Want to inspect HTML elements or javascript code? Chrome has extensions for that. It’s the must have browser for developers. However, if you’re not coding you may be paying a price that’s not worth it. If you look at your running applications when Chrome is running you may notice that Chrome takes up a lot of RAM. In-fact, I have seen it take up to a GB at times. If your computer is a bit old ditching Chrome is a good way to free up some of your memory. So why is taking so much? Google loves your data, it’s basically pulling everything you do and storing it. So what are you to do? I mean Chrome is pretty awesome. Luckily for you, Google didn’t develop Chrome from scratch. Instead, Google got the open source project Chromium [link] and chucked all it’s spyware in the backend whilst adding a few coding extensions, as they are big players are developing stuff in javascript. If you’re not coding and you love Chrome, download and run Chromium, it’s free, and it’s not spying on you 24/7. If you are looking to dip your toe into the waters of developing, then Chrome is a necessary evil. Developing a Chrome extension takes little training/effort to get it off the ground, and has loads powerful functions. Uploading your app to the store is a lot simpler than Apple or Android’s stores, and only requires a one off fee of $5. I used to advocate developing web apps however, a Chrome extension is the new starter project I recommend when people are getting into coding.

 

chrome.png
Chrome extension list just keeps growing

 

 

Chrome extensions have more power than you think

I never realized this until I coded my very first chrome extension. Chrome is like a mini operating system with loads of functions. When you develop a Chrome extension you get access to those functions. Here you can toggle alerts, utilize the clock, alter the user’s history, edit the data that the for the user on any website you wish, override power functions, and much more. This isn’t hacking, Google supports it, they offer a library showing you how to do all this sort of stuff [link]. Initially, I was shocked until I put my Chrome extension onto the store. To their credit, Google is very open. Any changes your app does will be automatically listed on the installation page. I tested this by having a large list of websites where the user’s browser data was altered, including all Facebook pages. On the installation page, it painstakingly listed every website the data was altered on and didn’t resort to just saying “various websites”. They do this so that anyone can develop awesome, powerful apps that you can take advantage of, and Google has been very strong on labeling what each app does. I’m not one for reading user agreements when installing software, with Chrome extensions I make an exception. If you take anything away from this post, please please please, read the details of the chrome extension you’re installing. It’s not that other platforms don’t do this, it’s that Chrome extensions give this power to anyone who has $5, an internet connection, and knows how to code. If you read before you install, you’ll have a great, transparent, powerful experience.

Google does get political

I’ve spoken to people before about this and they tend to just say “yeah yeah” and stay quiet for a few minutes, then continue talking as if nothing was said. I guess it’s because the whole concept is scary. We are very quick to call the Daily Mail bias. It’s because it’s not a big part of your life, you can avoid it if you want. If anything, you can use it as a sudo-status badge and look down on others who do read the Daily Mail. However, Google having a financial interest? That’s something that’s just too big to address. It’s kinda like those middle-class social justice warriors. When the prevailing public opinion, the law, and the media is on their side they are full of swagger about how they “brave” to stand up against racism. No joke, I know people who described themselves as brave because they “spoke out” against Brexit on social media…. Yeah not like the media, universities, and government were on their side. The scary thing is that Google is owned by a parent company Alphabet, and this was the 2nd biggest donor to Clinton’s campaign against Trump [link]. Emails leaked by WikiLeaks showed that Eric Schmidt met with Clinton multiple times to discuss PR strategy [link]. Now I understand why this got brushed under the carpet for most people, I mean Trump isn’t exactly a likable guy. However, removing names, the parent company of Google invested money in politician A’s campaign and met with them in order to help them with PR. Knowledge of this only came to light when emails were leaked and WikiLeaks managed to get hold of it. That’s unnerving.

Google doesn’t actually search the web

When you type in your query into the search engine and click search, Google searches its database, not the web. What set Google apart from other search engines was its ability to search the database, the size of the database, and how frequently it gets updated. There is a whole science that cannot be covered in a post and I’d be lying if I claimed I understood it. However, the key message to take home here is that some people don’t want to be on Google, and sometimes Google refuses to store websites on it’s database if they are offensive or illegal. If you want your website on Google you have to actively fill in forms. This can be an advantage for some as they want as little attention as possible. When I code a platform that allows users to log an issue for projects, I am happy that it’s not on Google. The users of the project have the specific URL which consists of numbers, and they have their logins. I give them the URL. Nobody else needs to know it. Putting it on Google will simply increase the chance of a randomer stumbling across it, increasing the risk of hacking.

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