I’ve been quite a fan of Google for a long time. I remember just how well their search engine brought back results that were relevant and fast. You could pretty much hit the “I Feel Lucky” button and expect to get where you wanted to be every time.
It was also the case that the company itself seemed to be in tune with people; it had its “Do no Evil” policy and swore that it would protect its users’ information and stand up for them in the burgeoning swamp of ruthless Net companies that were playing fast and loose with people’s privacy.
That’s changed. The growth of the web has made the “Lucky” button less of an attractive option, but that’s certainly not Google’s fault. Google is also now going to ‘aggregate’ all data from all of its services – and that certainly is their fault.
When Google talks about its services, look at what they actually mean: Google Search, GMail, YouTube, Alerts, Picassa, Blogger, Maps, Reader (Newsfeeds), Books, Calendar, Groups, Documents and many others. This site lists over one hundred services provided by them. Google now controls and owns a significant part of the entire internet. If this were a regular company in fact we’d likely be talking about monopoly investigations – perhaps Google needs breaking up like the phone companies were when they became too big.
Recently, even before the latest changes to Google’s policies, I’ve found myself growing increasingly concerned about their behavior. They’re reading people’s emails and blogs and then using this information to target advertisements and that seems sneaky to say the least. Would you like someone reading your diary so that they can figure out what to get you for a birthday present? It seems unlikely. Google takes this much further, recording everything you write, every site you go to – all in order to try and sell to you more effectively. If you use an Android based phone they can even link in your physical location in real-time!
I’ve also seen their ads getting much more intrusive and scarily big brother-esque. I look at something on Tiger Direct and literally seconds later I am seeing Google Ads for the same thing. I view a video on YouTube and suddenly start seeing ads for related products and services. Not only that, but these ads ‘follow me’ – so I get the ads at work as well as at home. There’s no separation: my home interests are exposed through ads delivered to me at work. Sure these are ‘mostly harmless’ but I doubt that even Ford Prefect or Zaphod Beeblebrox would be happy with this kind of intrusion.
Think of what someone with criminal intentions could do if they could access that data on you? Google has just as many issues with hackers as any other large web organization and has already suffered ‘data losses’ from such attacks. Remember, when Google talks about such ‘losses’ they’re talking about your personal data leaking out to god knows who.
I keep reading how people now are less concerned with privacy, that they’re happy to share things in ways that would be unheard of ten or twenty years ago. Perhaps this is true, or perhaps it’s that they’ve been brainwashed by ruthless companies into thinking that this is okay, purely for the benefit of said companies. Whatever the case, people have to stop burying their heads in the collective sand and realize that there are consequences for all of these things. Somehow, someday, this profligacy of exposure will come back to bite you on the proverbial fundament.
My own usage of Google is relatively light. I use Reader to pull together newsfeeds, search and Google Docs. There are alternatives for all of these and I will use them. I’m closing my Google account as of today – I suggest everyone else does the same.
If you want to know how to do this – look here.