Gizmodo loses it: Google has not turned evil (at least not yet . . .)

What a load of old sensationalist nonsense. I’m seriously starting to worry about Giz. If I want to search anonymously there is a thing called an anonymous tab. And I don’t log into my Google account outside work because why would I? – My phone is logged in.

That’s how the first commenter responded to this piece in Gizmodo accusing Google of being evil because it – wait for it – shares identity information between functions. That’s right, Gmail can now share information with Google search with Google + and on it goes.

This is supposed to be some attack on our privacy. Well there are very nasty things Google can do to harm my privacy. Those things would be telling other people things it knows about me that it could reasonably expect that I might not want them to tell them.

But it doesn’t do that. It is just using all the data it has to further improve improve the adds and other services it provides me. WTNTLAT? *

My point is, as I said here, privacy law, and privacy activism should be focused wherever practicable on stopping conduct that actually threatens privacy – ie where that information is provided to agents other than the one that has the information in the first place. It always pissses me off when I have to wait to be read some stupid thing which tells me my voice is going to be recorded “for quality purposes”. If it’s for training purposes they can protect my privacy by making sure the recordings don’t get leaked and by destroying them after the couple of weeks it was necessary to hold them to use them for the entirely benign purposes of quality control.

And remember, although Google is probably mostly thinking of optimising advertising here . . .

  1. making advertising relevant is a source of considerable value to the world and
  2. there are lots of other ways that the data might be able to be used to simply provide improved services to people – such as search, prompting connections with others, or with information of relevance to users, task management and all the other things that I can’t think of.

So broadly speaking, and with the caveat that I’ve not researched all this in great depth, I submit these views to you O Troppodores and Troppodillians.

* “Define: WTNTLAT” doesn’t generate any answers in Google, so we’re on the ground floor here Troppodores. This could be Troppo’s big break – our own little footnote in the English language, our own corner of the universe.

5 thoughts on “Gizmodo loses it: Google has not turned evil (at least not yet . . .)

  1. I don’t think Google are evil. I just think they are being stupid.

    The key thing that distinguished Google from other search engines way back when was that they gave better quality results with no distractions.

    When Google started to diversify, they made superior tools available for free (eg Google News, Google Maps, Google Reader, Picasa, and at least for some people Gmail). This was all good and useful.

    Lately though, Google is clumsily attempting to increase the uptake of Google+ by making everything “social”. But I don’t want my Google+ contacts in Picasa, or for their content and images to be prioritised in my searches, or to see them automatically shown on my Maps, or for a Gmail email to trigger a notification to add that person on Google+. Because of cookie persistance, it’s very difficult to maintain different personas for all these apps each if you try to.

    It’s the same ‘build an integrated user portal’ mistake made by Lycos and Yahoo! all those years ago.

    The only difference is that the ‘portal’ is spread across multiple pages and applications rather than being presented on a single page. And my reaction is the same — to start looking for a new search provider.

    It’s going to take a while to break the finger memory of typing ‘google.com’ when I want to search but I am going to try DuckDuckGo for a while.

  2. Fair enough, but the ‘portal’ strategy wasn’t adding anything substantial to user experience. If Google are making it hard for you to opt out of their megalomania I agree they’re being stupid. But the integration may also enable them to produce seriously useful innovations – such as those I’ve suggested above.

  3. To be clear: I think Gizmodo are overreacting. I assume that Google knows everything I do on their products and that they can use this to build up profiling information … but they are assuming that what is useful to them is also useful to me.

    Something this is true (as you’ve outlined). But they are currently overreaching and it will come back to bite them because it makes the experience of using the individual apps worse. User-level integration between apps would be far better if it were less heavy-handed and people could choose to opt in.

  4. Stephen, it isn’t that hard – use an address bar search and make the default provider bing or duckduckgo. No finger memory required.

  5. Thanks, I do know that and I have :)

    That bit was more a commentary on the fact that I’ve had no reason to consider anyone other than Google for 10 years … they have done a good job up until now.

    I’m a bit sorry that they seem to be falling into the same trap most companies who hold a dominant market leader position do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.