I spent a large amount of time using all the good googly stuff. Search (obviously), Chrome, Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Drive, Reader (RIP), Picasa, Maps, Earth, YouTube… They all seemed like excellent tools and services that you could use on your own terms with no repercussions. The addition and extension of ads to all the services seemed like a small price to pay.
And they kept saying they would not do anything “evil”. That means something, doesn’t it? It was just lovely free stuff all round. What could possibly go wrong?
But then “Plus” happened.
This hideous faux social network is quite possibly the most ridiculously creepy and “evil” thing that any monopolist has done in their controlling field. I hate it.
Far from being a Facebook knock off without the user numbers or engagement, Google Plus is something different. Something all together more worrying.
Google Plus is comparable to when Microsoft got into so much hot water by making Internet Explorer the default web browser in Windows. Remember all the anti-trust complaints? The outrage? The settlements?
Imagine if Microsoft not just bundled a browser with their OS, but had also demanded a real identity that was used across all the services on the PC… and then imagine if they added countless cross-linking and tracking services that spied on ALL the movements of this real identity and sent the data back to Microsoft. Imagine if Microsoft then sold ads against this information as you used IE (or used “Clippy” to tell you where to eat, what to buy and who to meet). That would be something to complain about!
But that’s the modern Google. It is the 90’s Internet Explorer on Windows… times 1000.
Google is leveraging their massive controlling influence in desktop search to force you to log in to one Google account that rules them all. This tracks your every web search, every location search, every video watched and all your calendar and email entries. And then it collates all that information for it’s own use. At the moment it mainly sells ads against this information (as it’s one means of real income), but in the future, who knows?
See no evil
The problem with saying you are not going to do “evil” and that you are “open”… is that it’s completely dependent on who is defining these terms. Google may be a big ol’ publicly traded company but, by-and-large, it is controlled by just 2 people. Everyone just gets to sit back and enjoy Sergey and Larry’s “ride”.
That’s just two people with half the world’s data at their fingertips, making far-reaching decisions based on their whims and privilege. Are they benign tyrants leading us to the sunlit uplands of tech? Or are they just another pair of pampered egos that have the power to massively mess up the world?
It also seems that currently, no one has a higher opinion of Google than Google itself. Employees are eager to “correct” any misnomer that may challenge the myth that Google is anything but humanities only hope for the future of data and technology.
Google failure leads to danger
Even with all their big data, Google has arrived late to a number of recentpopular trends (possibly due to it’s near-group-thinking, self congratulatory Silicon Valley cocoon). This can lead to bigger, badder decisions… particularly where the Google hierarchy are keen to “think bigger” about every idea that comes their way. “Scan some books? Why not scan ALL books… Damn the consequences”.
So, somehow, Google missed the start of social and then mobile as mass market platforms. Unfortunately, this oversight seemingly caused them to panic, and pivot almost all their services. They decided to effectively unify their already popular and generally well-regarded products in a battle against Facebook. They then carpet-bombed the world with “open” and “free” to get their software on the majority of smartphones (in a frenzied mobile catch up battle with Apple and their paranoid desire to stop Microsoft).
Google Plus and its needy personal assistant, Google Now, are the supercharged, think big results of their initial failure in social and mobile. They leveraged all their popular tools and services to get back in the game (or start a completely new game that plays in to their big grabby data hands).
To many onlookers, Google may seem benign compared to “proper” corporations, but when they are out-maneuvered they are willing to throw billions of dollars and use all their existing products (and, by proxy, the end users) to fight their war. The truth is, if you look past their constant disarming “doodles” and oh-so-jolly robots, Google are now as laser focused, competitive, business minded, and yes, as evil as any other global mega-corporation.
Present day Google seem determined to avoid missing any new technological advancements EVER again. They are flailing around buying anything from military robots and home sensor companies to experts in Artificial Intelligence. This would be fun in the days of the cuddly, experimental chocolate factory Google. But today, with the super-scaling-data-whore Google, should we be worried? Very worried?
Google’s long term whimsical goal may be one great big friendly machine learning project to help all humanity… but at what cost to humanity to get there? And what would such a machine actually do?
We have never stared into the jaws of such a frightening technological dystopia with less concern. The NSA (and all the other secret services) snoop for nation states and political paranoia (like they have always done)… but Google is something new. Google thinks it is leading us to higher state of technological living. Google has turned into a Tomorrows World cult that simply sits and imagines stuff – and then tries to will it into reality without any real understanding of the consequences. And then it sells ads against this technology because it has not worked out any other business model that can feed its insatiable desire to gather, tag and link all of this data.
This is why I am “unbundling” Google from my online life. I’m un-linking the services they have forced me to link. I use different accounts for YouTube and search and whatever. I don’t use Gmail or calendar and I have stopped using their browser and phone software. There are alternatives.
I will use Google when I want to use them. I will not be used as a data gathering node to further their future projects – whatever they may be.