Skip to main content

Repeat after me: Google is Just as Bad as

Google, the search company that knows everything about you, your friends, and that night in Vegas, is cutting off CNET over this story (which, ironically, now gets more Google juice thanks to this moronic PR move). From CNET:

Google could not be immediately reached for comment. (Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.)

So what's the big deal? CNET's original article used Google to dig up all kinds of information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt, such as his attendance at Burning Man and his status as a pilot. Ground-breaking stuff? Not really. But it apparently pissed someone off. Here's the real problem:

"But if you step back and look at the suite of products and how they are used, you realize Google can have a lot of personal information about individuals' Internet habits--e-mail, saving search history, images, personal information from (social network site) Orkut--it represents a significant threat to privacy." [Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.]


"Your search history shows your associations, beliefs, perhaps your medical problems. The things you Google for define you," [Kevin] Bankston, [staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation] said.

Here's my favorite part:

Google's privacy policy says it may share information submitted under a Google account service "among all of our services in order to provide you with a seamless experience and to improve the quality of our services." Google representatives wouldn't elaborate on what that means.

Wouldn't elaborate on what it means? Are they serious? When DoubleClick did something similar back in 2000, the righteous indignation and outrage actually boiled over into the courtroom. Google is requiring users to give up the same information DoubleClick had to buy.

So, here's where I say "boycott Google" and don my tin foil hat, right? Well, no. It's actually a little late for that. Google already has the info, most of it publicly available on the internet from a variety of sources. I have a couple GMail accounts (although I don't actually use them). Hell, Google is my default homepage. A lot of my data is there. A lot of your data is there.

But when your corporate slogan is (informally) "Don't Be Evil", shouldn't you at least define what you are and aren't going to do with the literally pedabytes of data. The Google privacy does say they will never share your information with third parties. But that doesn't mean that all your data isn't stored in all of Google's services to "enhance" your experience. Enterprising Google hackers already know how to find MP3s, Social Security numbers, and credit card numbers. What's to stop someone from cracking a Google--owned system and extracting all that data (aside from all the former spooks Google hires who secure their networks).

Google has great services, but they are not your friend. They are also now a public company and subject to laws that make them operate in the interests of their investors, not their users. Hmm... when I put it that way, they almost sound like...

UPDATE: Check out EPIC 2005.


Popular posts from this blog

Google Inbox: A classic Google product

My work domain (an EDU) recently had Google Inbox enabled so I had a good chance to try it out. My personal email is relatively quiet and, I believe, doesn't provide a good Inbox experience. Work is more active and requires actual management, something I've tossed many a tool at over the years. As part of my work life, I supported the Google Apps for EDU installation here and took a pretty extensive presentation to campus about how to manage large amounts of email.

Inbox is a classic Google product: the distillation of a number of excellent ideas into a set of half-complete features built for a use case most people don't meet. We've seen this in the past in products like ChromeVox, Google's Chrome extension for accessibility. ChromeVox works great on ChromeOS devices, but completely ignores the point that most users of accessibility tech (AT) don't have or want ChromeOS devices and come to services with their AT in tow. ChromeVox also ignores decades of convent…


Evernote, for better or worse, is the best note-taking service for my needs. It works across all my devices/computers/modes. It's fairly easy to get stuff into it. Hell, they even have 2-Factor authentication. The Windows app is a little clunky and my girlfriend and I have never been able to get shared notes to work properly (conflicted note! three times in the same grocery trip!), but what service is perfect? At least they have nice socks.

Everything, in fact, is pretty good as long as you don't screw up. And screw up I did. I'm not very regular about making backups, but I do make them every month or so. Once you figure out how to create a backup, that is.

There's a helpful Export Note option (which turns into Export Notes when you select multiple notes HINT). The export process is essentially opening All Notes, selecting every note, and then choosing Export Notes. Or something like that; Evernote never tells you, you're left to figure it out on your own. The file…

Happy Retirement Pat Sweeny!

In a previous life, I was an active member of the West Michigan Shores Chapter of the STC. I met a lot of really cool people there and learned a lot about what it meant to be not just a technical writer, but more about how technical writers can break out of the mold and accomplish things.

One of the people who did that was Pat Sweeny. Pat is (or was, by this point) the President and owner of The Bishop Company, a contract do-it-all house; they document, streamline and illustrate your process, and they do it damn well. Pat was one of the first people in that chapter to "get it", which is to say, he and his company understand that technical writing isn't going to be a department for very much longer, it's going to be a business.

He had the foresight to actually make it a business, but he also had something else. Pat was forever trying to better those around him. He would come to meetings (which was a big step beyond most people) and teach you things. Or he would come to …