On Google and Trust

So today I read a post on Gizmodo here about how Google is doing “evil.” It’s not a bad point, though: We expect Facebook to cyber-stalk us wherever we go and hand us ads that interest us. Google is following suit because they view Face-thing as its (entrenched) competitor in the contest for user attention.

The problem is that Google is a poor imitator and its attempts to coerce its users into its social network have not exactly been met with applause. You can feel the betrayal emanating from the tech journalistic set because they trusted Google to behave according to their moral standards which were not explicitly defined. Google is the biggest ad network in the Internet and even if they didn’t feel threatened by Facebook and driven to imitate them, the point of search is acquisitive in nature at best.

The world isn’t ending, no, but a stupid mistake can haunt you for far longer than you’d expect if it embeds itself in your own search history. I think part of the betrayal was that Google used to semi-anonymize its searching (here, take a look at what other people are searching for) whereas today, you are given the impression that you have a personal search history. If that exists, someone else can find it, and embarrassing and otherwise private/troublesome things appear and loom over you in uncomfortable fashions.

Anonymity exists for a reason. Google tries to provide some of it, and they understand the necessity for it, but people tend not to be careful about computers in the correct way. I stuffed my life into a computer long ago and I know what to do (I’m writing this on a desktop with Do Not Track and NoScript running, thanks) but this knowledge is not nearly as common as it should be. I talk to people every day at my work (a copy shop) who say “I’m not good with these technology things” and that’s not just ignorance, that’s fear.  When fear is involved, it doesn’t matter how easy something is, logical problem solving goes out the window and suddenly you have no idea what happened but your credit card is full and your savings is empty.

That’s the damage Google is currently doing to itself by forcing its social functions into its search (the people around us do not always make good decisions) and limiting its privacy settings. It’s inducing fear in its users and driving them away. So there, my two cents on the subject.

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