Has Google gone over to the dark side?

By | January 27, 2012
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Pam thinks Google has gone over to the dark side and wants alternatives
I want to Thank You for your valuable newsletters. It is nice to have a reliable source of honest information. However, Google is marching forward apparently wanting to ignore reasonable personal boundaries. I want out. I ran a search on POP3 free email services and discovered One possible—-Zoho. What is your opinion about this one? Do you have another suggestion for one that would work with Outlook Express as an alternative to Gmail?

Our answer
Hi Pam and thank you. If you want our honest opinion we think it’s much ado about nothing. Google consolidated their privacy policies this week – although the changes won’t take effect until March 12, 2012.  And this week was “Personal Privacy Week” (or something of that nature). The rabble-rousers are out in full force. Everyone needs a cause and everyone needs an enemy. Now it’s Google and Facebook taking the heat. If you’ve been around for a while – you’ll remember when Microsoft was the target of privacy zealots. We can remember when Microsoft introduced “Genuine Advantage”. Genuine Advantage checks you computer each time you download updates or software from Microsoft to ensure you’re copy of Windows is legal. Boy oh boy did the privacy zealots get all worked up over that one. They got nowhere with Microsoft – Genuine Advantage is still around but you never hear them screaming about it anymore. There are new big kids on the block to pick on – Google and Facebook are the two they love to hate.

I swear – about 50% of the so-called “news” stories online are nothing but op-ed pieces. It’s hard to get the facts anymore. Just because a group of people claimed to have read and understood Google’s new privacy policy — doesn’t mean they actually did. Google’s privacy policy isn’t written in arcane legalese. It’s written in plain English. It’s about 1/10th as long as Microsoft Windows Privacy Policy. Actually, it is shorter than most privacy policies.

I think what amazes me most are the people who wring there hands over privacy worries and have the password “password” to login to their Gmail account, Hotmail account, etc. The two most ubiquitous passwords right now are “password” and “12345”. We’re not talking about a few people — we’re talking about a few million. Yet, I’ll bet those same people are fretting over Google’s new privacy policy — and worrying about Google using their personal information for something they shouldn’t.

The big uproar over Google’s announcement has to do with the sharing of user information across all Google services — Gmail, YouTube, Picasa, etc. This seems to upset many people. They’re in an uproar as if this were all something new. But it’s been done before many times, offline. Banks have been doing it for years. You have a MasterCard with a bank and a checking account and a savings account and car loan and a mortgage. Banks share customer information across many services. If you have a mortgage — there’s a really good chance that the bank holding your mortgage sold it to mortgage company and the mortgage company sold it to some other financial institution, and the only thing your bank does is collect the mortgage payment from you. They don’t tell you your mortgage has been sold – or resold. They’re sharing your personal information with another entity and you’re not even aware of it. Where are the privacy zealots?

Those who have grocery store “saver” cards have their information shared with all kinds of companies.  Every time you shop and use a grocery store savings card, every item you purchase is logged and collated and stored and that information is sold to someone – usually marketers doing market research or coupon marketers who will use the information to send you coupons for products you are likely to buy.

Many cities have traffic cameras which not only record your license plate number – but your face as well. Your license plate number gives someone your name and your face shows them what you look like. All this information is stored somewhere.  And we all trust the cops to keep it private. What happens when some city’s police department decides to sell your information to prop up a flagging city budget? Maybe to GM or Ford or Michelin or who knows who else?

Sharing information across services is nothing new. It’s been going on for years in the offline world. But for some reason — maybe fear of the unknown — when it happens on the Internet it gets people all riled up.

I think if you took some time to read the sensible opposing views to those who are crying wolf about Gmail and Google and all Google services and you weighed them against those who think Google is collecting too much information – you could make up your own mind based on all the facts not just one side’s interpretation of them. Google does not care who you are personally – nor will they ever. They care about making money. And they’re going to do what they can to show you ads you might be interested in, rather than random ads which you probably wouldn’t be interested in. Advertisers have been collecting data for years about your likes and dislikes — did you ever get one of those surveys with all the coupons in the mail? It’s called marketing research.  We’d much rather see ads for things we’re interested in than ads for products in which we have no interest. We honestly don’t see what all the fuss is about. Yahoo’s privacy policy is much worse – but Yahoo’s fallen on hard times; they are no longer the big kid on the block. So the zealots turn their attention to the two biggest — Facebook and Google. Why? Because it generates attention, web traffic, and money. Isn’t that sort of ironic? The privacy zealots write half-true articles about Google’s turnaround on “do no evil” and make money from the Web traffic it brings. And what advertising network do most of these privacy zealots use? Oh my! Google’s Adsense.  So it’s okay for so-called privacy guardians to make money from your visit – but it’s not okay for Google. And every Web server in the world keeps logs of every person who visits any site on those servers. There isn’t a Web server that doesn’t.  Our servers do – but I cannot remember the last time either of us looked at our server logs.

As far as Zoho is concerned – I’m not sure. We featured them before as a alternative to Microsoft Office. Zoho has a cloud-base office suite much like Google Docs. One thing that caused me pause was when I went to their login pages the https (secure server) was not secure (indicated in Chrome by a read https with a red diagonal line running through it – as shown below).

Cloudeight Internet

It may have been an anomaly or it may have been that their login page is not secure – or the conspiracy theorists might say Google Chrome was giving me false warning to keep me away :-). I can’t really give Zoho Mail a red or green light. I’ve never used it.

We know of one other mail service that offers POP3/IMAP (so you can send and receive mail using it in your email program), and that’s GMX. We have accounts set up there and it seems to work pretty well. You can get more information at http://www.gmx.com .

We will continue to user Google’s services because we trust Google – they’ve never given us a good reason not to. We use Google Docs, Gmail, Google Search, Google Calendar, sometimes YouTube and Picasa.  I really think you should take a look at the opinions of those who think, like we do, that all this privacy outrage over Google’s new consolidated privacy policy is really much ado about nothing at all.

We’re not living in the pre-computer world anymore. In fact faster computers, GPS, cell phones, and cheap multi-terabyte data-storage means that more and more of our activities are going to be logged, collated and used for something somewhere. It would be financial suicide for Google to misuse even one person’s data. It would cause worldwide outrage if some person’s personal information was used by Google for any untoward purpose. It’s not going to happen.

5 thoughts on “Has Google gone over to the dark side?

  1. Larry Deason

    I read the new Google privacy statement and saw nothing that would give me problems. Like you said it is lots shorter than just about any others you care to read. I for one don’t understand all the hype about it. I too think it is just a ploy by some to try and make money by scaring people into doing something stupid. Huh, sounds like someone is taking lessons from Norton. I will stay with GMail and all other Google programs that I have used and am using and will use in the future. Keep telling people the plain unvarnished truth and maybe some of them will wake up on day.

    Reply
  2. Ron Warn

    Thank you for such a very full, well-thought, reassuring and rational reply. Keep up the excellent work you are doing especially on the realities in the computer world of today, (viz.security, sharing of information, etc.)!! I hang on your explanations regularly — You are to be commended!! Love you guys!!

    Reply
  3. Stefan

    Hi there

    your reply was absolutely perfect. But there is something you have missed out i think. Pam was not asking you to advocate for Google, she was not in the need of reassurance. I think she has the feeling, when she want to get off google and I do understand why. I dont and I am not about to use gmail. Actually i dont need it. I am using my email nearly twenty years, and it gaves me absolutely good service. So I dont feel the need to change it. I started to use google as the search engine an also i do use other google apps. Lately i wanted to try google talk. And here the problem came. I downloaded and installed google talk. Tried to sign in, and it told me that I am successfully signed in, but there is a problem, need to click “here” to fix it. That link returned error 404 repeatedly. Other way to fix it was to get gmail. So I tried to get a gmail account just for the purpose to get google talk working, but the policy is forcing me to use gmail as my primary email address. Did not like it, but I still did click it. Then I was asked for my phone number. They wanted to send me the activation code there. And that was the last drop. Since then I DO NOT trust google anymore. They were trying to get me to accept new policies on my applications. I did refuse, and apps are still working. I give you one more thought. What you need to do if you want to translate an article from one language to another? Well you need to learn the language, and then you will be able to translate. Or there is a different approach. Apparently this was used by google, and to my knowledge – and i can be wrong – to my knowledge they did not admit or deny it. You can look how did people translated the word before, how they use the word, and you have the one word. Do the same with second, third…… It is mindblowing job, but possible. Specially for elephant like google. And where do you look? In peoples files. I can hear how somebody says that I am watching too much movies… This explanation is actually not mine. It is from a certain professor from Berkeley university.
    So to cut it short: If you dont trust somebody, and you have a reason, you have a good point and nobody can convince you about something else. I am glad that in europe ACTA is off the table. In the bin. Where it belongs. I will encourage everybody to use his own brain, and ears, and eyes. We are humans with our own will. Not sheep. And I will not sell my right to own will to nobody, not even through their “policies”.
    I do not want to offend, but they can keep their law in USA. If they try to fool me, I am not buying it. If they try to force me – I am out.

    Reply

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