It sounds like a bad advice column or something from O Magazine (or am I just being redundant there?).
You: You’ve changed.
Them: Yes, I have. I’ve grown.
You: We all know it happens; no one stays the same forever. But somehow, I feel I can’t be as close anymore.
Them: I’ve tried to accommodate your desires, even the ones you didn’t know you had.
You: But did you ask me what I wanted? The changes come as surprises every time.
Them: You know you like it.
You: Really? I feel like I can’t trust you. Why do you have to share everything I say with all your friends?
Them: I’m just being open.
You: You know I can’t live without you. Is that why you think you can do whatever you want?
Them: (Repeat above dialogue, starting with “I’ve grown,” over and over).
You: It’s all those other people you’ve been seeing, those late night e-mail conversations with who knows whom … why are you always searching for something different?
Them: (Repeat above dialogue, now on to, “I’ve tried to accommodate …”).
You: We just can’t talk any more.
This will become more important to you starting March 1, as Google will be integrating what it finds between your G-mails, YouTube views and Google searches to “suggest search queries — or tailor your search results — based on the interests you’ve expressed.”
Those are its exact words.
Left unsaid, of course, is that to do that, it has to be scanning your G-mails and recording what videos and searches you do. And while we all know it does that (just watch what ads pop up after you search for something), it just gets creepier all the time.
Also part of it is “by remembering the contact information of the people you want to share with …” (a direct quote again) “we make it easy to share in any Google product or service …”
Maybe we don’t want you to remember the people we share with. Maybe, just maybe, we share different things with different people and don’t like the idea that one inadvertent click could now send a link to a questionable YouTube video out to our fellow choir members.
Not having the choice to opt out, or even choose which services are included in its bundling, is probably one of the biggest sticking points for anyone concerned with his privacy.
So what will Google do with all this? First and most importantly, it will mine it for specific advertising opportunities, even more so than it does now. When you strip away the rhetoric, that’s got to be its primary motivation.
Someone is paying for its search engine, and all the “free” storage you get on G-mail, after all. Don’t be surprised if you watch some cute cat videos on YouTube and pet food ads start popping up immediately. And don’t even think about the barrage you’ll get if you happen to mention (in what you thought was a private e-mail) that you’re looking for a new car or you visit an auto web site.
And am I the only one who thinks that, if the auto companies weren’t running 85 expensive ads per hour on TV, they could sell a car for $2,000? But I digress.
Google, of course, said it will be able to do all these “cool things” with this info, like looking at an appointment in your online calendar, combining it with the location information in your phone (yes, it has that) and telling you you’re going to be late.
Cool? Maybe. Creepy? Yeah, we’re there.
How can you avoid all this? Probably the easiest way is to not sign in to your Google accounts — soon to be your single Google account. So it’s nice to have YouTube remember you and suggest videos.
Forgo that. Go get another free e-mail account; Yahoo and 8 million other people, including AOL if you want to look really retro, are available. There’s even an intriguing one called Hushmail out of Canada (no, I haven’t checked it out and don’t necessarily recommend it) that offers encrypted service free.
It gets creepier all the time.
Interestingly enough, an editorial cartoon in The Washington Post showed a car marked “Google” taking an exit ramp off a highway called “Don’t Be Evil” — which was Google’s old motto. Not any more, apparently.
There is some speculation in the industry that Google wants to become the next Facebook, where signing in also immediately lets you into its games, etc. But Google should learn from all the controversy there as well. People do want some control over how they are watched and how much is revealed.
Cliff Feldwick is president of Riverside Computer Consultants, and conducts PC troubleshooting and network setups for small businesses when not fighting evil everywhere. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Older columns can be found online at http://feldwick.com.