Google The Terrible

Image representing Google Reader as depicted i...
Image via CrunchBase

A few days ago, Google announced that they were Powering Down Google Reader. Ironically, I learned this by using Google Reader where I follow Daring Fireball (John Gruber) and (Marco Arment) and others. Google Reader powers my favorite RSS Client, Reeder. This is how I choose to stay informed on these issues.

For those who don’t know, with an RSS feed reader, you can subscribe to a blog (or other feed) from an RSS Client. Every time a new post is added, your reader is updated. It is a great way to subscribe to a lot of content and have it all reside in one place (instead of having a few favorite websites that you visit individually).

In my RSS reader I have folders for all of the blogs I follow categorized as:

  • Devotionals
  • GTD
  • Just For Fun
  • Apple
  • Management
  • Technical Arts
  • Writing

In each of these folders are 6-12 feeds from various blogs. They are all powered by Google Reader.

Which is about to end.

Don’t get me wrong, Google has a right to decide their priorities. Here’s the problem:

The truth is this: Google destroyed the RSS feed reader ecosystem with a subsidized product, stifling its competitors and killing innovation. It then neglected Google Reader itself for years, after it had effectively become the only player. Today it does further damage by buggering up the already beleaguered links between publishers and readers. It would have been better for the Internet if Reader had never been at all. *

Google, Destroyer of Ecosystems
Aldo Cortesi

I would like to restate that last sentence: Eventually we will say, it would have been better for the Internet if Google had never been at all.

Google is not your friend. They are the epitome of all that is wrong in our digital information age. Google’s decisions consistently betray a culture of arrogance, entitlement, and dishonesty.

Google, infamously, begins it’s Code of Conduct with the phrase, Don’t Be Evil. According to Wikipedia’s article Don’t Be Evil, in Google’s original use of the phrase they were trying to distinguish themselves from “our competitors, who at the time, in our opinion, were kind of exploiting the users to some extent.”

This coming from the company that has given exploitation a new meaning!

  • Through Search, Google tracks everywhere you go on the Internet, and stores that info. Even if you sign off their services, they still track your movements with tracking cookies installed on your computer. You can turn this stuff off (assuming they’ll honor your choice), but the average user probably is not even aware this is happening.
  • Through Gmail, Google identifies your contacts and key words from your messages to target ads and content “tailored” to you, all while building a database with your name on it.
  • Through Google Voice, Google courteously “transcribes” your messages, so they can apply their already created algorithms that they use on your Gmail. They know who called you and for how long and about what.
  • Through Google Maps, Google knows not only where you are, but what is around you. Many people could track your location, but Google knows what’s near you as well. That info was important enough for Google to spend billions to acquire it.
  • Through the Android Mobile OS, Google can track your physical location as well as collect more data to all of the above.
  • Now with Google+, Google mandates real user names to continue to fine tune your personal information.

And they offer all of this to you for free.

I googled Is Google trustworthy? and found this article: Google may not be evil, but it’s also not trustworthy.

It’s become impossible to ignore Google’s lengthening string of privacy and regulatory missteps. The company has been found by the Federal Communications Commission to have collected and kept emails and Web browsing histories, even passwords, of individuals whose Wi-Fi signals were intercepted by vehicles photographing street scenes for its Street View program. Google stands accused of lying about the practice and resisting a government investigation of the case.

The Mountain View, Calif., company appears to have deliberately bypassed privacy settings on the Safari browser loaded on every Apple iPad and iPhone, allowing it to secretly track the online behavior of the devices’ users. That could pose an especially big problem for Google, because in doing so it may have breached a settlement it had reached in a previous federal complaint by agreeing not to misrepresent its privacy practices in the future.

Knowledge is power, and Google is collecting more information about it’s users than anyone ever has in the history of the world. Seemingly, by any means necessary.

Remember: “if you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”.

This in and of itself is not the problem. Targeted ads are better than random ads. The more our technology learns about us, the better the experience. Like adding favorite channels to your cable remote, programming technology for individual preferences is how we maximize the tools.

The problem is Google.

Caveat Emptor.

*I found the link to Aldo’s excellent article using Reeder on my iPad–my RSS reader of choice.
Special thanks to John Gruber and his stellar work on Daring Fireball.


5 thoughts on “Google The Terrible

  1. I’ve used Google Reader for years, pulling in 45 different feeds in topics like technical arts, recording, web development, and others (but not devotionals, those come in via email). While it wasn’t the best RSS reader, it was web-based and it worked. When they announced the ‘sunset’ I looked at a few other readers and went with Feedly, which makes me kind of glad Google Reader is shutting down since I’m really liking Feedly.

    I also use Gmail, Google Voice, and Google Talk. Gmail is more for mailing lists, since I have other email accounts on paid servers that I use for other purposes, and the transcription in Google Voice is so bad I find it entertaining. I’m actually enjoying watching who Google thinks I am, right now it thinks I’m a 45-54 year old. Not even close.

    “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold” can also be applied to Facebook and many others. Nothing is free.

  2. Google and the hearing aid industry will be running our lives with in the next 50 years…

    FYI. Recently switched to Feedly as well… Like it much better than Reeder!

    1. BTW- you didn’t mention Google Apps for Education which is an amazing suite of programs that make using tech in the classroom very user friendly, it is another venue for the google trap…

      1. Great point. It’s not so much the using of the tools that I object to, it’s not understanding the cost in personal information.
        We do it with our grocery shopping cards, Facebook, Amazon, etc. All kinds of things. We exchange personal info for greater convenience and fun.
        I hope we don’t live to regret it.

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