Don't be evil?

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“Don’t be evil” used to be Google’s mantra, but clearly they don’t mean it, if indeed they ever did. Which I doubt.

Those of you with Google accounts will no doubt have got an e-mail by now (or you soon will have) entitled “Changes to Google’s Privacy Policy  and Terms of Service. It’s all couched in nice friendly language, but what it means is that basically, as far as Google are concerned, you have no privacy.

“Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

As an example of how this pans out, you could read an e-mail in Gmail, then see a relevant ad pop up on, say, YouTube.  The Reg explains it better than I can, but I find the whole thing really quite unpleasant, and a huge potential cause of difficulty on shared computers. I can remember when Google first launched, and how wonderful we all thought it. I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that everything on the net should be free – a service like Google’s search engine costs a fortune to run – but I was happy to display the ads in my browser. But now they’re like the Tesco of the internet – they want it all, and they’re not having it, not from me.

A couple of weeks ago, I changed my default search engine to Bing. It’s pretty good, and on the rare occasions it lets me down, I go over to Google. The nice thing about Bing is it shows me what I ask for, rather than what it thinks I would like to see to reinforce previous searches (unlike Google), which is why I switched to it. I discovered yesterday that their map service is at least the equal of Google’s. I have signed my accounts out of Google search, YouTube and Google+ (which I never used anyway, as I didn’t like what they were doing with it). I don’t use Picasa. I read my Gmail in Mailplane, a standalone OSX client which runs a standalone version of Webkit. Today I shall be seeing if I can find an alternative for Google Docs, which we use quite a lot here for collaboration. So, as far as possible, I’m opting out of their “unified service”.

I hope lots and lots more folk do something like this, to see if they can persuade the chaps at Mountain View that what they are trying to do is wrong. Google don’t own us, even if they’d like to.