2 Comments

Privacy.

So to ready myself for Google’s new privacy terms of service and search methods, I deleted my Gmail account last night. If you’re still sending email to my old imachias-at-gmail.com account it won’t go anywhere anymore. I also deleted my Google+ account because no one seemed to be saying anything over there anyways, so I didn’t want any data left hanging around where I would ultimately forget about it.

I’m obviously not paranoid about online privacy since I write in a personal blog and share good chunks of my life right there through words and photos. But there is something that creeps me out about the fact that starting today, if I were to search for some random phrase on Google, it’ll present me with a list of search results that contains what Google thinks I’ll want to see, based on the content of my email, calendar, Google+, previous searches, YouTube views, etc. I find that creepy. I don’t want predictive search results and I don’t want someone randomly labeling me as eccentric until they have met me in person and realized it for themselves first hand. I am not comfortable with a scenario where I search for a news article, for example, and am presented with results from MSNBC, based on what I’ve said about politics in the past, whereas the same person is presented with results from Fox News based on their leanings. That’s taking the autonomy away from the individual. It should be up to me to decide whether I want to look at MSNBC or Fox News as the source of the information I am seeking, without being encouraged by my search engine based on what I’ve done in the past. I feel creeped out and I feel pigeon-holed, and if there is one thing that really gets on my nerves, it’s being pigeon-holed.

“Well, you’ve always wanted to look at MSNBC News before.”

Well what if I am trying to expand my horizons by trying to seek out all points of view?

I am working on ridding myself of my Google account completely. The only thing that remains is Google Reader account, and I use that because it keeps my RSS feeds in sync between multiple devices. I wish there was a generic way of doing that, but I haven’t found a solution to that yet.

My search engine of choice has become duckduckgo.com and I highly recommend it. No tracking, no suggestions, no telling my Facebook friends, no hollering at the empty caverns of Google+ telling my former circles what I am looking for. I type in a search phrase and it gives me results. Once upon a time that could easily be accomplished by AltaVista and it was a beautiful thing. Today it’s DuckDuckGo and I am sticking to this for as long as I can.

I think part of my privacy concerns is fueled by the fact that all this data is designed to improve advertising metrics so that ads are targeted specifically to me based on my life history on the web. I hate ads on the internet. I hate sites that squeeze a bunch of mediocre content between flashing, bare-chested advertising panels in an effort to generate revenue. The more ads, the more mediocre the content, because the site owner is just throwing crap at the web trying to generate as much traffic as possible to their site. I find this approach offensive to my sensibilities.

And now I’ll probably get twice as many ads in my email because I’ve written about them.

2 Comments

  1. I have a sort of love/loathe relationship with Google. I do like their services, and I use gmail as my “spam” account. In terms of closing accounts I always worry that someone will register on a service using my internet name, which would really pee me off.

    I’ve moved back from Blogger to LiveJournal for my blog (though I sort of wish I could have a non-someone-else’s-service blog) but yeah, I can share your concerns re. their *ahem* interesting take on services. I can though, see how it’d be useful to have one set of policies for all services. I don’t say products, because they’re services. We’re the product.

    Though TBH I don’t think I have *ever* clicked on an internet ad.

    1. I don’t think that I have ever clicked on an ad either, at least not on purpose. I like Google’s service too, but the ad supported aspect of it outweighs the slickness of their services, as far as I’m concerned. Now I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a paid Google account, but I would consider that before being data scraped for advertising purposes.

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