Alright, look – I have a bone to pick.
Yes, I do! Something makes me uncomfortable – it actually ticks me off.
I’m uncomfortable about some of the stuff that’s being written to defend Google’s spying; some of the nonsense that’s being published to fend off legitimate criticism of Google. I have read through countless news articles since I started this site and, let me tell yeah, I think it’s a disservice to your readers if you do not give them the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
First of all, I’ve seen some really great articles published, which have done the correct thing to fully inform readers of all the implications of using any of Google’s products or services. I’m glad those articles have been written and if you are responsible for those articles - I want to thank you for doing a great job these past several weeks.
On the flip side, and very much in the minority these past several weeks, are people who for some reason can never see Google as doing any wrong. There is always a defence for every Google lie, for Google tracking users, for Google collecting even more information about us, and pretty much anything Google says or does. Sometimes the arguments they use to defend Google seem so outrageous to me that it leaves me to think that these people must be paid by Google one way or another (although some have included disclaimers that they actually have family members who work for Google).
Anyway, I’m not going to speculate on the reasons why some people will always defend Google’s actions – they might be in denial. However, I must offer a rebuttal against two of the most repeated arguments used to defend Google:
The first of which is that the burgeoning Internet revolution to demand back our privacy from Internet companies (such as Google) and advertisers will only result in us losing the “free” Internet. There is this doomsday scenario that they portray will completely result in the destruction of the Internet as we know it today.
The rationale behind this fear-mongering by Google and their partners in crime is that if Internet users do not allow their personal information to be harvested, combined together, and then meticulously analyzed by these companies – we will only be hurting ourselves in the long run. They blackmail us into forfeiting our information so that we may use their services – yes, I’m gonna go there – I think it’s a form of extortion!
They demand grossly unreasonable amounts of personal information from us so that we may have the privilege of using the Internet. But the Internet is not a privilege – it is becoming increasingly a way of life. As more and more of our lives become intertwined in the virtual world – it is almost impossible to not have some sort of online presence if we want to be an active member of society.
Demanding we sell our souls to these companies in exchange for entry in the necessary global community is unethical and should also be legally reprehensible. A blogger named Max Tatton-Brown who had a piece published on Wired UK wrote:
“It’s also another fascinating example of the sense of entitlement people feel to free online services (news, search, maps, encyclopaedias) — and how that is at odds with their understanding of how these companies make money…Google [has] recently done an excellent job of including unmissable banners for their users that explain how they make money and where privacy fits with that.”
Excuse me, Max, but Google’s services are not “free”. There is definitely a price we pay for using those services. We pay with our privacy and the forfeiting of our personal data – this is the currency that Google greedily accepts and will never willingly settle for less. This price we pay is exorbitant! Frankly, Internet users are being gouged and ripped-off by Google! We pay through the roof to use their services. Every time we plug-in our unfiltered thoughts into their search engine, it’s recorded by Google; every time we send and receive an email on Gmail; it’s read by Google; every time we watch that silly YouTube video, it’s noted by Google! Everything we do is constantly tracked all over Google and even on websites not owned by Google via their tracking devices!
I demand a refund from Google, ASAP! I also want them to give me a receipt of my purchases, chop-chop! I want to know exactly how much they took from me and if their charges on my online privacy credit card is a reoccurring expense! Come to think of it, if we had to choose between paying with our privacy or paying with cold hard cash – I rather pay with cash thank you very much. At least this way, I can more easily keep track of just how much Google is really costing me and hold them accountable.
Right now, we know very little about how much debt Google is putting us through. Recent surveys have shown that, although the vast majority of people are deeply concerned about lack of privacy on the Internet, a very small percentage actually know just how damaging it is and what exactly to do about it. Google has people in the dark about what it’s truly costing Internet users to continue using Google products and services – this to me is a form of theft.
Furthermore, isn’t it ironic that Google now has the audacity to lecture Internet users for demanding “free” service? Wasn’t Google the same company, just a few weeks ago, that so publicly denounced anti-piracy bills that would have enforced copyright laws on the Internet? It was Google that was accused by other companies of aiding and abetting Internet users to download free material. It was Google that was trying to fend off copyright owners who wanted to protect their material from mass consumption without any monetary compensation.
My oh my, haven’t the tables turned on Google? If anybody is responsible for this supposed culture of entitlement for free material, Google has nobody to blame but itself. It is Google who fueled, led, and cultivated this culture from the ground up. Now that this entitlement for free stuff has the potential to hurt Google’s bottom line - it’s suddenly a bad thing. Ha! Well, tough luck! You reap what you sow, Google!
Oh and by the way, there are many great services on the web that have been designed to be completely free. It’s amazing what a community of people can do when they pull together their talents to create wonderful free content and services for people, without any hidden costs.
The second argument, and is closely related with the first, is that advocating for greater online privacy protections will ultimately result in the stifling of innovation. Max wrote,
“Bearing in mind that we as a society are receiving tools from these companies that are pushing our civilisation to entire new levels of sophistication, what cost should we be prepared to pay for this? Is it really outrageous to meet that by being shown even more relevant adverts more unobtrusively than ever?”
I categorically reject this argument. Google has used this argument to blackmail governments around the world to permit the company to continue their tracking of Internet users. It’s ridiculous to say that online consumers have to give up everything of themselves so that Google can continue doing what it does.
There are many successful companies that have been built around the concept of free content because people got together to make it happen. Also, keep in mind that because Google’s business model depends on over 90% of its revenues to come from advertising, it will always side with its number one customer – which is the advertisers. The average Google user is not Google’s customer, you are Google’s product!
Google makes enormous profits from advertising – about $40 BILLION every year. If governments demand Google to stop tracking users so that it protects their personal data, gives them greater online freedom, and puts a halt to creepy mutated personalized advertisements – then we will all be better off for it. And guess what, Google will still earn huge profits. Perhaps it won’t hit the same gigantic number it has become accustomed to, but I guarantee you that you certainly won’t be seeing Google at an Internet company food bank any time soon. Google might experience a bit of withdrawal pains from its addiction to gigantic profits from selling our personal data without our full consent, and Google might throw a hissy fit – but it’ll eventually get use to it.
Demanding stringent and comprehensive online privacy protection laws will not throw the baby out with the bath water. Installing free anti-tracking add-on tools to your browsers will not damage the “free” Internet. Adopting a “Do Not Track” button on all browsers and requiring default settings on all web browsers so that it automatically blocks third-party tracking cookies will not result in the bankruptcy of Google.
Therefore, for heaven’s sake, stop the fear-mongering and misinformation coming from Google and their minions. We have a right to privacy and Internet freedom. We shouldn’t have to choose between two extremes: it’s either you have zero privacy or you have zero Internet. C’mon! Whatever!
Well, Google better be careful what they wish for because it might just come true. As more and more people educate themselves on the damaging consequences of using Google services, many will eventually completely opt-out for good.
Greater privacy protection laws will not damage Internet freedom, quite the contrary; it will only increase freedoms and privacy.
You can read Max Tatton-Brown’s full article by clicking here
For more information:
ITWorld, “Will Do Not Track kill the ‘free’ Internet?” – click here