With the recent acquisition of Pyra by Google, more people are beginning to ask: What is Google up to?
When Google was launched it promised the world – a new way to search the web and vastly superior searches to any of its competitors. It quickly became a phenomenon – the most visited engine on the Internet, and one that people trusted. But something is happening in Google Inc.
Unlike Yahoo, Excite or many of the other portals, Google just searched. Big colorful Google letters greeted you on your visit to their site. Cuddly bears have been seen running around the Google letters, fluffy bunnies; the letters have even been done in the style of a Monet painting. “This is a site I can trust” – one would think. Think again.
Personally, I have always had some suspicions about Google. It is interesting to delve into their world – a world where people search for friends, workmates and complete strangers, where whatever you post on the Internet will likely be stored in Google’s cache. It has come to the point now where we cannot escape from Google. Or can we?
Distrust of Google is growing. A-list blogger Dave Winer says “I feel my trust was betrayed by Google,”. He plans to favour other search engines when exploring the Web. Other bloggers are calling for Google-free Fridays – along the same lines as Microsoft-free Fridays. Bernie Goldbach asks if there is, or could be, a Google-free zone on the Internet, a place where we can hide from the spiders of Google. Online movements like this can gather pace very quickly, so Google should not really use heavy handed tactics such as this – it’s dangerous for them.
You may wonder why all of my references to Google here are followed by the ubiquitous “trademark” symbol. Some of you may have heard about this – Google has sent legal papers to several people warning them that using phrases such as “Googling” are infringing on their trademark. Are new verbs allowed to be copyrighted? Is this the search engine we all know and love? And there’s more.
Recently Google was nominated for the U.S. corporate Big Brother of the year. This is a part of Privacy International’s awards. Mentioned are some things about the colorful friendly Google that you might not like to hear.
Google was the first search engine to use a cookie that expires in 2038. Yes, 2038. That’s 35 years from now. The Google cookie places a unique ID number on your hard disk. Anytime you go to a Google page you get a Google cookie. If you have one, they read and record your unique ID number.
And they are very secretive about how they use this information. Users may have noticed that when they go to www.google.com, it now reverts to the domain of the country in which they reside. If I go to Google.com in Ireland, it reverts to Google.ie. I have never liked this; I don’t want them to know I’m in Ireland. I don’t want them to know anything about me at all. But they do. And it gets worse.
When you do a search on Google, it records you cookie ID, your IP address, the time, date, your search terms and the configuration of the browser you are using. They will also deliver results on the basis of where in the world you are living. And Google retains all this data. Indefinitely.
When Google were asked about this, they refused to comment. Inquiries to Google about their privacy policies are ignored. When the New York Times (2002-11-28) asked Sergey Brin about whether Google ever gets subpoenaed for this information, he had no comment.
According to Google-watch.org, Google also hired a man formerly of the National Security Agency, Matt Cutts. So what you might say? Well, try searching for “Echelon surveillance” and see exactly what the NSA is capable of with regard to tracking information. And if you ever feel aggrieved by Google, well tough. As Google-watch points out “There are no detailed, published standards issued by Google, and there is no appeal process for penalized sites. Google is completely unaccountable. Most of the time they don’t even answer email from webmasters.”
The point to all of this is really, trust and privacy. Do I trust Google? Not anymore. Is Google a caring corporate entity and is not really in it for the money? Of course not.
If you are worried about government spying like Total Information Awareness, Carnivore or Echelon, you need not worry. Google is already doing quite a good job of spying on us all already.
I do not like Google.
I have now decided that AlltheWeb shall be my new search engine and homepage. Hopefully they will not go down the same road as Google.
I want to go further than Pete Prodoehl who thinks everyone should switch search engines for a day. I think we should all follow Apple’s motto of “Switch” – and “switch” away from Google.
I am boycotting Google from this day forth. I would encourage all users of the Internet to do likewise.