Posts tagged ‘deceit’


Someone’s doing something right inside Google

01.04.2011

The troubles with Google that I’ve faced—privacy breaches, Ads Preferences Manager not honouring its claims, fighting for six months on behalf of a friend over a deleted Blogger blog, Chrome being buggy (but not nearly as badly as IE9), phantom entries in my Google dashboard, unanswered messages—would suggest, to anyone studying business or a graduate from B-school, that there is something very, very rotten inside the company. It’s being evil.
   Judging by an article I linked yesterday from Techcrunch, there probably is something rotten.
   It’s sad to see that Techcrunch didn’t have the ethics to keep an off-the-record comment off the record—it even plays an answerphone message on its site, which I am sure its speaker never intended for broadcast—but it does make an interesting guess of the company’s internal problems.
   I’ve heard of similar things second-hand and, in at least one case, first-hand, but this one illustrates that the problems could be at quite a senior level.
   With all the internal politicking going on, a few people are doing their jobs correctly, and honouring Google’s commitment to its users. In 2010, I named Rick Klau at Blogger as being one of them. I reckon the other has to be Matt Cutts, whose initiative to cut down content mills and Google-spam I applauded some weeks ago as being one of the company’s right moves.
   Matt has done his job so well that it has cut down even Google’s own content mill, the Google Places site.
   He deserves even more applause because he’s not singling out his own employers for special treatment, which means, as far as the rest of us are concerned, we face a level playing field getting on the site.
   He’s even stated, ‘Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google.’
   What is interesting is that it has pissed off certain people inside Google, who have become accustomed to the search engine biasing results toward itself—something it has admitted on some occasions, contradicting its stated policy on other occasions. Élitism much?
   Among the content mills Matt’s team has targeted includes the sites of Demand Media, who I had a run-in with as well over contradictory terms and conditions and the company’s refusal to respond. (In fact, it continued to pester me to integrate an account I had with a firm it had acquired even though, legally, under its own terms, I could not.)
   Reading the Techcrunch piece, Matt Cutts is a hero for fairness and for running things exactly the way netizens expect. Some commenters agree. He might even be the guy who saves Google from being an élitist, unethical monster. He’s done exactly what he set out to do, and Google needs to realize that if it is to recover any mana for its misdeeds of the past few years, it has to clean its own doorstep first.
   If the article is correct, other Google senior staff—Nikesh Arora, Marissa Mayer (who has already revealed that Google publishes biased results)—are part of the problem, and why Google is so desperate to violate its own stated policies repeatedly.
   And if that off-the-record comment on Techcrunch is accurate, then Marissa Mayer probably believes that users are stupid. Way to earn that goodwill, Marissa.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, leadership, politics, publishing, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


More Google privacy breaches in Reader?

14.02.2010

Tonight, I removed every single blog I followed—including my own—from Blogger. My de-Googling continues. I’ve also taken myself off as an author on some Blogger blogs as of tonight, as an intermediate step of ending my association with Blogger altogether.
   I had hoped that deleting my Blogger reading list would get me off the Google Reader service, which I never (knowingly) signed up for. As mentioned recently, Google decided that my following blogs on Blogger would mean (a) it would open a Google Reader account (it was in its help pages, which I did not read—I argue this should have been on a terms and conditions page); (b) allow others to begin following that account; (c) prevent any removal of my Google Reader account, even when I did not want one.
   You would think that deleting everything associated with Google Reader would allow its removal, but no. In fact, I was rather disturbed to see the following: feed recommendations in Reader.

Google Reader recommendations

   Among the recommendations is my friend Sharon Haver’s site, Focus on Style, and another from Condé Nast’s Style.com.
   Normally I would not have a problem with seeing either of these, if I was an avid Reader user, but it begs the question: if I have turned off all the sharing of my data in Google, to the point where the company claims to no longer knows my preferences, then how does it know my preferences? How does it, in this case, know that I have interests in the fashion industry? Or is everyone on the planet interested in fashion, according to Google, and these are its default recommendations?
   After all, Google itself states that it compiles these preferences based on the following:

It takes into account the feeds you’re already subscribed to, as well as information from your Web History, including your location.

Well, Google, not only have I switched Web History off (twice: once on launch and once after you turned it back on without telling me), I have no feeds.
   Which must mean, I assume, that turning stuff off in Google does not mean turning stuff off in Google. Google might say you have Web History turned off, but I am wondering if that’s just more BS from this company.
   It might have decent blokes like Rick Klau working there at Blogger, but the rest of the company seems dodgier by the day to me. We’ve already had tech support guys who know very little about tech or support (those six months probably were what kicked off my de-Googling), we’ve had the whole Buzz débâcle (Harriet Jacobs, a.k.a. Fugitivus, mentioned in that post, has since shut her blog to unregistered users after, presumably, abuse was sent to her), and now, it seems that Google spies on you.
   The 2010s will see the début of some form of portal site, but it definitely won’t be Facebook, and, at this rate, it won’t be Google.
   And that’s a shame. I like some of the things that Google has offered me over the last 11 years, but its behaviour of late, and its ill-thought technologies, remind me of another American giant. That’s the one that people in the 1990s picked on a lot: Microsoft.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 5 Comments »