I might be Google-sceptic, but I’m not so daft as to risk clients and the Medinge Group, both groups having various things in my Google account, opened either in the days when Google was not being evil (many, many years ago now) or before Google acquired that company. So, I made a public proﬁle, to prevent Google deleting it as threatened by July 31, and, possibly, affecting various things that fall under my account. My own stuff I don’t care about. Other people’s—well, they shouldn’t be dragged in to this nearly two-year battle I have had with holding Google accountable over the most basic things, things which, by its own evasion, make the company look highly suspect. (I’ve actually had more success getting Facebook to do things. Really.)
But many people still love Google. Then again, in 1997, many people loved Tony Blair. Not so long ago, the Tories loved the Murdoch Press. Some of us just get suspicious a little earlier because we’re not too bad at understanding corporate culture and can spot the warning signs.
All this, unfortunately, meant having a Plus account. It’s one of life’s ironies that as one of the few people who did not want a Plus account, I’ve been able to go to plus.google.com since day one and get one. No pleading with friends for an invitation. In fact, I was able to send invitations to a few friends, which was my original reason for going in—far be it for me to deny them the chance to make up their own minds. The only period I couldn’t sign in to Plus was immediately after my initial deletion or ‘downgrade’. If it were not for the proﬁle threat made several days after that deletion, I would have let it stay shut.
Now that I have it (again), I still have minimal use for it. I don’t post to it, I don’t plus-one anything, nor can I see Circles as being unique. I have my lists on Facebook and have sent customized messages for years. Last time I looked, we are in charge of technology, not vice versa, so why would I duplicate work just for the sake of Google Plus hype?
One utility—and another reason for signing up—was to use the data liberation feature, to download what the company claimed to have on me. (Interestingly, the downloaded ﬁle was 4 kbyte long, mostly composed on empty directories—not really reﬂective of what Google actually has on me.) Its only other utility, as far as I can see, is to arm me with more facts for a speech I’m doing this November on social media for business.
As stated in earlier posts, until Google answers just why it has held on to my Blogger data in contravention of its own terms and conditions (it has ceased responding to the email thread), and my personal details under Adsense when that account has been closed for a long time, as well as several other ongoing privacy gaffes, then I have no conﬁdence in the Californian company to do right by Plus. They are extremely simple questions. But, Google has no desire to answer them.
I keep ﬁnding further grounds to question Plus. For example, I have a Circle with 18 people pre-blocked. This is quite a feat for someone who has never used Plus other than sign on to it and send out some invitations. It is also quite a feat for someone who has been de-Googling for over a year. Where have these 18 come from? On what criteria has Google decided these 18 are unsuitable for me?
None of the logical explanations ﬁt.
Hypothesis 1: for a year or so, despite not having a Buzz account, I get Buzz followers. Google just adds them to my account without my permission. Often they are anonymous. I still get them today, even after the release of Plus. So these 18 must be from my regular blocking of these errant accounts.
Response 1: actually, no. If this were the case, the number would be higher than 18. Since February 2011, I have been getting three to ﬁve per week, despite having a private proﬁle which, by Google’s own admission, would prevent me from being found in Buzz. Despite blocking another person today, the Plus Blocked Circle has not increased in number. It stays happily at 18.
Hypothesis 2: when I was ﬁrst given a Buzz account—and remember, I never had a Gmail account though Google went and changed my defaults—I had some followers. These 18 are the ones I blocked then before I changed my proﬁle settings back and got rid of Buzz. Buzz and Plus are, basically, the same thing.
Response 2: no. Among these 18 are real friends, people I met since Buzz was added to my account. They did not know me then, nor would I have been in their Gmail address books then. While there are a few that are the same, most are not. And I have read nothing from Google to suggest that Buzz and Plus are the same thing, though I’d love to hear if Harriet J. has had a similar experience.
Hypothesis 3: aliens from the planet Vulcan, the Obama administration, and military personnel at Area 51 have pre-blocked these 18 to warn me that I should have no interaction with them.
Response 3: of the three, this is the most likely scenario. I’ll get you for this, Spock. Bones McCoy is a personal friend of mine.
But whether you are blocked (by Google) or not, please don’t be offended if you see nothing from me, or if I don’t add you to a Circle. Google is a privacy black hole, and I have no desire to let it have more data about me than what it already holds on to without my consent.