Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Thrill is Gone

Google, while publicly traded, is a private company. They have no obligations to you or I as users - they only answer to shareholders. Google has no obligation to recognize the 1st Amendment, nor any obligation to allow you to engage in "free speech" on their products and networks. Google actually retains the legal authority to alter any data in their properties in addition to republishing it.

Google has become the perfect embodiment of America right now - a pretty, smiling, duplicitous witch who's shaking your one hand and stealing your lunch with the other. Remember, you're not a Google user - you're the product being sold.

And don't kid yourselves - Google is one of the US Intelligence Community's primary assets. The company regularly hands over data about anyone they're asked to. And the US pays for it, too, so even that activity has been monetized.

Google's ruthless when it comes to monetizing its apps. With the exception of products still under the "Labs" moniker, everything Google produces must make money from their search products. This is one of the reasons I fear Reader, IMHO their product with the best chance of affecting social change, will be retired soon. It can't be monetized.

I'll own up to my own mistakes here: i trusted Google for far too long. I opened a GMail account the week the beta went live (2004?), and continued to be amazed as they released incredibly functional apps. I've lazily depended on Reader as an extended memory, only to have Google carve out chunks that aren't profitable to maintain (like my pre-2008 links).

It bears repeating that ALL of Google's products are built on the back of your user data - what you searched for, what you clicked, what you eventually bought, and if Google can capture it, everything about your computer's browser, etc. Is there a behavior Google wants to analyze and market? They'll write an 'app' that gets it, and sell the data. Apps that don't/can't collect lots of sellable data won't stick around.

I used to be OK with this tradeoff, but now I don't feel it's fair anymore. Google says I can export all my data from their coffers, but I'm sure this is a soft-lie. They won't release but a fraction of what they 'know' about you - and even then, it's really not that data I care about - it's the implications of the larger personal profile. Do American citizens have the right to verify data about them? (Hint: No.)

I made a comment earlier about social change - this is critical to understand. Google is one of the biggest power players in the world right now. That's right - the scrappy NorCal startup is now firmly an establishment player. Look at the executive teams - all Ivy-League thieves. So do you think these people are going to give us tools that uproot their dominance? FUCK! NO!

So we'll get a free word processor, but some gov't plebe will be monitoring what you write with it. Ditto for spreadsheets, social networks, etc. All of these things will be used against us - no doubt in my mind, but none of them will be allowed to be used to instigate any real upset of the US social order.

And that's really the Grand Bargain that Google struck, isn't it? That they can wrestle whatever advantages from the system provided they leave the system perfectly intact?

I've relied on Google as an extended memory for too long. I'm paying the real price now.