Tech Devil: “Evil Google” Isn’t Being Evil

Google has an unofficial motto – “Don’t be evil” -- that has come into question the past few weeks. By making that their motto they’ve opened themselves up to even more criticism. The moment they make a mistake that users don’t like, it’s automatically evil. I think this is ridiculous. I should point out that I’m a big Google fan myself. I use almost all of their products and I have an Android phone, but this doesn’t mean they haven’t done stupid things. Google Wave and Buzz were awful, just awful, but I will stand up and defend them when necessary.

Over the last few weeks there has been a strand of rants about the two major moves Google has made. The first was the “Search Plus Your World” controversy. Google decided to integrate their latest attempt at social networking, Google+, into their search product. This pissed off a lot of people, including Twitter and Facebook. It allows the user to refine their results based on their connections on Google+. So if I were searching for a new restaurant to check out, I could click a button and it would give me personalized results based on what my friends have posted. It makes perfect sense if you’re Google, but not so much if you’re a different social media company. Twitter, which used to have a search deal with Google, came out in opposition because this means their results would be pushed down a few spots to make room for the Google+ results. Everyone in the tech world lost it and mayhem ensued… kind of.

If you search for people on Google using the new system, it still gives you the Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other profiles, just not at the very top. Some people inaccurately thought it was an opt-out policy and ran with that as their rallying cry against this inhumane action by Google. The fuss was really just a bunch of people who have always hated Google continuing to hate them. To even get the personalized results, you have to 1. have a Google+ profile and 2. click a separate button. Calling Google evil for promoting their own product is like calling the President an idiot for campaigning for re-eleciton.

The other issue is Google’s new privacy policy. To go along with the better integration of their products, Google thought it would be better to have one privacy policy covering all their products rather than having a total of 70 for each individual one. The new policy is simpler and easier to read and understand. It also allows users to integrate data from different products -- only if they want to. People saw “choice” and thought that was Google-code for forcing you to combine your data. The fuss got so bad Google had to issue a response to all the BS claims.

Tim O’Reilly had a great little piece about calling Google evil for collecting data (which almost every site does). He argued that it’s not evil for Google to collect data about their users, but it’s what they do with the data that matters. And if they use it to make the product better, I don’t mind. It’s not like they’re giving away my email and phone number to everyone on the Web. Most people who hate it when tech companies make small changes that may or may not inconvenience them don’t understand that if you’re not paying for the service, the company will never care what you think. And if it’s really that bad, don’t complain -- just stop using it.


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