Sometimes, paranoid people do get killed


Last year I met a woman whose email server would reject any message any message originating from a gmail address. It isn’t a bug: she does not want any emails sent to her “read” by google and so. She has no control over where her emails end-up, but she can control who she accepts email from, and she wants nothing to do with Google.

Having been an early adopter of gmail – first as something to mess around with and, for the past five years as a way to rid myself of spam for free – I’m no stranger to google’s penchant for gathering information any way they can. I’m not crazy about their software mining my email for keywords in order to present certain ads to me, but I didn’t find it particularly invasive. Maybe the truth is that I wasn’t bothered enough by it.

Like email back in 2007, I got into Google Voice just to play around with it and, before realizing the far-reaching effects of that choice, my gvoice number was stamped on my business cards.

Since it has its fingers in so many web properties, google may very well have a much better idea of who I really am than my closest friends. I just can’t come to terms with this notion, let alone decide whether this is a bad thing or not, but it just rubs me the wrong way: google knows what I look for online (from weird fetishes to patio furniture), they know what videos I watch and, from how many times I’ve watched some of them, which ones I might like, they know who are the closest people to me, who I talk to and how often, and even more importantly, what I talk about (you really thought that their voice-mail transcription technology’s only used for voice-mail?).

Last month, all these thoughts coalesced, as I got copy after copy of their email advising me of changes to their privacy policy. The essence of that message was that they’d start consolidating the information gathered about me from all their web properties (google, gmail, voice, youtube, etc.), which wasn’t really surprising or even odd – hell, I assumed that they had already been doing that for years! What made me pause what how intent they were on letting me know. That’s when paranoia kicked-in: it felt exactly like when banks or credit card companies inform you of “some” changes to their policies (I wouldn’t call them “agreements”) and then send you a 30 page-long document printed in 6pt type. Just the sort of thing I’d do if I wanted to screw someone and, at the same time, come clean as a “decent” person by letting them know.

Yesterday I took the first step towards distancing myself as much as poosible from google and started using https://startpage.com as my search engine. I haven’t found a good email alternative, but I will end-up using either mail.com or yahoo.com, and am still looking at phone service providers. I will post more about what I find during the next couple of weeks, as I continue cutting the umbilical cord it’s become.

Call me paranoid if you will, but sometimes, paranoid people do get killed.

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6 Responses to “Sometimes, paranoid people do get killed”

  1. Erick Says:

    Yup, I understand your position better than you think… Problem is that I even got Google on my “smart”phone and they even nailed me on a map following me (I stopped that thing it’s awkward when you think someone is watching over you). Once I got a video on how Google would conquer the world and now it seems more real than thought at that time.

  2. Hillary Says:

    great article, I learned something from it and will check out startpage.com

  3. David Says:

    Ugh. Not what I wanna hear. Not that it comes as a surprise. Is just that gmail is so damn convenient In most respects, most of the time that is. One exception is the grotesque misfeature they’ve recently added, the “considering adding so-and-so” as a recipient to this email. Here I am composing a message to my wife about matters concerning us, and gmail thinks I should include some dickhead with whom we almost transacted a refi of our house before deciding it didn’t smell right and aborting the deal. Do I really need gmail to suggest I share my wife’s and my personal business with Ricky the mortgage broker, and his inept secretary Gina? It sounds like a comedy.

    • blogsperiment Says:

      I’ve sent emails to the wrong person because of auto-complete. Language processing is definitely an algorithmic process; it’s just a matter of time before google can tell whether it should suggest your ex-broker or not, based on the content.

      I agree on how convenient gmail, google docs, calendar, and voice are. Finding replacements for all those things that are already there, with UI’s that I’m more than used to is proving to be quite a challenge.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Alex


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