Google lost its way.
I’m tired of Google.
In the beginning I bought in to the “do no evil” philosophy. I’ve had a gmail account since around 2004. But I’ve had just about enough.
I’ve had enough of the Google that is no longer a search engine but an ad delivery platform focused on maximum value extraction from search to transaction. The Google that has an effective monopoly in ways that most of our regulators don’t understand.
Let’s take one small example of Google’s behaviour that annoys me on a daily basis.
Your Gmail account is also a Google Account. You use the same email address/account for all Google services including Youtube.
Google, along with other platforms has created a subtle, but crucial, distinction between “log out” and “sign out”. When you sign out of Youtube, there is no visual indicator that Google is still actively associating you with the browser. The UI shows that you are “signed out” and is otherwise silent.
The problem is that you are not in fact “logged out” as in OUT in the way we used to understand it. You will discover this if you now try and log in to Gmail, where you will notice that Google has pre-populated your Gmail address.
If it’s a family PC/Mac, you may also see the email addresses of your partner and kids. Most families sharing a PC or Mac at home probably won’t realise that all family activity via that browser may be tracked by Google.
So in fact, while you are browsing the web, you may be in a twilight zone of being neither completely logged in or out of Google. The reality is that it can now continue to associate you/your family with whatever is happening on the browser. Most people do not understand this.
But how, you ask, do you stop this? At the bottom of the page, you will notice an option to “remove an account”
Language, and how it is used , as we all realise in these turbulent times is important.
This particular phrase could be viewed as a behavioural nudge to NOT explore this option. Some may conclude that clicking on this link may in fact delete their Gmail account. Let there be no doubt that the language used here is deliberate and very carefully chosen.
The FACT is that you can only actually LOG OUT in the old fashioned sense of the term by following that “remove an account” link.
But watch what happens next, if you proceed to click on the “remove account” option. A circle in red will appear to the right of your gmail address, which is designed to resemble a “STOP” sign or aggressively ask you if you REALLY WANT TO DO THIS. Or to put it another way. DON’T TOUCH THE RED BUTTON!
Underneath, there is a one word link named “Done” in blue. This link serves no purpose except to bring you back to the previous page. It’s also notable that this link is in blue, a more friendly clickable link.
You can only proceed by actually clicking on the red circle/stop sign. And even then, Still Google persists in trying to resist you actually logging out. It states.
“Your email will no longer be used with Google services on this browser. Sign in when you are ready to use your account again”
This is what I would call a passive aggressive behavioural nudge.
Hopefully the Irish Data Protection Commissioner will take a close look at this. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission should do likewise.
In 2020, consider paying smaller independent companies for services that you use online. Perhaps buy a Fastmail or a Protonmail email account. Pay a small annual amount to micro.blog which is where this blog is hosted online, or Flickr to post/store your photos or post updates.
Instead of using Google to search, consider using DuckDuckGo. It’s easy to set it as the default search engine on your browser on desktop or mobile.
It’s time we all thought about how we can maintain and strengthen an independent web. An independent web whose sole purpose is something other than mass surveillance.