To all the people who keep saying, “It’s a service; if you don’t like it, don’t use it.” the following thoughts which, obviously, you are very keen on avoiding but which (also obviously) are salient whether you avoid them or not:
- Google is the number one provider of search and search-related advertising services in the world.
- Google’s policies to date have been both pseudonym and consumer privacy/choice friendly (ignoring for a moment those pesky Buzz issues, eh?).
- Google’s reach, influence, and overall power in relation to (a) online presence, (b) the ability to affect or repress expression and speech is more consistent, more actualized, and higher than any other company on the planet.
Now, all this said, are you truly obtuse enough to think that not using Google at all is a viable option for people who want to be engaged and involved online?
Do you truly think that anyone who cares about their privacy and right to choose WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF SERVICES AND PRODUCTS how they will be identified or what will/will not be linked to their identity should not be able, in the context of those services and products, to do so? Or that the call on this is (or should be) up to anyone other than themselves?
Do you think that a company’s marketing and revenue interests should trump the right of the consumer to choose how their personal and personally identifying information is or can be used?
I’m sure some of you will immediately try to distract the discussion by claiming that Google+ is not, in fact, Google overall. I’ll respond to this objection by reminding you that Google themselves have very clearly stated that their point, purpose, and goal in all this is to link common/real names to all their various uses. In context, obviously, this DOES mean across the “googlesphere”.
Some of you may even trot out the tired stereotypes of anonymous or pseudonymous communication; I’ll refer any who do so to a previous article on the role of these types of communication in our culture, society, and world.
This is not simply a matter or question of corporate right of self-determination, indeed, it is about the right of the consumer and customer to retain self-determination in the context of use of services; as much in relation to the individual’s right to chose their identity in any context not legally mandated as it is their right to choose IF, HOW, and WHEN their information is (a) distributed, (b) sold, (c) stored, or (d) used.
This constant blather of “don’t like it, don’t use it.” is simply asinine; however, it is also an excellent example of why the current lapse of legislation and protection in relation to privacy online is something that must be dealt with NOW. Companies like Google are effectively availing themselves of the profound lack of legislation in this area to concoct increasingly invasive and mercenary contracts and terms of services, to retroactively change services and use the weight of popularity to essentially blackmail people into submission/continued use, and the decidedly calculating methods employed by Google in this effort, frankly, should give any thinking human being pause.
I’ll tell you point blank: I am no longer a Google customer. Nor do I ever again intend to be one.
But this choice has resulted in a level of loss of access and connectivity to friends, peers, family, AND MORE that, in a word, is profound:
- I lost all access to Android Market ENTIRELY.
- I lost all applications I purchased through Android market.
- I lost all ability to update or upgrade applications on my Android phone without rooting it.
- I lost all ability to claim ownership of, maintain, or otherwise manage my website’s listing with Google.
- I lost all analytics history for both myself and my freelance clients.
- I lost all ability to interact with my friends, peers, family, and the world at large using Gmail.
- I lost all ability to interact with my friends, peers, family, and the world at large using GTalk.
- I lost all ability to interact with my friends, peers, family, and the world at large using Google Groups.
- I lost all ability to interact with my friends, peers, family, and the world at large using YouTube.
There are quite a few more I could add to this list, but I’ll keep it short because I’d prefer you to actually take a moment to consider what the above circumstances would mean to you and how you do things from day to day… and then, ask yourself, seriously and quietly there, where no one else can listen in:
Do you really think “just don’t use it” is a legitimate response? Particularly, is it a legitimate response in the context of a company purportedly dedicated to providing products and services and search to build community and help you operate online?
THIS is the point. The entire discussion of “nymwars” is but one tiny sliver of the MUCH broader issue. This issue holds ramifications and consequences that very few people are actually thinking about, it seems.
Mark the words: You should be giving this very serious thought.
For those who read this and still cannot understand it or what it can mean, frankly, I think you just don’t want to get it and it is very likely you won’t get it until it causes you pain. I find that unfortunate because all the folks (like me) who are making noise about this right here, right now, are doing so precisely to try and ensure that none of us have cause to feel that pain. We sure wish you’d figure it out and join us because, as you may imagine, this is a pretty big rock to try and push uphill alone.