Google+ gives me grief, generally

It seems to have been my annointed role this week to press back against the rush to join Google+, the new social networking service (SNS) from Google.

It all began when I posted the Patch Monday podcast on, erm, Monday. “Can Google+ kill Facebook? Twitter?” I asked. But as I discussed the potential success of Google+ and its strengths and weaknesses compared with Facebook, I couldn’t help but think…

I don’t want to do this.

Join Google+, that is.

I’d first written about Google+ for Crikey a week and a bit earlier. It was a cranky piece. I speculated that Google would have to come up with something pretty persuasive to get people to migrate from Facebook.

That of course soon triggered one of the usual, predictable comments.

sorry im not on facebook, i dont need to be, i dont have a mobile phone, i really dont need one, i dont have a GPS, i have a brain and know how to get around, hell, i dont even have a watch, i do have a job , im thankfull of that and i do manufacture and retail a product that everyone wants.

… said William Magnusson, who also seems to live without capital letters, apostrophes or the ability to decide when it’s time to end his sentence and start a new one.

I’d expected that. But what I hadn’t expected was much of the reaction to my follow-up Crikey piece, There’s no way I’m handing over data to Google+, and to a lesser extent my ABC The Drum piece, Why rush? Let others find the Google+ privacy landmines.

Now the headline to that Crikey piece wasn’t mine. I’d probably have added “just yet” or something, and indeed that’s why I toned it down for the ABC piece. But the lead paragraph of the Crikey piece set the tone…

The sheer stupidity of technology’s early adopters never ceases to amaze me. Facebook continues to be slammed for its dodgy privacy practices. But Google launches Google+, essentially the same thing, and the shiny-chasers are clamouring to pour in their most intimate information.

… and people reacted.

Some of it was clearly in response to my use of the word “stupid”, and thinking I meant that all people who use Facebook or Google+ were stupid. No, only those who rush in without considering the trade-offs.

But there were two threads to the reaction that surprised me.

  • All Facebook and Google are doing is finding out more about you to show you more accurate advertising. What’s the harm in that? That struck me as naive. I pointed to the possibilities of (mis-)use by insurance companies or employers as obvious examples. People seem not to understand the imbalance in the power relationship.
  • “They” know everything about you anyway, so what does it matter? Either be part of our internet-enabled future, or disconnect. That struck me as simplistic, as if this is an all-or-nothing thing and there’s only one way of doing it.

I have no neat and tidy way to finish this blog post. My thoughts are still open-ended. But what do you think?

[Photo: Google signage at the Google Kobi Günü event, Ergenekon, Gumussuyu/beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey, on 21 April 2011 by Halil Gökdal. Used under a Creative Commons BY-ND-SA license.]

6 Replies to “Google+ gives me grief, generally”

  1. Key point for me is that the horse has well and truly bolted vis-a-vis Google, so there’s nothing more to be concerned about with G+. I’ve already decided how much I trust the Colourborg, whereas Zuck’s little get-laid-and-get-rich scheme is much less open about how it uses and abuses my data.

    My choice, anyhow. The real reason to prefer G+ is the lack of Farmville. That wins all the points as far as I’m concerned.

  2. @Eric TF Bat: It certainly does come down to personal choice. Each individual’s perception of risk versus benefit will be different. As my ABC piece ended:

    I’m not afraid of social media as such. I use Twitter heavily, because I think the trade-off is clear and the risks low. But Google, with its many interconnected services, is far more complex.

    I’m not saying don’t use Google+. I am saying take the time to read and think, and let the early adopters trigger any privacy landmines, before pouring in your own life.

    Trust is largely about perception, though, and perception can be manipulated. Or, even if not manipulated, just plain wrong.

    But how long will Google+ be free of Farmville? It will soon have an API…

  3. Dunno why Google+ gives you grief while for me it is Google itself and big trendsetter players practice of never sticking to their agreements (and ToS is mutual agreement between provider and end-user) give me creeps.

    So, I wrote, in response to your rants, though they just provoked what I wanted to ask for very long time:
    I’ve Never Subscribed to either Buzz or Google+ but My Google Private Profiles ‘re Unilaterally & Retroactively Published, then Dumped, Now Will Be Suspended?

    That is, I have not EVER subscribed to Google+ (to accept anything new!) but I cannot continue having profile privately as before (so, my content/data is dumped) and I cannot keep my previous name which is known to my respondents because it started syddenly to infringe real-name Google naming policy!

    And it has nothing to do with subscribing to GooglePlus!
    And I’ve NEVER agreed to treat me and dump my data, work, time, contacts in this way!

  4. @Scammed: Well, I suppose saying that Google+ gave me grief isn’t accurate, because I didn’t actually use Google+. This post is about the grief caused to my schedule by its sudden launch.

    More recent posts have covered the impact of Google’s “real names” policy and the developments there. Check out the posts tagged “google”.

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