By Kirk McElhearn, Macworld.com
For a company whose unofficial slogan is “Don’t Be Evil,” Google has been ignoring its so-called core value with alarming frequency as of late. And because of that, I decided to delete my Gmail account, along with all other Google services that I am able to do without. I have also deleted as much personal information as possible from my Google profile.
I still need to use some Google services–I have clients who share a couple of documents via Google Docs, I need to access one private blog on Blogger, and I will continue to use Google search (though I plan on exploring alternatives, such as Bing and Yahoo). But for the most part, I’m dropping Google wherever I can.
It was a combination of recent incidents that drove me to this point. One was the introduction of Google Buzz, which, in some cases, disclosed contact information that users thought was private. When Google launched Buzz, its “social networking tool,” the company didn’t let users opt into the program, but automatically applied it to all of the millions of users of the company’s free Gmail. Google quickly backtracked, but it is not clear whether the “turn off Buzz” link at the bottom of Gmail pages truly purges the links that Google created.
The second incident was the recent deletion of a number of music blogs from Google’s Blogger and Blogspot platforms without even notifying the owners of the blogs or attempting to determine whether the shutdowns were valid. This is not the first time that Google has pulled the plug on music blogs because of DMCA complaints, but some bloggers claim that their blogs were perfectly legal), because they had permission for every track they posted. While MP3 and music blogs are a popular way of distributing copyrighted content without the owners’ permission, not every such blog is violating the law. A similar shutdown of blogs last year lead to Google’s developing new guidelines, but this current incident shows that someone at Google didn’t read the new rules.
Google’s actions in these incidents were certainly not accidental, and they are part of a growing trend. Whether it be Google’s censorship of search results for Chinese users–the company helped build the Great Firewall of China before it was against it–or Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s flip comment regarding privacy (“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”), Google has become a corporation that has strayed from its initial values. By choosing an opt-out model for Buzz that basically forced all Gmail users to become a part of this service, Google simply hoped that everyone would ignore this lack of choice and accept it tacitly, so the next time it wanted to impose new features, people would consider it normal. That choice failed, fortunately.