War for the Web
22 03.12

Gizmodo’s case against Google

Gizmodo has an article today titled “The case against Google.” It’s an interesting read, and details some of the changes Google has made to its platform overall. It also details some of the transgressions that the author feels Google has made to its mantra “Do no evil.”

We believe that this article is misguided. The issue at hand is not Google or its platform changes. Google has every right to make whatever platform changes it wants. In addition it is a publicly traded company, it has an obligation to its shareholders to continue to make a profit. It needs to think be innovative to do that, otherwise it risks a lawsuit over mismanagement.

Google is not the problem, we as Internet users are the problem. We trusted Google, we should never have done so. We trust Facebook as well, we shouldn’t do that either. We trust Apple, same problem. These are all publicly held companies; their obligations are not in any way to us, Internet users, but solely to their shareholders. They have to turn a profit for their shareholders. In fact, we should all be grateful, regardless of the changes. We get all this cool stuff for free. We get Gmail, G Chat, Calendar applications, Google documents, Google Voice, a whole host of applications that were quite costly to develop, cost money to run, and we get them FREE!

So who is paying for it? There’s a great web comic floating around about Facebook, but it actually holds true for most of the Internet. It depicts a couple of hogs in a barn raving about how they get free food and a comfortable place to stay. The tagline underneath is “if you don’t pay for it, you probably aren’t the customer, you’re the product being sold.”

This is true for everywhere on the Internet where you aren’t paying a fee. This is true of Hulu, this is true of Gizmodo, this is true of any website where you get to watch stuff or read stuff for free. But the most dangerous places where this is true are places where you upload content. Facebook, Google, Hotmail. Places where you do trust a service, like email, to work reliably, be confidential, and take for granted that it will behave the way we expect. These services have no obligation to you other than what they define in their terms of service. They do have an obligation to their shareholders to package you and sell you to advertisers and turn a profit.

These are the important questions we should be asking when we use the Internet. Who owns the services that I use? Who is their obligation to? What are the consequences of that for me and my data?

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