All your eggs in the Google basket?July 25, 2011
Several conversations I’ve had with online friends and colleagues recently have centred round the fact that most of their activity that was previously spread across a multitude of different locations has drifted inexorably into the Google cloud. Recent comments include several versions along the lines of “Google runs my life now”.
And why not?
Google’s success is based on a whole suite of tightly integrated, effective and sometimes very cool apps that make it very easy to slip into the whole Google ecosystem. Google mail has more storage than my employers and it’s free, Google calendar integrates better with my iOS and Android phones and with both my Windows machine and my Mac than Outlook does and it’s free, Google Docs is the best way I’ve yet found for collaborative working on research proposals and it’s…. yeah you’re there already. Free. And It’s Open say Google lovers. And it is, to an extent, plenty of debates about just how open it is but I’ve run research projects based on hacking new functionality into GoogleTalk for example. It’s there to play with. And there’s playful stuff too, anyone who has followed some of the cool stuff being done with html5 and Chrome Experiments.
We have (or at least some of us have) Google+ now and some people are already abandoning Facebook for the new platform; again the openness is attractive. Facebook is a pretty closed system
So what’s not to like?
Aside from the natural nervousness of putting all your stuff somewhere you can’t see, a recent post on Gawker - Behave on Google Plus or Your Gmail Gets It - spells out another hazard. Google’s ability, and apparent willingness, to terminate all of your Google account for what it sees as a transgression in one. So, as the post explains, “ you and your email might be deleted without warning for any number of slights, ranging from obviously bad to noble: Spamming, posting a 19th-century paintingof a vagina, being William Shatner, or trying to organize a revolution in Egypt.”
That’s not to say that Google is evil. In fact those people who make that claim legitimise much of Google activity for me.
It’s not to say that there is a hidden agenda.
But I’m starting to become a little nervous about a single corporation having that much control over so much of my “stuff”.
Given Facebook’s recent disabling of Michael Lee Johnson’s Facebook ad about Google+ it makes you wonder what sort of indiscretion, or corporate error, might lead to Google account deletion. We’ve already seen similar unreasonable behaviour from Flickr in well publicised cases of account deletion and whereas there’s an argument that you should always back up your pictures stored in the cloud, how many of us back up everything? Really? Comments too? The consequences of Google deletion could be far more severe than Facebook or Flickr account deletion: losing your banking details, calendars, documents, pictures, contacts etc is not a prospect to look forward to. If Google runs your life your life is in Google’s hands and you had better be careful not to piss off the boss man.
A great letter to Google here from someone who suffered the fate described above. Very well written but grim reading. Thinking it’s time to stop worrying and make sure I’m backed up with at least two sources for everything and NOT USE GMAIL AS MAIN EMAIL for banking etc. Perhaps a new domain name with forwarding to gmail account might be part of the answer.
Great post here that links to it touches on the subject too from Paul Clarke well worth a read. Also discusses how Google+ can screw up your online identity by only supporting gmail users. Thanks Katie Moffat for the link.