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Purchased.

Tl;dr Google keeps a weird creepy history of everything it knows (e.g. via Gmail) you’ve purchased, makes it really unclear that it’s doing this, and makes it impossible for you to delete the history.

Awesome! Great value-add, just what I wanted! Thanks, Google!

2019-07-09T15:18:36+10:0010th November, 2019|Tags: google, privacy|

Change uncontrol.

Tl;dr one team at YouTube (intentionally) made an unauthorized code change and it effectively ended use of IE6.

On the one hand, by the time this happened, IE6 definitely “should” have been replaced or upgraded. On the other, the fact that a small handful of people at one company were able to effect this change on a worldwide scale really should be… concerning.

2019-07-31T09:40:03+10:0023rd October, 2019|Tags: google, internet explorer, tech|

Silos…

So apparently Google is removing apps from its store that contain donation links.

Webshit Weekly describes it thus:

Google continues the war against its own users. This time the attack is simple: anyone who suggests giving money to anyone but Google is ejected from the game. Hackernews cannot decide if people should be allowed to give each other money without appropriate oversight from Google. After all, people are not to be trusted, and God gave us massive multinational surveillance corporations to watch over us and keep us safe. If those corporations do something mean, it’s because the bad old government won’t let them be nice.

Ha ha! Google! “Don’t be evil”, amirite?

Yeah, well. Just your regularly scheduled reminder that the AO3 does exactly the same thing to fic in its archive,1 so… yeah. About that…

  1. And not just for Ko-fi and Patreon links; it also prohibits the linking to outside charities that aren’t the OTW. []
2019-10-23T09:12:06+11:0023rd October, 2019|Tags: ao3, google|

Framing.

Here’s a question: Does the unrelentingly positive nature of GMail’s “smart replies” feature prime people to be more agreeable to things they otherwise wouldn’t be? And is that a problem? And, critically… should Google have, like, studied that before rolling the feature out en masse?

2018-09-20T15:10:59+10:009th March, 2019|Tags: google, tech|

The endless experiment.

But companies usually care about their products, protect them, try to improve their state.

If I were a product, Google would do its best not to destroy me. They have invested a lot of resources into this product, so why risk it by making baffling changes to both privacy and user experience? If I stay happy with Google’s offerings, I keep being the perfect product: I can be mined for data and “sold” perpetually.

Clearly, Google doesn’t care about me personally. And how could it? There are billions of people just like me who use their services every day.

Maybe we should stop thinking we’re “Google’s product” and start thinking we are data points in endless experiments.

Rakhim Davletkaliyev on Google.

I switched to using Firefox about a day before this latest round of being-evil from Google and… yeah. I do not regret it.1

  1. Even if the scrollbars in Masto are now hideously ugly… []
2018-09-28T08:40:09+10:0028th September, 2018|Tags: google, privacy, tech|

Dash on dashes.

I mean, on the one hand this is an unsettling look at how Google used its market power to force the entire internet into playing on its terms. But, also, on the other: underscores are objectively uglier than hyphens in URLs, so… yanno. There’s that.

2017-12-20T13:37:59+11:0027th May, 2018|Tags: google, tech|

New serfdom.

How Google is impacting journalism though the fact it funds most online publications through ads, but also through being the biggest provider of hosted email and the maker of the most popular browser.

Very specifically, the article is about how Google’s arbitrary “no hate speech” rules impacted TMP’s reporting on white supremacist violence. Basically, TMP were censured for articles about Dylan Roof’s mass murder in Charleston, with the account rep they tried to contact apparently, “not really understanding the distinction and cheerily telling us to try to operate within the no hate speech rules.” It’s worth noting “censured” in this context means TMP couldn’t run advertising on the articles in question. Small in the scheme of things, maybe, but each warning of that nature goes against the account as a whole, with the net result that, after n-number of incidents (no one seems to know how many, exactly) Google could pull advertising entirely. Which would be disastrous for TMP. Existentially so.

The point here isn’t to criticize Google’s well-intentioned attempt to stop funding hate sites with ad revenue. It is to warn that Google has so much power, thanks to it advertising and big data ecosystems, that even small misjudgments in policy application can be catastrophic for downstream players. Which is, yanno. Pretty much literally everyone who isn’t Google.

Or, as the article points out:

One thing I’ve observed with Google over the years is that it is institutionally so used to its ‘customers’ actually being its products that when it gets into businesses where it actually has customers it really has little sense of how to deal with them.

(See also this.)

The big question: is Google’s ecosystem monopolistic and, if so, why doesn’t the government step in? Well, it’s been pointed out before the US antitrust laws are mostly geared to constantly lowering prices for consumers; they’re not actually designed to foster market competition, and they’re certainly not geared towards… however you’d describe the relationship Google has with its ad customers. Because Google’s services are (largely) “free”, in other words, US antitrust laws don’t apply.1

(To anyone who’s currently thinking, “They’re not ‘free’, the law is just bad at quantifying the value of the personal data Google extracts in exchange for its services.” Well… yes. That’s the point.)

Google isn’t the only one of the “new monopolies” poorly controlled by US law, of course–Amazon’s in the same boat, as is Facebook, for one–but it’s arguably the one with the most far-reaching impact for online services in general, and journalism in particular. Sadly, I don’t think there’ll be any kind of resolution to the issues any time soon, either. Hell, people are barely beginning to understand the problem. Or that there even is one to start with…

  1. It’s worth noting antitrust laws outside the US don’t necessarily take this approach, which is why it occasionally runs afoul of laws in jurisdictions such as Europe. []
2018-05-22T09:01:53+10:0029th January, 2018|Tags: advertising, google, tech, xp|

What they are in the light.

Something to be thankful to Microsoft for: Google will apparently phase out reading emails for targeted advertising.

Microsoft’s O365 is Google’s biggest competitor in the corporate email hosting space, and one of the biggest reasons companies pick O365 is because Microsoft doesn’t hang a skeevy-as-fuck ad platform off of it.1 Google’s approach works for personal use and for small businesses and start-ups (who’re more worried about not spending money than privacy), but Microsoft’s is more popular in large business, government, and education, all of whom tend to place more emphasis on data privacy and sovereignty.

Whether or not the privacy issues with Google’s email ads are a real or invented problem is sort of moot. The fact that people perceive there’s an issue there means more are moving to competitor platforms, specifically Microsoft and Apple. The latter hasn’t aggressively pursued the enterprise market, but every now and again there are rumblings that they might be thinking about it, particularly in the small- to medium-business end. Apple arguably has the weakest SaaS offering of the three–which isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just that Microsoft and Google’s are so much better–but does have both the highest hardware satisfaction rate and the most vocally strong stance on privacy. Microsoft doesn’t sell its privacy angle as hard as Apple does, and they’ve had a few public gaffes, but they’re pretty solid on it, particularly around enterprise.2 In other words, both companies are using privacy as a market differentiator and, from the looks of it, not just succeeding but forcing Google to play catch-up.

Either way, for once this almost looks like a good news story on the user end. Huh.

  1. The other reason is vendor lock-in–it’s relatively easy to move an existing on-premise Exchange set-up to O365–and the other other reason is because Microsoft is much better at playing ball with local certification and regulation requirements than Google is. In other words, Microsoft positions itself, not incorrectly, as the low-risk option. []
  2. Most of the “phone home” settings people don’t like in, say, Windows 10 are easy to turn off en masse via Group Policy, which every organisation does. []
2018-07-27T14:25:03+10:0026th August, 2017|Tags: apple, google, infosec, microsoft, privacy, xp|