Saturday, February 11, 2012

I prefer not to

I think I know how to defeat Google's invasive "personalization" -- for a while...
Much kerfuffle and roiling of late over Google's proposed changes to its privacy policy. There's plenty written elsewhere, so I'll spare you my attempts to either summarize or analyse it. This is about how I respond to it.

Given that in a sense it's useless, that they are scanning all my email as well as this blog (which is hosted on their blogspot service), I still want to register that I think it's offensive to see Google offer me "personal results" at the top of a search page. Why the FUCK would I want my search results "personalized" using my history of past searches as well as everything else Google knows about me? What am I, seven years old? Are people suddenly bereft of any search skills at all? I have been working for software companies for going on 20 years; I know a thing or two about search. Please, Google -- don't patronize me.

Added slightly later: Yes, it's possible to click an option in your account settings that says "Don't use personal results." But that just means they don't display the option for you. It doesn't mean they don't collect information about you. As for the "Search history" that you can also supposedly turn off (and I do) -- I simply don't trust that turning it off actually means they don't collect information about you. I think it just means they don't display it for you.

I'm someone who's used GMail ever since it was available. I love Google's services -- but I also want to be able to say no. So I haven't signed up for "Google +" and I never will -- until the day they stop giving me the choice and simply force me to do so. And that's the day I will dump GMail and make sure everything possible is off their systems -- as if that were even possible.

But til then, I have a simple strategy: never search for anything on Google while logged in to my email or other services.

That's simpler than it sounds. You have more than one browser on your machine, right? Probably Internet Explorer (or Safari, for Mac users), and Firefox. Maybe Chrome or Opera. All you have to do is dedicate one of these browsers to non-logged in Google use. For example, let's say I want to search for a new car, but I don't want fucking car advertising to clutter up my browser and I don't want any evidence of it in my Google results. Let's say I use Google's own browser, Chrome, for my GMail and other Google services. Then I just start up Firefox for the Google search -- and any other anonymous services, like Maps, that don't depend on my identity. And I do my search while not logged in to my Google account.

If I did that while logged in, Google would know I'm looking for a certain kind of car, and then it would know I searched on their maps for the nearest dealerships. Why should I want them to know that? What services could they possibly offer me, based on that information, that would benefit me -- as opposed to benefiting the car dealers whose ads would then pollute my email window and search results and, for all I know, my maps?

No really Google -- thanks for your free services, but UP YOURS on the exploitation.

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