An Open Letter to Google+ .. Your Policy Is Nuts (with all due respect)
Well once again the ugly specter of privacy on the web rears its head with respect to Google+ policy, and I find myself smack dab at the center of the controversy. When I wrote this post I certainly didn’t expect to become the poster boy for social media privacy (or at least this soon).
My account has been under suspension since a troll flagged me last week and I’m still waiting for Google to get around to reviewing my case. But apparently hell will freeze over before they finally get to it, and frankly I’m tired of waiting.
Did I say the word “policy”? Well that’s the problem because Google’s “policy” is a bit confusing to say the least. Let me explain.
Last week my Google+ profile was suddenly deactivated and I received this curt notice (click the image for a larger view):
I suspected it was just an excuse to snoop and I wasn’t disappointed. I clicked on the link to request a “reconsideration” and was confronted with a simple form with no text box to plead my case for extenuating circumstances.
There was an ‘option’ for providing ‘ID’ but I passed on it because there is no way in hell Google is getting my driver’s license. It’s none of their damn business.
I did however verify my account (as they demanded) with my personal cell phone number (against my better judgment). So what more can they possibly need?
Now they have my private telephone number and my account is still suspended. Thanks Goog. (By the way, I want my “private” number completely erased from all of your records. Just saying).
I also sent them a link to this blog with over a decade of posts via their ‘feedback’ button. I have had a Blogger account for just as long.
That’s more than enough information to prove I am who I say I am. And I’m only semi-anonymous. Just read my about file.
Besides, BLOGBloke™ has been an internet persona for over a decade, and in legal terms it has become a brand.
Then I received this notice (click again for a larger view).
Several days have now passed and I’m still waiting for their “review”.
So while we’re waiting let’s take a closer look at Google’s general policy statement on privacy “The freedom to be who you want to be“…
When it comes to Google services, we support three types of use: unidentified, pseudonymous and identified. And each mode has its own particular user benefits:
Unidentified. Sometimes you want to use the web without having your online activity tied to your identity, or even a pseudonym—for example, when you’re researching a medical condition or searching for that perfect gift for a special someone. When you’re not logged into your Google Account (or if you never signed up for one), that’s how you’ll be using our services. While we need to keep information like IP addresses and cookies to provide the service, we don’t link that information to an individual account when you are logged out.
Pseudonymous. Using a pseudonym has been one of the great benefits of the Internet, because it has enabled people to express themselves freely—they may be in physical danger, looking for help, or have a condition they don’t want people to know about. People in these circumstances may need a consistent identity, but one that is not linked to their offline self. You can use pseudonyms to upload videos in YouTube or post to Blogger.
Identified. There are many times you want to share information with people and have them know who you really are. Some products such as Google Checkout rely on this type of identity assurance and require that you identify yourself to use the service. There may be other times when it’s more desirable to be identified than not, for example if you want to be part of a community action project you may ask, “How do I know these other people I see online really are community members?” Source.
Sounds pretty good .. right? I’m in total agreement with this statement and applaud Google for it. Yay (clapping).
BECAUSE the reason why I blog semi-anonymously is when I practiced law my life was threatened by criminals.
I also travel in regimes where bloggers are persecuted and thrown in jail (or worse) for speaking their mind, and I’m concerned about retribution if I should go abroad.
So it seems to me I should be able to use social media and protect my privacy and family. I think that’s reasonable. Don’t you Goog?
And let’s not forget all the women who are hiding from an abusive spouse/boyfriend etc., etc. We’ve heard this before .. right?
If someone is using anonymity to be a troll, then by all means throw them out. But let’s not assume that all anonymous profiles are being used for bad purposes. Trolls come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them aren’t so anonymous either.
Let’s not be hypocrites either. We all know this is really about Google wanting to identify us to make it’s marketing more effective. It’s about targeting us .. NOT to protect us.
Then I found this other statement from Google ‘Your name and Google Profiles‘. (P.s.: this document has recently been changed).
Does anybody else notice the contradiction? Confusing isn’t it? Frustrating is probably a better term.
I’m sure Google has a perfectly reasonable explanation (I’m all ears).
That’s a joke by the way. And no, I don’t buy into the story it’s just to “be certain you’re connecting with the right person, and others will have confidence knowing that there is someone real behind the profile they’re checking out“.
The assumption being avatars are just bots. Well I can assure you Google I am a very REAL person made of flesh and blood, and if I want to talk to a talking head then that should be my choice. But thanks for caring just the same. (Tongue in cheek).
So here’s a thought. How about we use a little common sense.
Anybody can use any profile name or pic they want to. Who’s to know? A quick perusal of Google+ and you will see it is rife with anonymous profiles.
But like I said, a blanket policy is not the way to go.
Because unless Google forces ALL of us to provide ID then it can’t impose it on just BLOGBloke™ (or a few of us). Unless Google imposes ID on ALL of its users, their policy is moot. And unless their policy is applied equally to everyone, enforcing said policy is in fact discriminatory … period.
Their policy is so full of holes it’s swiss cheese. Trying to enforce it is ludicrous and an exercise in futility. Neither would it stand up in a court of law.
The only way Google can get out of this schmozzle they created is to impose proof of ID on ALL users. But it is not only WRONG, I would submit it is illegal and an infringement on our right to privacy.
I would also submit the old standby excuse that we can just choose to op-out is a cop-out. Google has become synonymous with the internet. When we search the internet we don’t just say “search it”. We say “Google it”.
Whomever dreamt up this nonsense at Google obviously did not think it through. Or have they?
So what will be next on the agenda? Will we have to provide ID just to use the internet? Scan a QR tattoo on our wrist before we can log on? Or our smartphone .. a credit card perhaps? Think 666.
Think that’s far fetched? Then consider this. Who would have thought Google would disallow private profiles. Would you have guessed that say … a year ago?
Google wants to move us from our desktop to the cloud. Its web apps are being put under the umbrella of the Google+ profile.
Once a gazillion users are on Google+ (and it won’t be long) Google could come up with another policy stating that you will have to provide more personal information even just to use Gmail.
It is possible. How far could they take this you ask? The sky’s the limit, one small step at a time.
There is an old cliché “follow the money”. In this case it’s ‘follow the trend’.
If you don’t believe me then we will just have to wait and see how far this goes. But don’t wait until it’s too late before voicing your objection.
This blog has sustained numerous DOS attacks in the past. Before I was flagged, my last post on Google+ took a swipe at social media marketers using it as a focus group for curating content.
Do you believe in coincidence? Me neither.
It’s the mischievous trolls who should be banned from Google+ … not BLOGBloke™.
Wanna bet my “review” will eventually come from a non-respondible bot (no name) linking to a sterile faq file?
The message however might start with a friendly “hi there”. That will make it all worthwhile I suppose. (Tongue in cheek).
Now please take a look at Mashable’s profile. They have no personal information there.
So what makes it so special? BLOGBloke™ has been around a helluva lot longer than it has. At least I put my personal pic on my profile.
Come on Google, enough is enough. Be reasonable.
Over the past decade BLOGBloke™ has been a valuable resource helping other bloggers succeed with no strings attached. I resent in the strongest of terms being put through this crap, and I deserve better.
P.s. Goog: I want the profile name and IP address of the mischievous troll(s) who fingered me. Last time I checked I have the right to face my accuser(s). Or has that right been taken away as well?
Addendum: My daughter just asked me about this and her response was “that’s retarted“. Tell me about it dear. She’s definitely her father’s daughter.
Want to hear something else funny? I can’t even plus 1. I’ve been squeezed out.
Another reason why blogs are superior to stoopid, controlling social networks.
UPDATE 07-19-11: Canada’s Privacy Commissioner agrees. “Privacy watchdog sets sights on Google. Report raises concerns about how Internet giants track, profile and target us”. Read more @ http://www.blogbloke.com/canadas-privacy-watchdog-sets/
2nd UPDATE 07-19-11: The plot thickens. I finally got my answer from Google+ in the form of this cryptic message. Apparently BLOGBloke is not a REAL person after all:
Well thanks for setting me straight Goog. I’ve had an account all these years and now I’m an “entity”. Suddenly I feel so violated.
But I’m not an “entity” or a “business”. So what am I really? A bot perhaps? If I am then I must be one helluva sophisticated algorithm. You should hire me.
Now I know how Data feels. Conflicted.
But I think I really am a REAL live person. Let me check again just to be sure … … … yup. I’m REAL alright. Just pinched myself and it hurt like hell.
So why are Mashable, TechCrunch et al allowed on Google+ ? Are they any more REAL than BLOGBloke™ ??? I’m feeling the love.
Obviously there’s one policy for them, and then another policy for the rest of us pee-ons. I must have missed the memo.
You really need to think this through again Goog.
But seriously though, now I’m REALy pissed. This is absurd, assinine, bullshit and any other derogatory term that I can think of. It’s also discrimination and exclusionary.
Despite all of the information I gave them they still want more. They are using G+ as bait to pry into our business at the exclusion of people like yours truly who stand on principle and don’t want to give it up.
Google’s draconian profile policy has absolutely nothing to do with “community standards“. Your profile (noun) is designed to profile (verb) YOU. Understand?
So the gloves are now off. I’m contacting the authorities. I’m also contacting the mainstream press.
Thanks for giving me a cause Google. Advocacy is my schtick and I’m just warming up.
Need more convincing? Then read ‘Who is harmed by a “Real Names” policy?‘
Now read Part 2.