Are we Developers helping Google to build an unstoppable monopoly?

Sarthak Sharma on November 14, 2018

Like you, I was also a fan of Google, but things that have been happening recently with Facebook have made me come to a grave realization. If Fac... [Read Full]
markdown guide
 

Does Google make your life easy?

  • You can have a full analytics of your website in 1 minute (Google Analytics).
  • You can deliver fonts to your website visitors via a free CDN, oh and it also optimizes it for the visitor via User-Agent. (Google Font)
  • You can show off the location of your business in 3 clicks (Google Maps)
  • You can have a full server running in 1 minute (Google Cloud) (paid)
  • You can store unlimited photos (Google Photos)
  • You can store 10GB data (Google Drive) etc...

Oh and all of these are in sync between my phone and desktop. And I can sync easily via Google Chrome.

We can't shutdown Google and Facebook. They definitely make our life easier. And yes, they collect a lot of information about us. Thanks to GDPR we can have control over this now, but here is the question:

Would you pay for all of these different services if they would offer full privacy and zero data collection?

I bet you wouldn't because you love free services.

Do you know how much all of these would cost for you? (And don't say there is Dropbox and other free alternatives, because they also collect every freakin bit about you)

 

Question is not about whether they are making our life easy or not.
It's more about, should we let them establish a monopoly or not. Remember how Google first gave maps API for free just to kill competition and now when they own most of the market, It's not Completely FREE anymore. Many small companies are complaining.

We developers have the knowledge to create alternative products and creative ways to reduce the cost too.

 

There are many alternatives, so you are free to move away from Google. Yes, we developers have that knowledge. But do you have the time to develop "free" services? Or even make it paid and do marketing? I am pretty sure you go bankrupt pretty fast.

Yes, Google and Facebook kinda owns the world. There are cons and pros to that.

I ain't got money and time to develop my own services AND keep them running. Google Maps and Google Analytics is a very complex service and most of the Google stuff are very complex behind the scenes. Even if Google collects all that data and is monopoly, I can just type in "wedding" into Google Photos and see all the wedding photos we uploaded.

It's free? Yes. It collects data? Yes. It's a monopoly, definitely.
My life is easier? WAY EASIER. Am I saving money? YEP

There are pros and cons, it's your choice. People love comfort and Google provides comfort.

You obviously value your convenience a lot, David. And that's fine with me. But understand that not all of us do. This whole debate comes down to privacy vs. convenience in the end. Some people pick privacy while others pick convenience. The problem is that with each passing day, we are losing that choice. And as devs, it is our responsibility to think long-term and really ponder whether the convenience really is worth this price.

Sure, most of it is free/super cheap right now. But it might not be 10 years down the line. And we might be powerless to challenge it at that point.

Yes, people love comfort. And Google provides that as you've so eloquently written. But we all could benefit from getting out of our comfort zones every once in a while. Saying "Google and Facebook own the world" is easy but ultimately unhelpful. I think we can do better than that. :)

I definitely value my convenience. I am a full time freelancer - working 8 hours a day + spending 1-2 hours on invoices/business/emails etc + spending a few hours developing my own products.

I don't have the time and money to invest in "wanna-be-like-Google services". Yes, Google might charge for their services later but 10 years is far away and A LOT will change by then.

Unfortunately, I can't live without money, I have to pay bills and I have to eat. If something is valuing your privacy then it costs money. Paying for each kind of service $10 or $20 every month quickly adds up. And I only talked about $10 when some service costs hundreds.

I understand the problem and I agree with you. But for example if I want to launch my own product then there are laws. Like you need to have a ToS, Privacy Policy, GDPR, Cookie policy and all the other crap. You need a business etc. In my country we pay thousands of dollars to get all this running.

We can definitely do better than that, I wish I had the time and money to do so.

No worries bro, We(Conscious Developers) will create some cheaper and transparent alternatives for you. Hold on 😊

A few things have been said that I feel the need to comment on

I definitely value my convenience

And if you were selling your own privacy, this would be a valid argument. But you're selling your website visitor's privacy instead, so this is not a choice you are allowed to make.
( Legally, you might not even be considered capable of making that decision for yourself. )

But for example if I want to launch my own product then there are laws.

Those laws are still valid if you use Google's services. Using third party software does not magically shift legal responsibility from you to that third party.
( Mostly, the laws also come down to "don't be a sneaky arsehole", which should be easy enough to comply with. )


So in short: yes, you are responsible, both morally and by law.

As a side-note: a lot of websites are currently not compliant with GDPR and other regulations, the hammer just has not come down on them yet.


We [..] will create some [..] alternatives for you

No we will not. The effort required to create some of these services (maps, serverless, advanced AI, ...) is monumental and not something that can be achieved by individuals or a p2p network.

You need larger structures to do these kind of things. Besides multinationals, governments or multi-government organizations (think CERN) fit this criteria. But many people feel uncomfortable with governments' technological projects.

Hey, I just wonder, what's the difference between 2008 and 2018. You say @Utkarsh Talwar, that in 10 years we won't have a choice. I'm a bit shocked, that we have the choice right now. Youtube was acquired by G in 2005. If they would spare a couple of dollars (109 $), they could gain much control even then. After 9 11 all of the privacy programs were shut off and I think for next 3 years, there was no change in the US law/programs.

My point is, what changed?

We have the tendency to decentralize our networks, but that won't solve the issue of the free services. We would still use Google maps etc.

The thing, what would change everything right now would be ... if G would turn evil. If they shifted from shady to evil. They won't do it. But that would change the state of minds of many people and the market would change. New services marketing themselves as privacy friendly (DuckDuckGo) will come up.

The point is, we act as the market. We demand, they supply. It's about people and what they want. So far everybody enjoys free services and if it increases the value of their life, not much can be done on the privacy part. sadly.

I'm honestly scared of the future.

 
 

You completely take this discussion in the wrong way man. Even if they did make our life easier that doesn't mean they didn't steal our data. And you mentioned "GDPR", what do you think it is?

When you sign up on Google, you agree that Google can use your data wherever they want. And if you don't agree with them you can't use Google services. After you agree on the Terms and Conditions then GDPR can't do shit about it.

That's what big companies do. They know how to manipulate laws and use them in their favor. We know that we can't stop using them overnight. But if we start using open-source projects or any other resources where we have full knowledge about our privacy then someday it'll be a reality.

 

If the product is free, you are the product.
It means (to me at least) that if you agree to use a free service, expect you data to be "stole" and used.

GDPR cover a lot on how online service can use your data. Especially, you should be able to delete everything about you. I don't think Terms and Conditions can break GDPR, not sure I'm a not a lawyer.

 

When you sign up on Google, you agree that Google can use your data wherever they want. And if you don't agree with them you can't use Google services. After you agree on the Terms and Conditions then GDPR can't do shit about it.

The law stands above any terms and conditions you may have agreed to. The greater the difference between signing parties, the less likely an agreement is to hold in court.

GDPR doesn't do much for you if you're not European though.

 

I might have taken it a bit off the way, but my comment still applies.

Google have been fined multiple times for billions because of GDPR. So I guess their law manipulating didn't work?

If you don't like Google, you don't need to use their services, it's that simple. Move on to Apple or something... Oh wait... They are worse.

Open source projects are awesome, but where we would be without Google's contributions to open source? Think about that.

You mentioned multiple times, but so far I think it only charged Google and Facebook $9.3B when new GDPR laws popped up online and Once Google accused of using GDPR to impose unfair terms but no more.
And I highly doubt that a near to trillion dollar valuation company gives a fuck about that charge. They change their terms according to GDPR ASAP.

 

I pay for my email at tutanota.com. I pay for my storage at Microsoft Office 365. I use duckduckgo.com for search. I use FireFox as my primary browser.

And I find all these alternatives to be even better than the Google services.

 
 

All these services is the issue..

I use google... for all the above... they gain from it, do I lose from it? thats the question and I do not have the answer.

 

I think you're overestimating how much money these companies make off of user data. Facebook makes an average of $11 per user. I'd pay $1 a month for a social media site that respects my privacy. The problem is that the average user doesn't understand this transaction is taking place. This lack of understanding has allowed Facebook to gain critical mass and makes it difficult to convince people to pay the $1 a month. It's funny that you should bring up Google maps as a free service, because while it might be free to end users, businesses have recently been complaining that Google has hiked prices. The dig at Dropbox was also pretty off base. Dropbox makes its money off of people paying for better plans, not selling information to third parties or targeting you with ads. Their privacy policy is pretty easy to read, and it seems like they just collect information relevant to themselves (how often you use your profile), and don't sell it.

 

Google nowadays having notification alerts examples (rate this restaurant, have you visit this restaurant and so on)

So if click on any notification or do some comments or submit any rating we are sending all nearby locations details, which Google don't have, because of protocols or something.

So my question is, is Google trying to break protocols without any knowledge just to the extent his data sets?

 

Drug-dealers also make the life of junkies easier. But shorter.

Openstreetmap is better than GMap for nearly 5 years already.
DuckDuckGo is much better than GSearch for circa 8 years already.
There is nobody in a need for unlimited storage, and any cloud provides literally terabytes for cents.
OK, I could understand Facebook for somebody who has no real life.

All the above sounds extremely childish if not insane to me. I also value comfort, but that does not make me to pay for drugs.

 
 

This excites me for when there will be a time where everything is decentralized, blazing fast and perfect. Complete data privacy with a usable economy system. Kind of like the decentralized internet concept in Silicon Valley.

 

I personally do try to pay for standalone services if they're high quality and secure. You mention other services knowing things about you, and that's absolutely true, but there's a difference between them being the product and you being the product. Dropbox charges and makes money off of you, they're not exchanging your personal data to stay afloat.

 

Google providing many useful services does not mean we can't criticize Google's policies.

 

Yeah the truth is we would 100% pay for alternatives to these services if they ran at the same cost that Google runs its services, minus billions in profit.

Example to use the maps service it'd cost cents.

If there were efficient micropayment systems, then paying cents for maps would make sense.

Imagine a system that combined all these services and charged my account monthly. I'd pay maybe $2 per month. Same for a facebook-like service.

What if I was in control of my data, and of who gets it, and they'd have to pay me, not Google?

That's what the Unification token's vision is. It seems far fetched but it's actually entirely doable with an efficient blockchain implementation - they're using EOS now but any super high performance blockchain would work. Friends of mine are working on this, and I am mentioning it here because I think it's cool - I have no other affiliation to it. Also it's definitely not the only way to create such a system. It's an example that it would work.

 

I think you missed the point here. The question was not a purely financial one. It's not about whether we love free services and them making our lives easier.

The question is: Are we living up to our responsibility by always taking the route that is easiest for us, neglecting user needs on the way?

 
 

I would definitely pay for those services in exchange for my privacy

 

Would you pay for all of these different services if they would offer full privacy and zero data collection?

I think about this often. And the answer is yes. I think about this often because the reality is, the big guys (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) do a LOT of work. They have LOTS of talented employees making all this stuff. You have to pay those employees somehow. Google HAS to make money. I've been realizing for a long time now, that we either go back to the old way (70's, 80's, early 90's) of PAYING for the software you use up front with cash, or paying in some other way later to use amazing free stuff. Google isn't evil, they do a lot of amazing things. But they are becoming (maybe have already) an enormous, world impacting, super-monopoly thingy... Either people decide they wanna pay for cool stuff with cash or pay to be advertised to. (or maybe somewhere in between). Look at what happened with TV. It used to be pretty much just shows and news, and of course some advertising to help stations afford to produce. Then there was premium cable. Few if no ads. Eventually a lot of that stuff gets ads too, because money. Advertising is super prevalent in our culture because stuff has to get paid for somehow...

I don't necessarily think the way things are now is awful. But I personally would like to see a change back towards paid for services. Either way, large businesses come and go, establish themselves as monopolies, die off, get replaced. Amazon, Facebook and (probably) Google will die one day. The work these companies do is amazing though, their employees need to get paid somehow.

 

I would say Google can be evil and do amazing stuff at the same time, it happens very often in giant companies with many divisions and monopolistic tendencies

 

Guys!! The discussion is about Google creating a monopoly. All I want to point out here is that there should be a balancing force. If not, Google will be able to create a Captive Market like the one you see in Cinema Halls. Once you are in they can charge whatever they want from the end user because there are no other options. Here we all are end users and It's already started happening in some cases.

 

"Exactly, I think every company should have a page on their sites to explain how they use users data in as simple language as they can"

-Sarthak Sharma

This would actually be an awesome law for countries to pass. Simply force companies to be transparent about what they collect and how it is used...

 

I always feel like these kinds of companies could offer 90% of their service without having to collect nearly the amounts of data they do, especially when they have the lead Google does.

Google could easily flip the switch and care about privacy and still offer a great service, but nobody does this. They just keep collecting and invading. It’s like a virus.

I consider myself a conscientious partner in a way with these organizations. I use them, work with them in various ways, but I also try to be critical and angry when appropriate.

This tech is far from a pure good for the world.

 

Have you ever compared normal Google search with doing a Google search through Tor browser? When used through Tor, Google Search is a lot closer to DuckDuckGo. When used logged in, with all the personalization, Google is much better at figuring out what I mean.

When I ask you a question on here, you have the benefit of a lot of context (the conversation we're having or have had in the past, the website I'm posting it on, my name and profile picture). When I ask DuckDuckGo, or Google through Tor, they have almost nothing to go on other than the literal words I typed.

There is a real problem with Google having all this information, because of the filter bubble effect, the capacity for leaking, and the sheer POWER that comes from their ability to shape the narrative and knowledge base of their users. But I'm annoyed at all the privacy-rhetoric that ignores the fact that they're delivering value with all of it: Google has actual reasons for operating the way they do, and if you want to do better, you have to actually offer something more, not just "it's Google but without the value of being able to use context to figure out what your search queries mean".

And I actually use DuckDuckGo. I've been switching off of tracking-centric services like Twitter and Google after the 2016 presidential election caught me completely off guard. The filter bubble is real, and zero-tracking platforms should focus on the value of breaking it (DDG already does, but I haven't seen much mention of it on DEV).

 

Ben, you are an Entrepreneur yourself. What do you think, if there is a choice between saving money and providing your users extra privacy what would you choose?

 

I mean, we run a platform which could be centered around data harvesting, but we really don't build around this option. I believe we can be pretty modest about the data we collect and still offer a pretty great, customized experience for the users.

Exactly, I think every company should have a page on their sites to explain how they use users data in as simple language as they can.
On the other hand, We developer should take the initiative to explain normal people on how to protect their privacy. More tools like DuckDuckGo,TrackMeNot should be built by the Dev Community. We developers should be more responsible in choosing free services and should check the privacy term more carefully. Because I believe coding is like a superpower and as uncle ben said

"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility"

Literally 99% of our code is open source. It would be pretty hard for us to do too much under the hood. Any data on the users can be mapped pretty easily to its purpose within the product. I think a lot of folks in tech really hoard data for the sake of having it "as an asset".

Currently we use some external analytics tools (Google Analytics, etc.), same as most folks. But we're looking to ween our way off of some of these, while adopting others. I'd say most companies just keep adding and adding and adding. I think modesty is key.

Just out of sheer curiosity, what's the ~1% of closed-source code involved with, besides these analytics? Deployment, etc?

 

I think Amazon and Google both need to get hit with antitrust cases. For comparison, Standard Oil had 70% market share when the antitrust case was filed in 1906. Google is sitting at over 90% market share in the search market. Amazon does 50% of ALL online retail, which means its competing in an insane number of markets. Both Google and Amazon also have pretty powerful market verticals that make it difficult for startups to compete. I don't know what the most effective antitrust measures for a large tech company are, but we need to do something.

 

The most effective antitrust measures at this point would probably be nationalization, like we should have done with the banks in 2008 instead of handing them $700 billion of taxpayer money and asking them nicely to behave themselves (and guess what, subprime mortgages are back). Make Google and Amazon infrastructure, like the USPS and streetlights and water mains.

 

this only transfers our trust from companies to governments, which already has lots of power.

the internet could end up like it did in Cuba and China

on top of that, you would also have to think about those services being provided to people outside your country.

 

Yup exactly. This monopoly can be good for users in the short term but in long-term, they will be affected the most.

 

Yes we are, but we also gain some benefits.

The problem is that most of the clients and users got used to "free" things, and any alternative that does not use your data but ask for a decent fee or self-hosted free solutions are met with reluctance.

 

But that should not be it, right?
The community should take a stand against it or we will face the consequences in Future.

 

Things will change, it is just a matter of time.

But for now, as an user and web dev is difficult to avoid using their products.

I'm not too sure that "things will change" any time soon and without some pretty radical efforts.
Decentralized technologies have been around for years now, with poor adoption rates by both consumers and developers alike.

Meanwhile Google churns out new products that make our developer lifes easier and we all jump on them and want to work with them.

They are in the final steps of a process of embedding themselves in every part of the pipeline, from development, to distribution and consumption of digital content of any sort.
So how would we stop that without a serious concerted effort?

It is a market, ruled by business rules. Only when the market shares switch, new players enter or exit serious impact can be seen.

For example Google Maps APIs got serious expensive, a new/old maps competitor will step in and make friendly APIs and businesses will adopt it, but it takes years.

And I am sure that things will NOT change soon, we just need viable alternatives.

The problem is that Google have positioned themselves as the gatekeeper to all other kinds of services.
Even if there are better services available from a consumer perspective, if Google chooses to bury that competitor in their search results, a company can't generate the traffic it needs to keep the lights on.

And that's not a hypothetical. They have been accused of doing that in the past to competing platforms like Yelp, Getty Images, and an array of vertical search platforms.

I feel that it's very hard to view Google as a private company in an open market nowadays. Their services have in some instances advanced to a point where a majority of people take them for granted like public infrastructure.

 

I have many problems with a post like this.

  • "unstoppable monopoly"
    As far as I remember there has never been such thing as an "unstoppable monopoly", why would anybody assume Google is going to be one?

  • "monopoly"
    Google has no "monopoly". They are chosen by the majority of people for their quality services. The day, Bing is better than Googlesearch, I call it a day for Googlesearch. The marketpower of Google is only lent.

  • "If Facebook has this much data on us and has shadow profiles of people who don't even use the platform, then we should be very worried about the amount of data Google has on us."

Why? I see no reason to worry.
From my perspective the cambridge analytica is totally overrated.
To make things clear: I find it problematic, that they had access to data, which they shouldn't have had. But there is a discrepancy between the effect they said they had on votes and the real effect. Yes, there is an effect - but much smaller than we believe.

  • "Google has been tracking our users to an extent that can infiltrate their privacy and then eventually manipulate them using ads."

There I would like to disagree partially.
Yes Google has tons of (meta-) data about many people.
But I do not believe, Google having any power over people because of that fact.

I find it more dangerous when my local government had full access to this data silo.


To your question »Or should we leave things the way they are?«
We as - currently nationally separated - societies should reflect upon that topic. At the moment I am undecided which way to go.

  • I think, Google / Facebook does no harm atm.
  • Perhaps there should be regulation
  • The current GDPR in Europe is not the best direction. But here too, I haven't come to a conclusion.
 

I think this is an excellent discussion that we should have. In my mind, the driving force behind privacy exploitation is advertising. Almost any tech industry company with the majority of their revenue from advertising gets in trouble over their data collection policy. Contrast that with a company like Apple, who makes 75% of their revenue on hardware. They stand in pretty stark contrast to Google and Facebook. In general, from my understanding, they don't send any data from their devices to their servers, and in specific cases when the user has authorized it they strip the data of any PII and information that would identify it to that device, encrypt it, send it to a server, then hold it in aggregate.

My takeaway has been to distrust advertising-driven business models as they are inherently in conflict with privacy.

 

I didn't see this reply before I wrote my first post here. But absolutely. Companies have to make money to exist. And it is pretty obvious what you can expect from a company simply by looking at it's business structure. ANYTHING that is free up front and paid for by advertising will ultimately suck. Either via invasion of privacy to sell to advertisers or via inundation of ads. Both suck. And often those companies (will have to) resort to both (looking at you facebook).

 

Yes, Google is really big, but how does that make them a monopoly? They have lots of products, but they don't corner the market on any of them. You aren't forced to use Google-anything, there will always a competitor out there willing to offer the same products as Google that is faster/cheaper/more secure/more private/etc.

As long as those competitors exist, the free market is doing exactly what it was designed to do: create more business. In fact, many of these other competing businesses exist solely because of large companies like Google or Facebook. These large companies blazed the trail, which made way for companies to be created that would have never existed otherwise.

 

I appreciate you bringing this topic up for discussion.

I used to be a Google fanboy having owned and used:

  • 2 Google Pixels
  • 1 Google Pixelbook
  • 1 Chromebook
  • 3 Google Homes
  • 3 Google WiFis
  • Google Search enging
  • Google Chrome browser
  • Docs
  • Slides
  • Sheets
  • Photos
  • Drive
  • Maps
  • Opinion Rewards (literally free money)
  • Keep
  • Calendar
  • ...etc

After several Facebook data breaches brought to light how much data these companies have on consumers, I realized and decided I needed to be more conscious and protective of my data and my identity online.

But, I noticed a trend in the comments/arguments leveraged by proponents and opponents of Google and I want to help align the conversation and move it in the right direction.

Argument #1: Free Services

Nothing is free. You pay for the services whether you know it or not.

With these so-called "free services", you might be giving up a fairly large amount of personal data (name, age, address, phone, conversations in Gmail, documents in Drive ...etc, pictures in Photo, geolocation in apps & hardware ...etc).

I mean, take a look at Google Drive's Privacy Policy:

Google Drive Privacy Policy

Since companies have to make money one way or another, they'll either make money off of their consumers directly, or they'll collect data from their consumers to sell it to other companies.

Argument #2: Convenience

I mean, at one point, it was so convenient for you to log into any Google service or app (e.g. Gmail, YouTube) and Google would automatically log you into the Chrome browser.

Of course, it is convenient. After all, it is in the best interest of Google and their likes to be as convenient as possible in centralizing, aggregating, collecting as many data points on individuals as possible to drive their revenue.

But convenience is not limited to companies that offer free services. Apple's closed ecosystem is known to be very convenient. I can visit a site on mobile Safari and pick up right where I left off on my MacBook, for example.

So, you can have privacy and convenience, if you're willing to pay with money for the privacy part, because companies have to make money somehow (see Argument #1)

Argument #3: Business Model

Speaking of revenue, let's not forget that Google's primary revenue model is the same as Facebook's; advertising. Keep that in mind when reading anything Google tries to promote (remember Google Amp Project?)

So, really, I'd like to pose a different question when discussing Google/Facebook/[INSERT COMPANY HERE]:

What is the product? Is it you, the consumer? Or is it the service you're using?

 

Yes to all that!

I think I can save myself a comment now, I just agree with everything you said. Nothing is free.

I have two problems with Google/FB/Ad business model (which by the way, Apple isn't using).

Disingenuous Business model.

"Our services are free". No, this is a lie. They are not free. They are paid for by advertisers who pay for your data, which we happen to have pretty much a monopoly on. We own your data.

Maybe I'm just really picky, but I don't like lies. Google and Facebook's services start out with a lie.

Apple: We're selling you hardware. You can buy it, or not. If you think it's overpriced, don't buy it, if you think it's a good value, buy it. This is an honest business model. Apple makes almost all of its money off hardware. They can afford to be good guys - their business model allows them to.

It is necessary to become more and more evil over time.

Both Facebook and Google were founded by good people with good intentions. However, the advertising / user tracking / selling user data business model is an inherent force function towards evil. Google has had so much information on anyone and everyone they don't want you to know how much, ever. Even in the beginning. They pick and choose what they make use of - like figure out what people like and show them relevant ads - and what they don't make use of - Eric Schmidt famously cited that Google doesn't play the stock market even though they have so much info they could do that very successfully. Facebook had no ads initially.

However business has to grow, shareholders need more profits, more growth, and so they are forced to tap more and more unethical jars over time. There's no way around it. It's inherently built into the business model. And ethical employees and execs might stand in the way... for a time... but the machine has its own momentum and will not stop until the last bit of info is going to be used.

 

"eventually manipulate them using ads"

Any evidence for this?

 

Reading users gmail email content, collecting real location from gsm transmitters on android phones, tracking complete user activity up to android unlock device detail, tracking speach with assistent or mastercard payment infos?

Its is not question IF it is just a question WHEN are these infos going to be used against end users.

Adds are going to be light case of manipulation, but news filtration, recomendation algorithms for interest groups can and will have hard influence on interests of individuals in the future.

Human behavior is easy to predict, and with enough data it will be easy to influence as well!

 

It's also easy to predict dystopias that never came to life and keep saying "but one day it will!"...

Can you provide a concrete case where a person was manipulated by an ad into doing something she didn't want?

It happens all of the time, take any highly comercialised product, drink or food. Purpouse of adds is increasing sales and that is fine. I was refering to so customised adds that will fit your psihological profile that you will not resist.

Something like nestle does with enhanced flavours without people actualy knowing it:
linkedin.com/pulse/synomyx-aborted...

Back to the topic, rise awareness, make alternatives.

 

Not Google, but Facebook was experimenting on its users' emotional states without their knowledge or consent four years ago.

 
 
 

Wow, Great resource. I think we need more things like this.

 

I already knew this website, but your post served me as a reminder that I wanted to try out a different email and calendar solution, which I am doing right now. Thanks :).

 

I confess that being an old Google addict I used their services a lot to help me search for or put my website on the first list. (Thing done for one of my services.)

But since I became aware of privacy by watching documentaries on Google and Facebook, basically the GAFAM, I started using DuckDuckGo and very quickly hooked on its functionality of the !bang commands. They are so useful for research purposes. It avoids loading the Google page and then searching for a keyword, and then clicking on the platform you want to display.

For the analysis part of my site, I always use G. Analytics because it allows me to leave it and ensure a better result on Google searches. I then add Matomo, formerly called Piwik, it is an open source analysis tool to be hosted on your own machine. They are therefore not shared in a room.

As for the others, I still haven't taken any alternatives.

 

A large part of the issue with Social Media privacy is that the average user (who is not a dev) may get upset that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc collect their data through shady means. But these same people don't seem to see an issue with making every last detail about their lives common knowledge through totally ordinary means. I mean, how many celebrities, politicians, CEOs and other A-listers get tagged every day for posting something incredibly revealing and/or obviously offensive on social media? How many hashtag the place that they are, tag who they are with, and talk about how long they have been there and when they will leave? To be honest, knowing everything there is to know about a person isn't really that hard. In fact, unless you go public with your intention to use it to be a perv or psycho, the possibility of your over sharing being used for that purpose doesn't bother people at all. So, if you are aware of the fact that posting naked bath time photos of your 3-year-old could likely be seen by pedophiles, but don't stop posting them, what reason would Facebook have not to make a buck on the same data to sell your data to advertisers of clothes for your 3 year old?

People's privacy will not mean crap to tech companies until it means something to the average person for longer than 6-10 minutes after they hear that their data is being sold without their knowing. We developers have no responsibility nor ability to stop this at all. Developers are responsible for creating this issue, and all power to them really. Because people know the threat. They know exactly what is going on. But just like McDonald's sales went up even after we all saw "Super Size Me", this problem will not go away until the people affected care about their privacy enough to stop posting every nine minutes of their life online.

 

Since Google turned overtly evil, I've been trying to move away from their services as much as possible. Unfortunately, I cannot yet replace Google Voice or Gmail in their entirety. I actually host my own mail server, but the Gmail one is for large files and high spam-risk, and I'm trying to slowly stop using it.

Google Voice is the tough one, as I don't currently have the means of paying for a similar service.

I have been able to switch out the following, however:

  • Google Search -> DuckDuckGo
  • Google Drive -> Nextcloud
  • Google Calendar -> Nextcloud or local (GNOME Calendar/GNOME Todo)
  • Google Maps -> Open Street Map (usually)
  • Google Hangouts -> meet.jit.si
  • Google Plus -> Nothing (who used that anyway?)

I'm still in the process of transitioning the following, and suspect it will take some time.

  • Gmail -> Personal mail servers (see above)
  • Google Contacts -> Local (GNOME)
  • YouTube -> ???
  • Google Voice -> ???
 

It's a real battle actually, How to shift. That's why I'm working on an open source project called "Nomoogle".

sarthology / nomoogle

🐻 Chromium extension to get rid of Google addiction

Nomoogle

A simple Chrome extension that can help you get rid of Google addiction.

For firefox extension check this repo : nomoogle-firefox

Installation

  1. Clone or Download the repo.
  2. Go to Extension settings
  3. Enable Developers Mode
  4. Click on "Load Unpackaged" and add the folder you downloaded.

Features

  1. Get google alternatives in one click
  1. Get popup Reminder, Everytime you use a google product
  1. With two special modes

Strict Mode: Block the entire webpage completly, doesn't allow you to move forward.

Redirects: Automatically redirects the page to popular alternative.

Thanks to

❤️ Special thanks to @levelsio. 🙅‍♀️ Nomoregoogle was an inspiration for this.

License

MIT License


 

In 2019 and beyond, I think Amazon scares me a lot more than Google. Not to say this discussion isn't worth having.

How can we make a change?

The easiest (is it?) solution that comes to mind is, we stop using them as and when we can. But can we?

If I'm stopping the use of GMaps, for instance, then it means the alternative is good enough, and has an ecosystem.

Many love to use Apple products, not because Apple makes any off-the-charts services. Many are stuck with Apple, because of what is called, 'Ecosystem'.

I would love to leave Google behind, but my question is, then what's the alternative? Is there an alternative ecosystem? My current online presence is seamlessly streamlined in a way that they work like clockwork.

I just checked. I'm actively using 31 different products of Google, every month, directly or indirectly. (it's sad I've sold my soul to Google)

List of Google products

Now all these service run in tandem to provide me with useful information and services. I could use 31 different services from 31 different companies with multi-ways of doing things, different interfaces, different workflows, etc.

Not to mention, if all these services take even 1$ a month, that's 31$ each month, no questions asked. Having total privacy is priceless, far outweighing the 372$ each year.

I could do that, but the question would be, 'At what extra cost?'. 'After paying 372$, what other costs am I incurring as a result of juggling around 31 independent platforms in the demand for privacy?'.

I might have gained my privacy, but at a loss of convenience, to an extent. How much does my convenience cost to me?

I don't like this. But I imagine an Android phone (by Google) with

  • App store owned by Amazon
  • Email by Microsoft
  • Analytics by Alexa
  • Maps by Apple (duh!)
  • Drive by Dropbox
  • Photos by Adobe
  • Video platform by Vimeo
  • Browser by Firefox/Safari
  • and so on, up to 31 different companies.

The strength of Google is less of the data they collect, and more of the ecosystem they've built. If there is an alternative with coherent ecosystem, many, including myself, would switch, even if it's gonna cost a bit.

This might sound crazy, but I prefer my most private household items all stored in one room, under one roof, than scattered across 31 different storage facilities of mine

Terrible way to do things, no redundancy, no fallback, but 31 different houses to manage?

Or should we leave things the way they are?

I hate to say this, but until there's something we can do about it (entirely stopping to use Google, not an immediate option), only thing we could do is probably minimize our dependence on their services.

I use Telegram now (quit WhatsApp last year). Telegram is, to me, lightyears ahead of WhatsApp, thus, switching to Telegram was a no brainer.

If I quit using Maps today, what am I gonna use? Here Maps? or Open Street Maps? None of these alternatives are equal or better than Maps.

AdSense, AdWords, YouTube, Android (Play Services), Google Photos etc.

 

In this context, "monopoly" could be a synonym for "centralised".

A centralised Internet, or rather a platform that has centralised all kind of services that everyone relies on, is bad on the long term. Regardless of the tracking and "Internet police", this isn't good.

I am not so concerned about ads (there are already some ways to reduce our footprint). Political usage of our data is far more dangerous. The majority of people feel like nothing bad can happen. But Google has already violated the web neutrality and this is a form of censorship.

 

Yes, but I would say they're not the most dangerous monopolists. Two of those three tools are professional utilities specifically aimed at developers and designers, who make up a fairly small part of the labor market. Compare that to FB, which controls (at least) the three top communication tools for most of the developed world, has incredibly granular preference and browsing data on pretty much all internet users, and has shown its hand as a completely amoral player. You could argue that FB and Google have about equal power over people when they decide to start acting badly, but personally I think both of them kind of pale in comparison to Amazon.

If Google and FB decided to just completely shut down tomorrow to protest some perceived slight I expect some sites would go offline, surfacing content would be hard, a significant piece of the economy would crash (anything ad-supported, right?), and that's just off the top of my head.

If Amazon were to do the same thing, around 1/3 of all internet users (this is based off a number from 2012 so it's probably massively higher now) would have at least one web request fail. This post puts the percentage of the internet that is "on AWS" somewhere between 3% and 50%, depending on the way your measure it. It's possible that 50% of the internet would experience some form of disruption. That's just the internet though, and it glosses over the fact that the US government runs a bunch of stuff on AWS' GovCloud, along with hospitals and other kinds of organizations important to our day to day lives. So, internet is down, whatever economic effect I mentioned above is like... way worse, but whatever, that's all kind of intangible. What about deliveries? How many people rely on Amazon for groceries, medication (guess who owns PillPack?), cleaning supplies, diapers, etc? Don't forget, Amazon owns Whole Foods now! The list goes on, Amazon is in an insane number of markets, and we just keep giving them more of a share.

 

Honestly, my data isn't worth protecting. I have given it away freely for years and will continue to do so until it negatively impacts me. Google isn't too big to fail, in fact, it could very easily start failing considering the considerable controversies it's currently facing discrimination and privacy issues.

This isn't a developer problem, this is simply a capitalist problem. Free will always be better, but will there ever be a team of people who work round the clock all day to provide you with a service as good as Google Maps for free? No. Even with ads, it would be horrible.

I can't decide if I'm underestimating how much my data is of value, or if everyone else is completely overestimating the value of theirs. As someone said earlier: I'm more scared of my Government having this information than Google.

 

Wonderful points and this is definitely a concern many have. I'm building an alternative to Google Analytics right now!

 

I'm , for once, helping them. That way when they become Skynet, the Terminators will know I'm friendly 🤣

 
 

It's not developers, but all users. Also think of Amazon. This problem isn't limited to Google.

 

Agree. The amount of content consumers produce every second is Herculean. Google like any company is using that. Heard a saying that if the product is free, we are the product. :)

 

Short answer: I'm afraid that yes, Sarthak. And we're helping Facebook in the same way.

 
code of conduct - report abuse