Saturday, March 10, 2012

On my soapbox

I'm on my soapbox. Can you tell? Maybe it's my alter-ego Wendy who is on a soap box. The box looks more her size, since they don't make those huge boxes of soap anymore, at least none I have seen. Regardless, I am truly on a rant, going against my normal policy of not badmouthing, trying to stay neutral, especially when it comes to the hand that "feeds me," so to speak.

So to make the rant a bit more palpable, I am including a few photos I took the last time I was at my city's Botanical Gardens.
Unless you are as untuned into current events as I seem to be, you already know about certain changes Google has made in the world of information. It seems Google has bundled most of its services (more than 60 of their 70 services) into one gynormous invasion of your privacy rights. As of March 1, Google has operated under what the Fox News Blog calls "a streamlined privacy policy that enables the Internet's most powerful company to dig even deeper into the lives of its more than 1 billion users." According to the Washington Post:
"Google collects and can integrate almost anything that’s already in the Google ecosystem: calendar appointments, location data, search preferences, contacts, personal habits based on Gmail chatter, device information and search queries, to name a few."
The easiest way to get rid of Google is to not use it. So, can YOU live without Google?

Unlike this statue at the Botanical Gardens, Google is trying to keep their new policy under wraps, away from prying eyes and questioning entities. Is it legal? Many people, including the French data protection agency, Japanese authorities, and South Korea think it is a violation of their data protection laws and policies. According to ZDNet, "Collectively, the three markets constitute one of the largest cross-border violations of individual law by a technology giant we have seen in years." The French regulatory agency even warned Google's CEO that the new policy appears to violate the European Union's strict data-protection rules. Sadly, according to E-Week magazine, ". . . the laughable thing is that most governments or executive bodies can do nothing about it." Personally, I don't think it's a laughing matter!!

So you ask, what can I do to curb Google's theft of my privacy? Other than move to France, South Korea, or Japan, of course!!

Although it is really a simple solution, it may not be obvious to many of you. Believe it or not, the word "GOOGLE" and "search engine" are not interchangeable, as many people believe. The word "Google" is not a VERB!! How many times have you heard the phrase, "just Google it" when someone suggests using an internet search during their on-line or in-person conversation? There are other search engines you can use, like Bing and MyPoints.

As an aside, I want to thank Helen of Stamping by H for her blog post sharing how to place two photos side by side. She learned how to do it from Linda Elbourne's tutorial. BTW, my photos are a bit off, too, Helen!

Of course, MY personal favorite search engine USED to be Scroogle, but it is now gone, but not for good (pun intended). You can't find it anywhere. According to The Register,

"In recent years, Scroogle has been unceremoniously booted off the interwebs by Google several times, after the company tweaked its output format to – at least temporarily – stop its search results from being scraped.

More sinisterly for conspiracy theorists, Google has vanished Scroogle from its search engine. Previously, even when the org's site was down it would still show up in the big G's results pages.

That's not the case anymore, however.

It could be that – ahead of Google's changes to its terms of service on 1 March – the company removed the interface page Scroogle was using to scrape the results from the ad broker's site."

It was of course, my favorite search engine, and now even IT is gone!!

Another problem with getting rid of Google, was pointed out by E-week:
"Of course, the challenge becomes: where to take your data. Bing would love it, but have fun getting it in there. You may want to stick with Google, in which case there are other ways to keep your data from being passed around like a peace pipe excessively under the new policies. Here's one way: Don't log into your user account (if you even have one)! You can still search, watch skateboarding dogs on Google and look up directions on Google Maps without signing into a Google account."
And that goes for visits to YouTube, too!

I love this wall of herbs that seem to find ways to grow, even in winter. Of course, our winter has been so mild, it seems more like a very, very windy spring. And although this wall is solid, it is not foreboding,

unlike Google, which is not only foreboding, but also impenetrable. Your chances of staying away from their ever growing suspicious search engine and combined user services are also foreboding. Is there any way, you ask, of getting around this onslaught? Not if you are a registered user of Gmail, Google Plus, YouTube, or Blogger. But you can minimize the data Google gathers.

I can't reiterate this enough.
For starters, make sure you aren't logged into one of Google's services when you're using Google's search engine, watching a YouTube video, or perusing pictures on Picasa. Better yet, don't use ANY of Google's services any more than you absolutely MUST. That included Google's word and page translator.

The winter Botanical Gardens were quite lonely, and even though there were other visitors, most stayed inside or didn't venture past the entry. The rose garden, the most viewed garden during the rest of the year, is forlorn and lonely feeling now the roses are hibernating.

The above photo of the rose garden and Google's ability to keep our web histories are both pretty forlorn in my book. Does THIS scare anyone other than me? Google wants us to prove we're not a bot when we have to sign in to leave comments at certain Blogger sites. But they are treating us like bots when they choose to dictate where we "need" to be searching, whose sites we need to be viewing, and where our data needs to be stored. Remember, searches result in money, but only when someone like you clicks on a search result. So of course, Google wants to anticipate what we will click on! And they want to know between what hours you are most likely to do it, too! This has turned into Google's not-so-subtle attempt at profiling you and me.

This wall is made of thick steel, which has a rust patina. The sayings, all from various Shakespeare plays, are cut away from the metal. On a sunny day, the sunlight shines through these gorgeous pieces that are actually positioned in a 270 degree arc.

This icon is from Google's own hand. To me, it looks like something that might have come from a WWII Nazi Germany sign. It scares me. All that is missing is the swastika. It is supposed to show how you can take your data with you, if you choose to move away from all things GOOGLE. But be aware, Google is in to so much of our lives now, it is difficult to let go. And that broken chain doesn't look all that convincing (or even liberating) to me.

Although I don't own a smartphone (or ANY cell phone, for that matter), I understand if it uses Google's Android software, it will be hard for you to get out of your two year contract, should you decide to get rid of all things Google. Which brings me to another point: you can't opt out of anything and you don't even get the choice to stay or protest your membership in any Google service.

According to The Guardian, a UK company,
"Users who write a memo on Google's online word processing program, Docs, might be alerted to the misspelling of the name of a friend or co-worker a user has communicated with on Google's g-mail. The new policy pools information from all Google-operated services, empowering the company to connect the dots from one service to the next."
Why I thought it was my duty to inform my readers and followers about this travesty is beyond me. But, since I am truly worried about all the privacy issues and future problems this new policy entails, I simply can't keep quiet about it. I guess part of it is because I don't like to be profiled.

Of course, I could just show a few more photos from the Botanical Gardens and forget Google. However, I realize Google isn't going to forget ME!! Have a great rest of the weekend everyone. I'm now off my soapbox, and so is Wendy. I would love to hear your thoughts on this new policy.

12 thoughtful remarks:

elle said...

I have been hearing various bloggers warn as you are doing. I was and still am alarmed. I think the reality is there really are no secrets. Whether it be our national governments, our the neighbour next door. If they want to know they will find out and the results will be tweaked to the desired end. I try to go to sleep with a clean conscience but not everyone has this view nor holds Truth as a standard. Interestingly enough, artists are the first to feel changing times. So let your art speak!

Anonymous said...

I, too, am quite upset with how Google and others (like Facebook & Skype, etc.) can invade our privacy! The internet is such a wealth of information & communication for all to use, but as with everything, there are always going to be those few who have to ruin it. They fight against people who create virus' or hack in & steal our identities and, of course, against child predators. But who's fight this invasion of our privacy?!? Or a better question, WHY aren't they fighting against this invasion?!? Because the government benefits, that's why!

Microsoft has developed technology to secretly intercept, monitor and record communications on voice over IP networks. With Skype now part of the Microsoft family, the technology will play a role in the VOIP software going forward.

Called "Legal Intercept" in the patent application, the technology is designed to silently record communications on VOIP networks, such as Skype, according to a filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, publicized June 28. Current products would be modified to "cause the communication to be established via a path that includes a recording agent," Microsoft said in its patent application.


The FBI used private Skype IM conversations that it intercepted as a basis for its case against MegaUpload, but what isn't clear is how exactly the FBI acquired these conversations.

I fear the only way to keep them out of our business is to not use the internet or cell phones. But since that won't happen, we must be kept informed of what they are doing & limit our contact with those sources.

Okay, I'll step down off my soap box now :o)

Canace said...

I agree, Google is setting a precedent for invasion of privacy. I too heard that if you make sure you're not logged into any of the above mentioned sites then they can't track you. I have seen some astounding circumstances where websites had information that no one should have. I get very anxious about companies that are just getting far too big to care about the 'little guy' and now Google is one.

An aside... Did you know that is supporting the slaughter of dolphins and whales through their Japanese branch of business? I have always enjoyed buying from Amazon, but until they permanently stop selling dolphin and whale meat I will no longer do business with them.

Helen said...

I love your photos! I am glad you got the side by side to work!

Doone said...

no large corporation behaves morally, ethically or justly,

it is naive to think they might. That is why the Law exists.

and the Law is an Ass.

so we are up the google creek and we have no privacy paddle

Oh, and I hear Banjo's


Artyjen said...

Ooh er! 1984 is so around the corner!!!
xoxo Sioux

Dosfishes at Sparkle Days Studios said...

1984 is here, everywhere we look and it's not just google either.....thanks for the Rant. xox Corrine

~*~Patty S said...

I am certainly guilty of using Google as a verb :) AND it would or will be a huge challenge to note use of my first thoughts was I should Google what search engine to use instead of Google LOL!!!

What a crazy world we live in...gotta Love it and fear it all at the same time!

Lovely seeing the bones of your Botanical Gardens...and it won't be long at all before things are popping.


Lynn said...

I'm hiding under a rock until you get back on your soap box and send me a solution that will work 99.9% of the time.
I wonder what about me would be so interesting to them to know?

Terrie said...

Unfortunately, my life is an open book. You want to know anything? Just ask. Or ask Google. While I understand the ramifications of Google tracking my life, I'm not prepared to take the time to find alternatives (nor do I think the alternatives are any more pure), so for now I choose to bury my head in the sand. Do I care if someone (the government) knows my shopping habits or where I browse online? Nope. They're welcome to see how often I visit ebay or Amazon or any of my fave art blogs. That's about the extent of my online use. Not too subversive....

Canace said...

Hi Elizabeth... thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment on my GrungeBot No.5 post. It was 6:30am when I got up and read your comment that made me truly LOL... Thanks for a great beginning to my day! :o)

fairyrocks said...

Yes, I do hate that everything we share on purpose is also being gathered elsewhere for someone elses purposes. Makes me feel like a crofter with an overlord keeping track of every pile of peat I stack by my hearth. Where we live when I use my debit card, that information is being gathered, when they ask for a postal code with the debit transaction, the powers that be can pinpoint exactly where I live and probably right down to the house I live in.... more food for thought....