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    • Favorite 29 August 2020
      bobjonkman favorited something by eloquence: Disturbing reports that Google Play is threatening to kick out Mastodon apps. See:https://mastodon.social/@Gargron/104763960269049818https://toot.fedilab.app/@fedilab/104765191594914330App stores have a track record of acting capriciously & are also easy targets for gov't censors (including Trump). This is why alternatives like @fdroidorg are so important for user freedom.If unfamiliar: F-Droid is a free & open […]
    • bobjonkman repeated a notice by eloquence 29 August 2020
      RT @eloquence Disturbing reports that Google Play is threatening to kick out Mastodon apps. See:https://mastodon.social/@Gargron/104763960269049818https://toot.fedilab.app/@fedilab/104765191594914330App stores have a track record of acting capriciously & are also easy targets for gov't censors (including Trump). This is why alternatives like @fdroidorg are so important for user freedom.If unfamiliar: F-Droid is a free & open source app you […]
    • New note by bobjonkman 25 August 2020
      I do like the taste of onion bagels. When the other bagels in the bag acquire an onion flavour it's a poor experience at best, almost certainly leading to the purchase of a *real* onion bagel. #AOBFS #AcquiredOnionBagelFlavourSyndrome
    • bobjonkman repeated a notice by lnxw48a1 25 August 2020
      RT @lnxw48a1 @bobjonkman @blacksam Would that still be true if you actually liked onion bagels? Asking because, although I don't eat bagels at all, it seems to me that you're probably unusually sensitive to the flavor of onion ... which would likely be the case if you disliked that flavor.
    • New note by bobjonkman 24 August 2020
      If there is one onion bagel in a bag of bagels, they're *all* onion bagels...
    • bobjonkman repeated a notice by blacksam 24 August 2020
      RT @blacksam How come no matter what flavor bagel you buy from the bakery, it's always, to some extent, an onion bagel? #bagels #onions #wtf
    • Favorite 24 August 2020
      bobjonkman favorited something by blacksam: How come no matter what flavor bagel you buy from the bakery, it's always, to some extent, an onion bagel? #bagels #onions #wtf
    • Favorite 24 August 2020
      bobjonkman favorited something by lnxw48a1: #TIL: Gravity keyhole https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_keyhole and Roche limit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roche_limit
    • Favorite 31 May 2020
      bobjonkman favorited something by atarifrosch: @bobjonkman: Das habe ich heute bekommen, wiederum 2 Monate später …
    • bobjonkman repeated a notice by fsf 24 May 2020
      RT @fsf Remote education has provided an unfortunate opportunity for privacy-invading proprietary software to invade students' lives. Learn how many people are fighting back: https://u.fsf.org/32h

Google Spyware considered harmful

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 16th April 2012

Google wordmark in a "No" symbol

No Google

One day I was asked:

Hi IT Peeps,

I was wondering if I would cause major havoc if I downloaded google chrome? Will it mess anything up? Any recommendations?

My answer:

What problem are you trying to solve? What’s the question that gets answered “Install Google Chrome”?

Google the company is becoming ever more pervasive in our Internet lives. Google’s business is not providing a search engine for free; Google’s business is to sell our demographic information to advertisers. They gather that demographic data by luring us in with relevant search results, free e-mail and slick looking browsers.

Google collects personal information, including information that was voluntarily given to Google (for instance, by signing up for GMail or Google Plus; posting a video on YouTube), information that was collected anonymously (eg. when you perform a Google search or watch a YouTube video and Google records the search terms, your IP address, and leaves a cookie on your computer), and information that Google collected as it does its web indexing (comments you’ve left on a newspaper site, Tweets you’ve made, messages you’ve posted to public mailing lists). Google then correlates all this data based on IP address, cookies, e-mail addresses, your name, geo-location (finding out where you are based on your WiFi connection or IP address).

As of 1 March 2012 Google changed its privacy policies to combine data mining from all its holdings – the search engine, YouTube, Picasa, Google Maps, Google Plus, Google Mail, &c. I didn’t think too much of that, since I had thought that Google had always aggregated its data. According to an article I read[1] that’s actually a new development. Google used to keep all its data mining separate, in fact, kept it so separate that it didn’t even correlate its adwords between different messages in GMail. With the new privacy policy that’s all changed, and everything is now aggregated, correlated, and retained to be sold to the highest bidder. Google says we’ll never sell your personal information or share it without your permission, but you grant that permission every time you agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies when you sign up for Google’s services.

Remember the Google Toolbar? Every search request, every URL, and every local file you opened in a browser with the Google toolbar installed was sent to the Google servers. There was a report of someone who opened confidential company documents with IE and the Google toolbar, only to find those reports cached on Google’s servers. Google Chrome is far more invasive than a mere toolbar.

Google Chrome does not have the same set of security-related add-ons that Firefox offers. For your best privacy protection and security, use Firefox with the NoScript, AdBlock Plus, HTTPS-Everywhere and Force-TLS extensions. See my article on Browser Security for details on installing and configuring them.

–Bob, who will be getting fitted for a new tinfoil hat at lunch…

Footnote 1: I wish I knew what article that was. To my recollection, the author said he wouldn’t trust Google with his data again. He had visited the Googleplex some years earlier, and was told how Google kept the data from its different projects in separate silos, so that profile aggregation was next to impossible. Data silos were so extensive that although one GMail message might trigger certain AdWords, there was no tracking between messages. I read the article in March of 2012; if you can provide me with a link let me know in the comments.

Update 8 Nov 2012: A similar quote about data silos from Google’s Vic Gundotra appears in the CNN article Google exec: We won’t break users’ trust.


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Posted in considered harmful, Google, Google Free, Internet, privacy | 2 Comments »

The Verdict on Google Plus: Mostly Harmless

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 13th October 2011

Don't Panic, They're Only Vogons

Don't Panic, They're Only Vogons by Patrick Hoesly

After dissing Google Plus I was persuaded to try it out for a while before rendering a verdict. So now it’s been over two months, and my verdict is: Mostly Harmless.

When I get home after a hard day of working with a computer, I sit down for a pleasant evening of relaxation with a computer. I read my e-mail, read the news, and read the microblogs. I subscribe to 55 people on Identi.ca, and I follow 84 people on Twitter. Those 139 people generate sufficient 140 character messages to keep me reading until bedtime and beyond.

But on my Google Plus account, I have 27 people in my circles. Those 27 people create a lot of large messages. In fact, they generate a lot more content than my 139 Identicats and Tweeple, since Google Plus puts no limit on the size of messages.

22 of the 27 people are in my Tech Circle. But instead of receiving only technical content from these people, they’re posting messages about vacations, favourite bands, philosophy, and yes, pictures of cats.  Now, this happens on the microblogs too, but on a microblog it’s limited to 140 characters, and I can ignore them.  On Google Plus the posts are much longer, have pictures attached, comments from other people, and those ubiquitous “John Q. Public originally shared this post” and “Click to +1 this post”.  Google Plus does not have the tools to filter messages by content, or even a method to collapse a conversation thread.

There’s no Atom/RSS feed, so I can’t use my preferred feed reader to analyze, sort and organize my Google Plus message stream. And I don’t know of any third-party applications to read, write and manage content on Google Plus. Google Plus does allow the export of all its content, under Account Settings, Data Liberation. Contact info is in the standard vCard format, suitable for importing into addressbooks.

Kudos to Google for giving users useful control of their data. Still, Google also has access to that data, and continues to collect ever more. In the past I’ve recommended Google Mail as a preferred no-cost e-mail host. Recently Google has taken to verifying new users by requiring them to supply a phone number. Google then sends a text message for the user to enter into the registration form. This is a level of data collection that I find creepy, and so I no longer recommend Google Mail.

Finally, to top it all off are the Google Nymwars. Much has been written about why Google’s policy of requiring real names is wrong-headed. Some people whom I might follow have stopped using Google Plus because of the nymwar controversy. I think I’ll be joining them in disdaining Google Plus.

  • Google Minus: Banality of user content (not Google’s fault)
  • Google Minus: Lack of management tools
  • Google Plus: User control over data
  • Google Minus: Google control over data
  • Google Minus: Nymwars

I think that Google Plus is not the Facebook Killer the folks in Mountain View want it to be.



The image 740 – Towel Day – Pattern by Patrick Hoesly is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

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Google Plus considered harmful

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 29th June 2011

Google Plus login screen, with errors

Google Plus Screenshot

Google Plus is available.

I won’t be using it. Google has too much of my data already.

For gushing, sycophantic reviews see Mashable and Techcrunch.


Update 8 July 2011: Someone pointed out that I should probably investigate Google Plus before dissing it, so I’m licking the Google salt block. There will another blog post with the results of this investigation… In the meantime, Circle Me!


Update: 13 October 2011: The Verdict on Google Plus: Mostly Harmless

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