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Is Google still as worthy of our trust and love as it's always been? I've asked this question during several episodes of TWiG over the past year. Gizmodo's +Mathew Honan makes a case for the answer "no" in his story linked below.

I don't think the answer is a binary yes or no. But it's a question I never felt so compelled to ask.

The Kenya fraud, the mobile Safari hidden form trickery--both embarrassing missteps by teams within the company whose guiding principle was clearly not "don't be evil." Search Plus Your World is less obviously egregious (and still evolving), but focusontheuser.org convinced me of Mat's assertion: that Google doesn't deliver the highest quality search results at a default setting.

Then, the privacy policy consolidation. A great thing for users--simpler, clearer, with great potential to unlock interesting new features. However, your web search terms are the most intimate bits of data you type into your computer every day, and Google wants to use them to inform other products. If there's a question about whether or not Google is deserving of the privilege, well, you might not want to search the web using Google.

Google is an incredible company who makes incredible products that make my life and the web better every single day. You'll have to pry Gmail, Voice, Maps, Calendar, Chrome, Android, Analytics, and Docs from my cold, dead hands. (I'm probably forgetting some products because they're so entrenched in my daily online life I don't even realize they're there. Update: Oh yes, forgot YouTube.)

But I switched Chrome's default search engine to DuckDuckGo about a month ago and never looked back. It feels good to break one company's monopoly on your most personal data. Also, it turns out that DuckDuckGo is a really good search engine.

In short, Google no longer deserves the free pass the tech community's used to giving it. Question and make informed decisions, friends.
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61 comments
 
I've followed pretty much your exact same trajectory & actions on this issue...
 
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I'm no Google expert but wasn't the motto "Don't be evil?" I often hear the "do no evil" but I think that is missing the original intent.
 
If we can't trust Google, who can we trust?
 
Ultimately, we have the power to withdraw if we feel they're not worthy of our trust or that the tradeoffs are too heavy in exchange for the many free services Google offers. I'm ok with this.
 
There's two aspects, though. Yes, you can "withdraw", you can review your data, etc. But on the other side of the coin, there's a lot of quiet collection that isn't made explicit. I don't know where the good line is. That's why, for example, I continue to use services, but block out the search by using something else; that's why I have different accounts for different purposes (focusing on different services). That kind of thing.
 
Generally speaking, any centralized dependency opens us up to risks - such as living in the city, power production coming from power plants, food coming from factory farms, etc. I know Gina is a proponent of decentralizing the web and I believe other things should be decentralized as well. I live in the country now too ;)
 
Why doesn't that Gizmodo guy break Apple and Microsoft monopoly and their patent war.. no free services from that both company. His reason was so subjective.. #propaganda
 
My solve all solution for any Google privacy concern is a second account. If I'm worried about data collected from YouTube affecting my personal Gmail... Open a different Google account for YouTube.

Simple, I've now siloed my Google product experience.

If I'm worried about searches, use a different account or go incognito. Incognito mode is only one click away on Chrome.

People often single out Google, but I think they're doing a much better job than many other players. The Data Liberation page in particular is excellent testament to the concept of not being evil. I think they said something like if we make it as easy as possible for you to take your data and leave, it will make us work much harder to make you want to stay
 
Should make for an interesting TWiG this afternoon.You or Leo should open a hangout for views from wider audience. Maybe Kevin would pop in...
 
I think I'm going to give DuckDuckGo a shot. You're the second person in the last week or so to give it a recommendation, so we'll see how it goes.
 
To be honest, before they said they didn't share all their communication between groups I figured they did already. However the trust I have in Google is gone and will have to be re-earned mainly because its other actions.
 
+Gina Trapani Short answer, yes. You've met many of the people who work at +Google, and you know they are supremely focused on making a great product. Not just that, but they are Google consumers themselves. The criticisms are short in focus, and depend squarely on some kind of an assertion of loss of vision by Googlers. Clearly this is 100% wrong.

And while there is an emphasis on ads, the two biggest focal points for Google, as far as I see them, are scalability and relevance. The only criticism, which is actually a really big strength, is that they are trying to understand how social impacts search. The initial Buzz rollout was too small, and limited to the next-gen Google Docs project piece. But what came out of that was a very dynamic +Google+ platform, which improves daily.

These are very complex data decisions, most of which #facebook can't even come close to dealing with. We can criticize the individual parts (and it does help guide development- Google Engineers do pay attention to the community), or look at the direction as a whole. I, for one, see the whole as inherently, fundamentally, and culturally good.
 
I do wonder though, what makes you trust duckduckgo more than Google? With google I know what I get. I know absolutely nothing about duckduckgo. I don't know how they make money and I don't know who is behind them. Granted, I could inform myself but I am still happy with the security I have with Google search. Besides I don't like the looks of it. Just not grown up enough for my taste.
 
I wish I could say the same thing after using DuckDuckGo for more than one month... search results are usually not relevant and I find myself using !g too often.

DDG works really well as a search engine hub (!w, !imdb, !django, even you can use !chords if you play guitar), but its own search results are simply not good enough :(
 
+Gina Trapani I heard you guys talk about DuckDuckGo as a default replacement on TWIG a couple weeks ago. I think I'll give it a try for a while, since it looks like its working well for you!
 
The funny thing is, I'm far more inclined to trust a company that is clearly run by engineers and sort of bumbles around making too many products and accruing huge piles of money almost as a side effect. It's almost impossible to suspect a company like that of shady intent. Lately, when the new narrow-focus, let's do fewer things better, "Larry's been spending too much time around Steve Jobs" Google makes a mistake, my paranoia kicks in and I'm forced to ask "was this a mistake, or did they just get caught?" I find myself questioning whether I want to keep hosting my domain's mail on Google apps, or it it'd be better to go back to hosting everything myself.
 
The anti-Google orgy has become boring... I'm still in love with Google! ♥
 
I turned off my search history 3 years ago; it was marginally useful anyway. Don't miss it.
 
Nowadays, I feel Google captures even my mouse motions !

move your mouse around Notifications Box :/
 
I see it as payment to them for allowing me to use there products. If I use a website frequently, I'll click on a few ads to kick a few cents to the company or organization. If having Google know more about me presents me with more interesting ads, I'm all for it.
 
I wonder how high peoples expectations musty have been of Google for these small things to be a let down. Why was Google placed on such a god like pedistal? Is the problem peoples perception?
 
+Meh Hakimz Are you saying that Google is stealing your mouse movement information? That's pretty ridiculous. Even if they were, what harm would that ever cause you? and what would Google possibly do with that?
I'm fine with Google taking as much info from me as they want... Not only am I getting great products that continually get better because of the feedback they are collecting, but advertisements that are actually relevant to me. I'd rather see ads for arduino, xbox & star wars than tampons, makeup or clothes.
 
Remove "Google" and add "future conscious corporate entity" and you'll see that it's not Google being 'evil, so much as users unable to see the future of digital interconnection. It's not just Google. Every corporate entity will forge the same path. So will your neighbors. So will we. Social interconnection at increasingly personal levels is unavoidable now.

This is my opinion, but I'd love to hear people offer arguments to the contrary.
 
Actually Gina, I'm pissed off at the reception Google gets, especially from tech media & the "Blogosphere", the reason being NOBODY is twisting your arm to join, there are alternatives. You don't have to Join or use any Google product, you do so out of FREE CHOICE, & as far as I can see Google is pretty damn honest in the way it describes it's products & handles your information...A lot more than any competition..which is what people should join if they have Doubts over Google...
 
Google's on top and everyone wants to take shots. It's sad. How many of today's US based companies have contributed to advances in technology, to our daily lives? Gone are the days of pride in our nation's leading tech achievements. I remember my college professors speaking nostalgically about the times of Bell Labs and GE.
 
I think it's all about Google being neither my enemy or my friend, any more than Apple, Microsoft, IBM or McDonalds are. Trust them to do what is in their interests, which doesn't include low level snooping any more than it includes sending me flowers.
 
It was an interesting article indeed, thanks for linking. I personally think the reason we're (justifiably) worried is because loss of privacy in today's world has multiple potentially very nasty side effects - first of all, there's the obvious where people may use the data unethically in a quest to make money off us, but furthermore there is the fact that Google is an American company, and the American government is now obviously bought and sold by the corporations and the wealthy, integrity is hard to come by and there is an on-going shift from the right to the far-right-lunatic-fringe.

The government always has been owned by the rich, to be sure, but with today's digital data glut and the increasing shift to the lunatic fringe on the right, the fact that the US government can just go to Google and legally compel them to divulge every speck of data that the article describes means that anyone should be concerned. The old notion of "well if you have nothing to hide..." is BS. Each and every one of us has violated some law, albeit quite possibly unknowingly. Heck, just bringing in a lobster that's slightly undersized or some such minor BS is a federal offense!

if the Government and nation continues shifting to the right the way it has the trip to good old fascism isn't that far. America is already matching all the "top 10 steps to take to build a fascist state" articles ever written today, as we speak.

There is nothing inherently evil in gathering tons of information about someone in order to serve them better, and I don't necessarily distrust Google itself - but once the information is there, beautifully packaged and in detail that would give NSA or CIA or some other three-letter acronym serial wet dreams, the possibility of abuse becomes a scary thing.

The problem isn't really Google or Facebook or some other entity gathering tons of information on us, it's that our society is set up in such a way that using that knowledge in ways most of us finds unethical or downright unacceptable will almost certainly bring in a great deal of profit or power or both. And again, in today's society, the urge to reach for both those things is enshrined as being a good thing, and something to strive for. The possibilities there are scary and thought-provoking, and even though being evil is just a side effect of a broken societal system, that doesn't make it any more enjoyable to whoever finds themselves on the losing side of that.
 
I sure Google would love to include Twitter and Facebook results in search and your world, but they aren't allowed to index these resources.
 
it turns out that DuckDuckGo is a really good search engine

You might like Bing too, no? http://help.duckduckgo.com/customer/portal/articles/216399-sources

Google no longer deserves the free pass the tech community

To me Google has been forced by other companies to use user data more prominently. But it does look like the love is gone... Besides that anything with Google makes great headlines.. ;-)
 
Google is reacting to the market, competitors.... it's environment.

It's true Google is changing (evolving)... yet it's in reaction to the changes in the Internet & society (the Internet Society) e.g the social web/media.

The adoption of Facebook by so many - and the apparent disregard (by FB Users) for some of the values which we (us savvy Google users and Gina/TWIG/Lifehacker followers) would expect Google to uphold (privacy, transparency, open-standards/data liberation) means Google is/was at a disadvantage.

Lamenting that Google isn't (able to be) as it was 3, 5, 10 years ago misses the point.
Amongst the Big Platforms (Apple, Amazon, MS, FB Others) I find Google more trustworthy... the "least bad fit"?
 
I liked ReadWriteWeb's take on the question. The title is "The Case for Google," which plays off Gizmodo's "The Case Against Google."

But really RWW isn't making a binary yes/no case. Rather, it's challenging Google to step up and make itself worthy of the trust it's asking us to place in it.
 
Every decision has a consequence. At one point we want those yet to be announced cool Google Glasses from the 'Google X' project and we want them to be accurate and work for us. On the other hand, we don't want Google to know a lot about us. Unfortunately, it doesn't work one way. Everyone has a choice to use a default OS and Google is just a choice, but if we want relevant results and we want the future technology to work for "us", then we are bound to a platform. This is especially true, when there is absolute no cross-sharing of data between the big players. That is a sad fact.I have tried DuckDuckgo and frankly, it's results are no better than Google for the field that I work in. There are cases where they are better, there are cases where it is worst! If the aim is to just wage a finger at Google, that's not a bad idea - that is a choice for us to make. Reminds me of the Apple/Microsoft days!
 
+Gina Trapani Now is not the best time to ask. I've just fallen foul of the Ad Sense 'give us a clue' approach to feedback. So 'No' and 'Grrrrrrr.'

Google really puts fur on the aloof, deliberately obtuse programmer stereotype.
 
The thing that bothers me about Google search is not the privacy issue; I turned off my history ages ago. I delete cookies now and then. And, really, I'm not searching for anything I'd be ashamed to admit. (If I were there's advice on how to do that, too...)

What bugs me is that Google used to give me useful search results, but now it doesn't.

If I wanted my friends' opinions, I'd ask them. If I wanted local results, I'd walk around the block. I search the Internet because I want information my friends can't give me and that is not available to me locally. When local search came out I kept track of all my searches for a week. About 3% were for things near me. In all other cases I searched information in English but, ideally, not geographically close to me.

Hey, I even tried a search for "Chinese restaurants not in New York." The sixth result was on Mott Street. Blech!
 
+Karen E. Lund I don't think you can blame Google for SEO abuse, I know Google try to stop it but there are Multi-million dollar companies out there that do one thing & that is SEO, [I have a couple of Web designer friends whom do it as a living], Google changes the algorithm & they adapt within minutes usually, & they don't just do it to Google & I know for a fact now that they are targeting DuckDuckGo now because of a recent rise in it's use. [one of said friends said so I've no reason not to believe them].
 
No commercial company should deserve a free pass. We should be more willing to use the products of a company which is more aligned with our interests. I think that today Google's interests are more aligned with the general public, such as : open web, investments in open source projects etc. For now, I prefer to use Android over iphone/ipad since it is more open. I prefer to buy ebooks from O'Reilly since they are without any DRM.
We should take care that we will always have a choice and we should make it based on which companies are more aligned with the goal of helping us keeping more choices - today it is Google, tomorrow maybe not.
BTW - I'm waiting for the upcoming gizmodo articles:
"The case against Apple" or "The case against Facebook"
 
To me, all the points the article makes about Facebook, refutes his main point. Facebook scares the hell out of me and I won't touch it. Everything you enter into Facebook is public by default.

At least with Google, I have some control. I choose the people who I want to see certain things. It's the opposite of Facebook, IMO.

He also makes a point that Google is a public company and (blah, blah, blah)...profits. Well, just wait for Facebook to get its IPO engine running and watch what profits are generated from all that personal info you entered in just so you could find your buddy "Joe".

You can have Facebook. I will stick with my Google.
 
I consider all this "Google is evil" argument to be silly, misguided and quite tiresome. Here is Google's mission statement: "Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful." At the time of Google's founding that basically meant crawl the web for some websites since everything was pretty much available to anyone and make it available in an organized usable way. Fast forward to 2012, the web has changed dramatically. The once open nature of the internet has been replaced with walled gardens and pay walls. Just crawling the web no longer works because the information being created contains much more than just blog posts, comments and photos. We create a trove of information that contains our experiences, relationships and very detailed aspects of our lives creating a trail of data that makes it impractical to display or categorize in just 10 blue links on a webpage. Naturally that data represents a gold mine for companies and advertisers because it gives them unprecedented access to information that you couldn't get before without a court order.


Google, like any other company, is not all-powerful, they also have to deal with market trends and pressures of such a competitive environment. Sure, they may stumble a few times but who can tell me here that they've never made a mistake. Who can say they've never hurt anybody with something they did, intentionally or not. Not one. However, I'm sure the majority of us would tell you that even though at one point or another we've screwed up we have grown because of those experiences, we have become better people and we have learned from our mistakes and yes, sometimes we have even changed our perspective on issues that we once thought were unquestionably clear.

My answer to +Gina Trapani is yes. I believe Google is still worthy of looking up to as a company and of promoting it. Of all the top tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Oracle etc. Google's values are far higher than any of those other companies I mentioned. When was the last time Apple allowed you access to your own information. When have they given you even the option of knowing how much information they have on you and delete it? How many times has Microsoft been punished for anti-competitive behavior when it basically has over 90% of the pc OS marketshare? Same with Oracle's lawsuits against various companies trying to stifle competition. +Gina Trapani has started complaining about how much Google has fallen yet she gets an iPhone and "begrudgingly" got an iPad which she loves made by a company that has been accused repeatedly of anti-competitive behavior and has been accused of colluding with book publishers to raise the price of ebooks. Google started with an ideal and they have tried to stick to it as much as they can but given the business landscape with lobbyists buying up members of congress, bogus patent lawsuits and a tech media sector hellbent on finding ways in which Google is evil they have been attacked in a way that is not proportional to what they've done wrong.

It isn't wrong to be for profit, it isn't reason to be cynical about it and yes, it is possible for a company to adhere itself to certain values when operating. Nothing I've seen from Google as a company makes me think they've decided to renege on their values as many of you want to make us believe. How many people from Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Amazon, Sony, Samsung, HTC you name it you see on podcasts openly talking with people who even though are tech reporters are also customers?

Now that Think Up App is going for profit I hope that +Gina Trapani, +Leo Laporte and many others who have jumped in the "Let's bash Google" bandwagon lately learn that sometimes to live in a jungle you have to be a Lion.
 
I re-read Google's newest privacy policy this morning to refresh my memory, and they have pretty strict guidelines for how or whether they let third parties get any of your data.

To quote +Gina Trapani, "Google wants to use [your search queries] to inform other products."

Yeah, under their own roof. I can't see the downside there. I do a search at google.com for "how to shine shoes" and later visit YouTube and they recommend videos on how to shine my shoes. That makes for a righ user experience in my books. Maybe the ads for shoe shine products get old after a while, but you can customize and configure what kinds of ads you see in your account settings, right down to which demographic you want Google to report about you to any advertisers. Or even opt out of the targeted ads completely and just see generic ads.

I left Facebook completely this past weekend and flagged my account for deletion because they keep fiddling with their privacy settings. Their latest fiasco was letting apps/games that your FRIENDS play have access to any of the data you share with that friend. And even though their disclosure allows for development and voting on alternatives when only 7,000 users give them feedback, Facebook only waited a week before closing comments and implementing the policy. I mean, hey, their agreement doesn't say how long they have to wait for the feedback.

I'd rather trust my content and data to Google. At least they're a lot more "black and white" about their stance on third party data access.

Is Google perfect? Nope. Like Gina said, they've had their goof-ups along the way, but at least they learn from them and soldier on. Facebook makes the same mistakes over and over, giving the user the impression that they don't care.
 
I don't think Google is any more or less deserving of trust than any other corporation. People are people - if you want something to stay private then take appropriate measures.
 
Commissioner Gordon said it best "Because it's the hero the internet deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt it, because it can take it. Because it's not the hero. It's a silent guardian, watchful protector. The Google."
 
What's the alternative? AOL board of directors roll in and take over? Apple BoD? Rupert Murdock? GE? The US Government?

Who would you rather run Google than Google?
 
I, for one, am happy Google is exactly the way it is...
 
+Gina Trapani You're making a mountain out of a mole hill. If I do a search for your own name the search results are nearly identical whether with or without social results. It takes one mere click to hide social search results. While I respect you and your accomplishments and enjoy your public persona, I think you and many others are blowing these kind of issues with Google's shift in emphasis from search to other data products and services way out of proportion.
 
Google has done more to defend the Internet and free and open exchange of information than apple/Microsoft/whoever, possibly combined. They are just set to a higher standard because they have set that expectation. I have more confidence in google than any new fangled search engine company. That said, sure, switch away. That only supports Google's we are not a monopoly stance.
 
I'll wait till they steal money from my accounts. Until then I don't think they are Evil. Too popular maybe but society has always been jealous of others doing well.
 
"Don't be evil" resonated with the public because it arrived at a time when the competition was leaning more and more on creating walled gardens, silos, whatever you want to call it, where tech connected well with it's own devices but not with anybody else's, encouraging a bubble (Outlook + Office, iPod + iTunes, whatever).

Google has usually been, I think the best way to put it is agnostic. Half of it is using HTML instead of platform-native code to make applications more universal, and half of it was making things equally accessible to everyone no matter what kind of interface you used. Android hasn't changed this so much because Google still provides a lot of tools to iOS and it's still in their best interest to rather than keep all the best goods to Android and convince people to switch platforms to use services (well, there's that turn-by-turn GPS, but that's about it.)

Search Plus Your World is the real departure from this philosophy since it supports Google's social network over other people's social networks, but the other factor is that the social networks aren't sharing much information with Google's spider. Is that in Facebook's interest? Sure, but it's also in Facebook's users interests to not turn over every facet of the user to any spider that knocks.

The other half of the issue is automated tracking and targeted advertising, but we knew that was going on all the way back when GMail launched and the sidebar was delivering advertisements, maps, contact info, etc that was relevant to keywords detected in the mail. We knew it then, it's still happening now, it's not really news. Making people read the privacy policy, and the implications that your YouTube search inquiries could affect your Google search result (or vice versa) has made some people think about these things when they didn't before. I'm not sure how much of it is simply that people didn't know that Google owned things like YouTube, or how bad they are at introducing and informing people of things like Latitude which could intrude on people's privacy without them being aware it exists.

The real strength of Google though, wasn't about it being evil; it was about being universally accessible and an agnostic presence in the industry's platform wars.
 
The change from pure search results to "Google + You" results feels like the promise Google gave me to index the web fairly has been broken. I can't use the company motto of "Don't be Evil" except ironically now.

In many ways, Google is turning into the company I already hate: Yahoo. If I wanted a one-stop web portal, I would already be a Yahoo user.

I would have preferred for Google to stick to Search. When Google first came out, I wondered how they were going to support the massive infrastructure they needed to index the web. I was willing then -- and I am still willing now -- to pay for search. Impartial, reliable search results are what I want. Nothing more.

I really feel that Jeff Jarvis got it wrong on the last TWiG broadcast, where he insisted that Google promoting its own products was no worse than any other company doing so. Sometimes Google returns bad search results, but until now, I have chalked that up to evil SEOs and errant code, not to malice. "Google + You" makes me distrust Google search results. It lowers Google to the joke status of Microsoft search results, which have been lampooned for preferring their own products over vastly superior ones for years.

There never was a definitive index of the web. Let's not fool ourselves. But Google felt close enough to that ideal. Now it doesn't.
 
People would like google to stick to search, aol to stay as a dial up provider and Apple not to drop Computer from its name and would prefer Apple never made an iPod or a phone. Get real, times, technology and the needs of people change. Google is simply adapting to a very competitive environment in which it is at a disadvantage to closed networks. They've been so succesful and big that everyone has an axe to grind them. All this backlash is lead by people who have a horse in the race and are simply scared of Google's prospects.
 
Everybody has to be careful with what they don on the Internet especially on Google. I have discovered that with Google's new privacy policy, they have become kind of Corporate Spies especially for the Govt. and Govt. Security Agencies. They've been allowed to collect too much information from your computer without your content. This is too scary and dangerous in the kind of environment we live in today. Our Personal and Private Lives are infringed upon for no reason. Internet technologies are good for everybody but if its used to spy on people and track their whereabouts for no reason is too dangerous. Maybe if everybody stopped using the internet, it just might be good for everybody.
 
Well I don't trust anything Matt Honan writes in +Gizmodo If you notice all of his article about Google are ridiculously biased against Google and are so subjective. I'm starting to think that Matt Honan is being paid to spread anti-Google propaganda through Gizmodo by PR sent by Facebook or Microsoft.

The company that I trust are Google and Amazon.

Now if only Gizmodo stop this bias bullshit against Google and be a true journalist (if they call themselves that)
 
My motto is TNO (Trust No One).  Business hasn't got a heart!   Its all about the benjamins.
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