Dichotomy between Google and Privacy

I love TWIG. It’s probably the “headiest” show on the network, except perhaps, Security Now. I would like to hear an in-depth discussion about privacy. There is so often much lip service given to privacy on TWIT Network, yet so many of the TWIT personalities seem to use Google services & products. It seems like a bit of disconnect. Facebook generally takes a well-deserved beating on the network, and there are cautionary tales about Google, but then it seems everyone kind of whistles past the cemetery, and goes on to extol the virtues of Google services and hardware.

This isn’t limited to this network. It is common throughout the tech podcast world. It would be interesting to hear how people with much more tech knowledge and experience than I balance/justify usefulness and privacy when it comes to Google.

Sorry about my wordiness…:grimacing:


I think you have to really get into the details of what privacy is. Is your privacy violated if a company collects your data? I don’t think so. Regardless of platform we give our data to many companies every day either willingly or unwillingly (an example of unwillingly would be your ISP). To me privacy and privacy violations are much more about what said companies do with your data after they collect it.

So in my view I ask myself these two questions: amI getting something valuable in exchange for my data? And, do I somewhat trust said company with that data?

I think Google strikes that balance, at least for me. I love the services I get, and they have nice tools that allow me to manage the data they have on me, including deleting anything I don’t want up there. I think that is more than can be said for some other companies (cough…Facebook). But, by no means is Google a perfect company.


And for me, if they are collecting the data without my permission (tracking and behavioural sites etc. or the defaults on Google & Co.) that is a breach of my privacy.

That they aren’t allowed to sell it once they have collected it and must delete it once it is no longer relevant should be the norm. Unfortunately, most big tech thinks that they have a right to collect data (illegally, if the subject is an EU citizen) and do with it what they will.


I have always used an iPhone. I remember hearing (I believe the creator of Duck Duck Go) tell Kara Swisher about how often Google pings the location of an Android phone an hour. It was an eye popping number, compared to an iPhone. He said it was akin to walking though Google’s offices and yelling “here I am.”

I use some Google services, but far less than I have in the past. If I were a young person embarking on a career, I’d probably do anything I could to shy away from using Google or Facebook. That being said, it’s probably an impossibility.

I have no solid stance on this. Like many, I rationalize my use of Google, thinking at least I get the use of their services, as opposed to Facebook.

I sure realize how much they market my info. After using Duck Duck Go, I no longer see ads for items I just searched for. I do, however, see ads for things contained in my Gmail. Often in sponsored ads at the top of my next set of emails.

So hearing a discussion on TWIG about the idea of somewhat conveniently looking past Google’s use of your data in exchange for using their services seems relevant. All the while, other shows are touting the privacy of Apple products & services, and even championing the security of iPhones.

It’s really interesting to hear the thought of others on this topic.


I personally use GMail for everyday stuff because of excellent spam handling and the killer feature-set of their unparalleled search combined with the freedom and power of labels (plus a slew of integrations like chat and calendar, which I stopped using years ago now once Apple’s were up to par for me), but I would dearly love to get away from them. It’s just that I’ve been burned by Apple already on mail when I lost my account before they went free with their email and I worry about the impact and exportability of alternatives for the same reason (plus Mail IMO still can’t hold a candle to GMail for core search and wrangling/triage). Google it’s hard to feel those same longevity and accessibility worries about. It’s a different set of worries, but less critically devastating to me than being cut off from my archive in its impact on my ability to function in daily life. DuckDuckGo for similar reasons still loses out for me on search. But where viable alternatives exist for me I have dropped Google like a stone and wish I could for everything.


Unfortunately, I’m one of those whistlin’ past the cemetery types when it comes to Google. And a total hypocrite, considering how much I badger the social media giants, Youtube etc. for all of their malfeasance and social irresponsibility. I know better but I do not do better. (Sorry, Oprah!)

I think it all boils down to the level to which I (like almost everyone else) am immersed/dependent on all the various apps and services that are powered in some way by Google. (And I live far away from the big city, lead an extremely quiet life, and don’t get out much!) There was a woman on Triangulation many months ago who tried to get completely off Google and found it nearly impossible. And she really tried. It’s truly the beast with a thousand (+) tentacles.

Also, like dking and others have pointed out (here and on other threads), with Google, at least we feel like we get something in return for the loss of our privacy, not just endless rounds of garbage, fake news, sh!tposts, etc. That being said, I was shook to the core reading Zuboff’s “Surveillance Capitalism” re: all that is done with our data and (worse) what could be done with it and what the implications are for society. But has it changed my use of Google? Not very much. :frowning:


Agreed. I “trust” Google - as much as one can reasonably trust a giant tech corporation. Facebook has been busted doing some very shady things with user data. As far as I am aware, there have been no equivalent scandals with Google (in terms of abusing user data).

IMHO, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Photos, etc. are great products, since they are free, Google monetizes by showing ads based on user data.

That is not to say that we, as consumers, shouldn’t continue to pay close attention. Big tech companies (including Google) don’t do things out of the kindness of their hearts. They are aware however that a significant breach of trust would be potentially devastating for their business model. (I think that the ability to repeatedly betray the trust of the users & continue to grow the user base is unique to Facebook.)


I use Google services because I like their products. I am not unaware of the amount of data I willingly provide for them. Do I wish it was better? Yes. However I feel the best thing that I can do to change that is vote. The US is so far behind regarding forward thinking politicians on the subject of tech and progressive legislation to protect the end user vice the corporation.

The onus of responsible data security should not be on the typical American. It should be on these corporations, and we should be provided the tools to enforce those regulations by our elected officials. I hope America becomes more progressive as time moves forward and we can inact meaningful change regarding data privacy and security. However I still find Google services to be extraordinarily helpful in my day to day life.


As eager as I am to reign in and punish exploitive companies, the best answer I think is better tech. Free and open-source standards and infrastructure can get bogged-down as we’ve seen with the W3C, but I still think that the model posed by federated interoperable protocols should be the goal and not lost sight of while attempting to wrestle short-sighted and predatory practices of today’s user-hostile centralized behemoths. Individual autonomy and the infrastructure to support it is the antidote, it’s just that such developments are largely neglected because they are not as profitable or even merely less profitable to the handful of individuals who would be responsible for funding it.


I have read enough about Facebook that I am turned off by them. I really do not update my account, and I only keep it to occassionally read some sport team groups I like. If not for that, I would delete my account.

I have deleted my instagram and twitter accounts. I never actually posted anything on either - I just follwed a couple of people on them previously.

Unfortunately, you really give up privacy, to some extent, just by being on the internet. Leo has gone to great lengths to explain how Facebook tracks you, even if you do not have a facebook account. They have tags in the HTML on so many sites - that they can still track a lot of what you do. It is a shame - but if you want privacy, you really have to stay off the internet. And, do not carry a smart phone around either.

We really seem to trade convenience for privacy in today’s world.


This is the basic truth of all this. Privacy is not something you keep when you bring your life online.


Apple’s Safari and Firefox plug-in’s like Privacy Badger and NoScript offer a middle way. The choice isn’t so much privacy for convenience as it is privacy for functionality, and I think better tech can preserve functionality at a manageable hit to convenience. The point, though, is to work toward that; ending the debate and discussion at the brick-wall of a false dichotomy between perfect privacy and digital serfdom is a perfect way for the worst eventualities to thrive.


I think everyone pretty much agrees that Facebook seems to be the more offensive privacy abuser. I’ve deleted my account several times, just to have to reinstate it due to a business using it as its’ sole method of information, our local utility companies giving updates on outages, the city giving updates on road work, and that type of thing. Much of my family uses it, so I’m outside the loop if I’m not on FB.

It becomes apparent that most people who use FB, Google, or other services such as those began doing so before privacy was brought to the forefront. Now, with so many using them, despite knowing the potential pitfalls, we brave using them out of necessity. Although, a counter-argument could be made that now, many people go into them with full knowledge of privacy issues. I mean, everyone now buying a Pixel phone, or a Chromebook, knows full well the deep integration it has with the parent company.


I use Google products because they have some amazing products that are cheap to use. I am also wary of Google because of all of the data they collect and the almost unchecked power that they hold. In the wrong hands Google could misuse that data and turn into something more like Facebook. So I use Google with an eye on that and try to make sure that I am not too dependent on them in case they decide to hold my data hostage. Use Firefox, Libre Office, NAS backup for photos and other data.

But as @godfrey wrote earlier, with companies as big as Google, the job to rein them in is way too far above individuals like us. That is something that needs to be done at a governmental level. Their power is just too great.


I don’t know if I’d use the word “punish”, at least not in the case of Google (maybe Facebook lol). However I don’t think OSS and open protocols is totally the answer (def part of it), simply because the capitalist-or-nothing attitude that has grown in the USA is too powerful. Companies and corps (looking at your teleco!) will use all their vast resources to get around any and all regulations (even if it means allowing states to literally burn to the ground) so they can and suck as much profit out of the system as absolutely possible. I guess what I’m saying is sort of Bernie’s stump speech (not to drop politics into this but everyone knows it). The billionaire class has had its way for so long that nothing short of hard regulation and tossing CEO’s into prison is going to stop these companies from exploiting the regular person.

I realize now I do seem a little hypocritical being so critical of the billionaire class while simultaneously giving google a pass. And also while typing this I changed my mind, I do want to punish them.


I definitely don’t disagree with you. I just hate to see what I consider to be a potential solution via a slightly different ethos about tech to get drowned out of mind as the debate has to escalate over rotten tech plutocrats’ noxious behavior. In something of a silver lining, software is far more flexible than power infrastructure to which you’ve alluded in PGE’s inexcusable fires (San Diego’s power grid, for example, is already deploying kill-switch sensors to power off failed lines before they even hit the ground to cause fires), so the prospect of ethical, user-empowering software infrastructure is still at least theoretically viable. As I previously noted, however, your point that profiteering is so diefied in the US particularly amongst Silicon Valley start-up funding circles that it strangles the broader economy upon which it depends applies to technology inthat it starves what could otherwise have supplied more ethical projects aimed to nurture and facilitate better infrastructure, but because it’s software, my point that it’s unconscionable not to champion above all the imperative for such user empowerment is made all the more paramount incumbent upon those capable of enacting it as we demand it of them and make it socially untenable for them to ignore what’s well within their power, if slightly less profitable and less “sexy”/intimidating/domineering, which is why I insist on piping up against simple calls for regulation on the one hand, and capitulation that privacy is dead or a fair trade for value on the other.

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Privacy Badger is great. I’ve used it for years. Doesn’t solve everything, but as you said, a middle way.


I’m in the process of trying to figure out how to migrate to Firefox and maybe find an third alternate browser (because I am a tab-oholic) that I can have alongside FF.

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I don’t mind Google products as long as they:

  1. explicitly tells me what data it’s collecting and gives me control over it
  2. I get something of value back for the data I give
  3. They do a great job keeping the data safe (unlike Facebook)

Google is also moving more and more, whenever technology allows, to doing things on device instead of sucking up more data. Things such as on-device music detection, assistant and federated learning. To me, the data they do collect is to power features that bring real value. If you don’t get value back for the data you give, then you can easily delete all the data they have and stop using their products.

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What worries me is all that can be done with whatever they have regardless of whether or not we can rescind their possession of it. When terms of service hand-wave about “share with other parties to improve the service”, the practices they excuse thereby are absurdly broad. Without specific opt-in for each and every use of data, as Steve Jobs said make them sick of your asking if you have to but ask every time in clear language specifically for what’s about to happen, even keeping data “safe” does nothing to curb privacy invasion in any meaningfully empowering sense. Don’t forget: Cambridge Analytica wasn’t a hack or a breach. By your definition, Macebook (my spiteful nick-name for them) did keep its data “safe”, and Cambridge Analytica was simply caught using it in a way conformant with their rotten policies! Brokering your relationship with data-mining aggregators like Google on a transactional basis is hopelessly, even dangerously naive, IMO.

Whatever progress they’ve made recently in migrating operations locally accrue in my mind not to Google but to Apple for their stridence on the issue, even as Apple itself falls far, far short of their own claims on it, still less far than what’s happening with Google, if for no other reason than the integrity of their OS from a privacy and security standpoint, to say nothing of corporate policy and “sharing” of user data.

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