Call Me Paranoid

I’m a little suspicious of some of the free things Google is offering now. Because I distrust their motives, and I distrust the way in which their freebies can affect my business. Most of my colleagues are raving about them, but I am not feeling compelled to jump on the Google train and just go wherever they want to take me.

Let’s try Google Analytics. Free stats tracking. What could be bad about that? We find two issues with it:

1. Like Google Adsense, it uses Javascript. It is such common Javascript, that malicious coders have found ways to exploit it – and since so many sites use it, it is well worth their while to do so. There’s enough anecdotal evidence on this to have strong suspicions that Google Analytics code is frequently exploited, and we have personally experienced instances of exploitation of this kind of code – either viruses or malicious website links injected through the code.

2. Just how is Google using that data? They claim that they use analytical data in delivering more accurate search results. But their idea of “accurate” may not always be in the best interests of small businesses, because of what Google thinks is the most important criteria for “accuracy”. Generally, Google is just gathering bits of info and extrapolating (that’s a fancy word for “guessing”) the rest. Google CAN’T really get traffic stats for your site, unless YOU give it to them, or unless other computer users give them access to individual browsing profiles (more on that). The most efficient way to get site data is, of course, to get it directly from the site owners. Google Analytics gives themselves exactly that – a complete statistical rundown on your website. For startups and small sites, that information, in the hands of Google, does NOT help you! Because Google’s basic philosophy is that popular is better than unpopular.

That brings us right into two other services which I distrust, and do not use as a result – for similar reasons. I think Google just does not need that much information about my browsing habits.

1. The Google Toolbar. Google uses this to gather individual browsing data and then analyzes the patterns. Theoretically, if enough people use it, then Google can get a pretty good estimation of site visit patterns for most websites. This is one of the data sources used in their extrapolations also.

2. Chrome Browser. This is just the next step from the Google Toolbar. Give people a shiny new toy, and maybe they won’t notice the price attached. For both webmasters, and website owners, I think that the cost associated with Chrome may be too high.

I do not like Google having access to my desktop, to my internet history, etc. I think this is just information they can well do without, and that they are NOT gathering it for MY benefit, but for theirs, and that my goals, and theirs, are often worlds apart. Giving them access to my browsing history helps THEM achieve THEIR goals, but does not help me achieve mine.

Google Desktop has no place in my work environment either. In fact, anything produced by a third party that uses data as Google does, has no place in my work environment. I am suspicious of free “tools” which come with a craftily worded privacy or terms of use policy.

Google is not alone in the desire to gather data in every way possible, nor are they alone in their lack of transparency over it. Yahoo has valiantly tried to infiltrate our computers, and Bing is making a go of it.

But if I do not want “spyware” on my computer, and if I run software to ensure that nobody can sneak it onto my computer without my permission, why would I want to open the door and let a company like Google just waltz right in with the cameras? I don’t care how big a company is, or how common their name. There is just a limit to how much data they need, and how much they need to know about my habits.

I am NOT paranoid about the kind of data they gather. I just think there may be more harm in anonymous patterns and statistical data than we realize, especially for small businesses that are trying to launch a new site in the face of huge competition.

I don’t care if I am just “one of the numbers”. They can do without me!

2 Responses to Call Me Paranoid

  • Sean Wheeler says:

    So the above reasons are why I NEVER install tool-bars PERIOD. Even AVG, no tool-bars, at all. Period. Makes life easier as well as gee, havn’t had a virus on my computer ever (that I know of) scanning with AVG on some of them, Symantec Endpoint on others, no viruses, no exploited programs, no hacked data. Tool-bars is just the first step, I don’t need people knowing that much about me just for a couple less button clicks worth of use.

  • Deja says:

    I have NEVER thought about google in that light….google makes you feel like they love you, and I think I’ve bought into it a little more than I should have!

    Very informative post Laura… yours are always a good read :0)

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