Mister Bradley Horowitz,
At one time or another, I’ve been involved in computer and Internet security. I’ve investigated breaches, secured systems, cleaned off rootkits. I’ve worked with the Federal police to locate and identify malefactors and bring them to justice – something that often comes with a price.
For some years, you’ve provided me with services that handle my email, and private conversations, and allow me to pursue activities online while feeling safe from the risks that I personally am keenly aware of. You’ve taken care of that data, and I’ve trusted you with it. I always felt safe doing so. Safe from discrimination, harassment, threats and intimidation – within acceptable limits. Safe from having my privacy breached or my identity misused.
Enter Google Plus and Google Profiles. A quick glance through their terms, and I felt comfortable with them, and once again, I felt safe with the new services. That lasted about a couple of days, until your people suspended one of my friends because they didn’t care for the name he was using.
Over the next few days, Google suspended dozens of my friends, co-workers, and colleagues. Some were using pseudonyms, other were not. Some Google insisted on government-issued ID for, and some they did not. Some were reinstated, and some were not. Some lost access to other services – which Google employees acknowledged as a known glitch – and some did not.
Many lost confidence and deleted themselves. Of course each person lost represents a greater loss in network effects.
And throughout, a number of prominent people used their well-known pseudonyms without challenge, simply because the names were recognisable to Google employees. That’s quite inconsistent.
As I understand it now, you’re asking me – and people like me – to give up either our privacy or all of our social contacts on Google Plus, our Google Profiles, our Plus Ones and any product that you might choose to hook up to those profiles in future.
That’s very much a “the devil or the deep-blue-sea” sort of choice you’ve presented us with.
And you’re doing it so that we can feel safer.
Well, sir, respectfully… I do not feel safe. I no longer do. You have extended certain measures of privacy to me, and the not inconsiderable feeling of safety that it brings, and told me that I must give it back.
And here’s the kicker. Even if I were to do so, there seems to be no guarantee whatsoever that your organisation might not throw me out anyway while exercising its capricious and lackadaisical enforcement, targeting people who are operating under nicknames and maiden names or various handles.
So, I can yield up my privacy unto you, and feel unsafe thereby.
I can leave, abrogating the benefits of some current and future Google products – and naturally having to treat any remaining Google products with suspicion in case they are folded in under the same terms.
I can remain as-is, under the name that I am best-known by.
And for each of these three options, I might be suspended anyway.
That does not exactly represent choice, sir. For me, each of the three options above represents a losing position.
Do I expect to change your mind? No, sir, I do not. It has been made abundantly clear that Google does not intend to alter its course on this matter.
I am considering my choice between these options, and I am wondering instead if you are interested in changing my mind.
Tateru Nino (the same one that your company’s recruiters try to hire several times every year)