Everyone’s Doing It

posted in: Library, Smog 0

Google’s new privacy policy kicked in this month and who really knows what we are supposed to be doing now…

Everything above might be too much, but doing nothing probably isn’t enough.  Even if we’re still just guessing at how this is going to come back to bite us.  (Or perhaps we are all just sharing?)

The problem is these security and privacy issues require more time and thought than most people are giving to information they are actually interested in.  The risks can seem far-fetched and the benefits are…  overwhelming.  As soon as number three on the list of Six Tips to Protect Your Search Privacy encourages you not to log into Google, … it just stops making sense.  Who wants to face such a fundamental disconnect while they are trying to surf the web?!

[Joy of Tech via Pensador Louco on Diaspora]

Duck Duck Go Find Yourself Another Search Engine

posted in: Commentary, Smog 1

When it comes to getting a page of top results for your search query out of the unfathomable amount of information content text code online, it makes sense to get a second opinion every once in a while.  Visually, the Google search page looks much as it did during its 1999 launch.  Conceptually, however, it is a whole different story.  Without getting caught up in the full laundry list of changes and baggage that have piled up over the years, or how well Google has kept to not being evil, let’s first consider the search itself.

There are more parameters behind which results you get served than ever before.  The critical change is the shift of emphasis on the objective value of the data to the subjective nature of how it all applies to you.  Personally.  Your web history is now being interpreted as a profile of your person and you are in turn being given the results your profile says you will want to see.

Unfortunately, the very nature of searching implies a lack of knowledge.  If you knew what you were looking for, you wouldn’t be searching for it.  Without knowing it, our own ignorance is being fed back to us, creating a bubble that potentially cuts us off from the information we would need to actually understand a subject.

Meanwhile, the proverbial permanent record that plays bogeyman for school children has suddenly broken through the dream into reality, and we are writing it ourselves with every new search and click.  Once it is stored, it can be sold to the highest bidder or simply requested by whatever authority feels they have the authority. Furthermore, new uses for this data are being pursued around the clock, meaning we don’t yet know its potential for being used to help or harm us.

Does this mean you need to kick your Google search habit?  That, of course, is up to you, but perhaps a more realistic starting point is simply trying something different.  With that in mind, meet DuckDuckGo

Give it a try.  If you’d like to know more about search engine tracking or the little search bubble you’ve been encased in, DuckDuckGo has set up presentations on both matters at DontTrack.us and DontBubble.us.  The anti-tracking app suggestions at the bottom of the first are eye-opening all on their own.  And don’t forget the goodies!

Disclaimer:  This post has been influenced to an unknown degree by there being a duck involved.

[Related: You Need a New Dictionary]

Google’s Six-Front War Visualized

Inspired by the launch of Google+, here’s a visualization of some of Google’s competition, as laid out in the TechCrunch piece, Google’s Six-Front War:

(click for larger version)

Of course, that leaves out video/photo hosting, blogging, desktop OS, music, TV, eBooks, driverless cars, philanthropy, other stuff we know about and whatever we don’t know about yet.

How is Google doing in all of these battles?  For the more mature products in the top half, very well.  In Search and Mobile, they are number one.  Among browsers Chrome is in third place, moving in the right direction.  It’s the bottom half where Google has their work cut out for them.  Google+ is estimated to have brought in 10 million users in the first two weeks with a chance of doubling it by the weekend.  Although that only amounts to 1-3% of Facebook’s crowd, it nonetheless puts Google+ at about 7th place in the Social sphere right out of the gate.

Let’s the games begin!

Update: How’s Google+ doing a month later?  While this ranking puts it in 6th place with 32 million users, it would seem that the honeymoon is over, due largely in part to Google’s awkward stance in the “real names” vs. pseudonyms debate.   After years of using Google products pretty much any way we want, suddenly there is a rule that has left an unknown number of deleted profiles in its wake. Meanwhile, Google is facing some serious challenges in the patent wars and falling behind in at least one stat related to their crown jewel, search.  My, how quickly the weather can change…