Shine is Coming off the Chrome – Week Without Google Day 2-3

Day 2 should have been easier, so should day 3. Really it should. I was mostly out and about and away from the computer, but it was still tricky to avoid Google products. Forgive me, for I have fallen slightly – I had to show someone Google Analytics. I got straight back on track afterwards, but my wonderful customer needed some stats for their website, and like many folks with a web site out there, they use it.

If you aren’t familiar withGoogle Analytics, it’s basically a bit of code that you embed into your web site. Although essentially invisible to the user, the code reports back information to Google, including how long you were on the website, which web pages you visited before and after, what web browser and operating system you are using and if you are a new or returning visitor. It’s great for web site owners. We get to see what content is popular, where readers are from and so on. Of course we aren’t the only ones using the data. The terms around how Google can and can’t use Google Analytics data are quite vague  – you might want to read them before you next visit a site that uses it.

If you have your own server, you could look at Piwik as an alternative, it requires a database and a little setting up, so it isn’t for everyone, but I’m using it on the SocialOptic Blog and main site now, and it seems to be doing a sterling job so far. The data stays with the server you are accessing. If you don’t want your browser sharing that data, you’ll need to turn off javascript and cookies or run a third party plugin. Good luck with using your favourite sites once you’ve done that. When I changed my browser settings it pretty much broke the Internet experience for me – I couldn’t even comment on blogs anymore.

“if you have something that you really don’t anyone to know maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” – Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google (via Huffington Post)

Maybe someone should tell Merrill Lynch that (see Paul Clarke’s post on Civil Liberties) – Google Street map seems able to publish pictures that I’m not even allowed to personally photograph, or at least I’m told I’m not. It was a curious statement from Schmidt for two reasons:

  1. If that’s Google’s philosophy on web privacy, it would have been nice to know that before we all started using their products!
  2. Much of what businesses do is company confidential, or is private information for legal/financial reasons. Not everyone with something they don’t want in public view is doing something wrong.

The idea that people who want to hide their data from Google are doing something immoral isn’t a very user friendly position – publish or be dammed (as opposed to the usual publish and be dammed!)

Being out and about has helped to keep me away from Google – my Nokia phone has the Ovi maps product, so I’ve been using that to navigate – although someone did try and tempt me with a Google Maps print out on Tuesday evening when I was lost. Of course even the mobile world won’t be a safe haven for much longer. One of my favourite products, Evernote, is now available on Google Android phones. There is a whole eco-system growing around the Google Android phone, it there are some great products and services emerging. It’s a whole new world for Google – now the have an operating system, and full visibility of everything you do with the device. Great for providing more targeted advertising. Great for putting a free turn-by-turn navigation in your hands. Access to your Google shared calendar. Access to Google Street Map.

Based on my experiences so far, I think I want a lot more visibility and control of what data is being collected, how it is being used, and how I can opt out of that data collection. Google has some great products. I’m going to be glad when Monday comes around and I can start using them again – they really make life easier and make me more productive. However, after this week, I’m starting to think I’d prefer to pay for them in cash, rather than in my personal data – Unless Google is going to be a lot more open about its use of our data. In the works of Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google:

“if you have something that you really don’t anyone to know maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

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