Privacy: the Google balloon chucks a sandbag

But, but, but…? The Year of Respecting My Digital Rights ended on January 1st but it’s not so easy to switch off because – I told myself so – on 14th December, in the hope that we were already supine in a chocolate and whisky coma, Google casually announced that they were going to make our Reader shared items available to our Gmail contacts. There were complaints (see the comments).

I’ve always checked on Google, but at the back of my mind I thought Google was different. Wet-eared again, Flesh. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that Google is behaving like Facebook – they’re competing for the same social networkers and Facebook was dicking with us only the other month. But the announcement was very casual, with immediate effect and – probably most importantly, it was opt-out not opt-in. The arrogance is quite breathtaking.

Well, here we are. I like Gmail, I like Reader but I feel obliged to get rid of one of them because they are talking over my head and leaving me out.

Felipe Hoffa responds to each of Google’s defences. Elsewhere he links to a page on the Google Reader Blog which is reported to have said:

The bull has been freed, we are not taking it away, best get used to it. You should have seen the bull coming, any damages caused are your fault.

Astounding, if so. On Boxing Day they seem to have replaced that with a lukewarm apology:

We’d hoped that making it easier to share with the people you chat with often would be useful and interesting, but we underestimated the number of users who were using the Share button to send stories to a limited number of people.

Whatever. As Jack Schofield comments in the Guardian Unlimited, if they’d only made it opt-in nobody would have flinched. As it is I’m now actively looking for another feed reader because Google reneged on our agreement that it could have my data if it respected my privacy.

And Google, don’t think that I can’t live without Docs (there’s Zoho), Maps (it’s for drivers anyway – doesn’t show alleys and this pedestrian doesn’t travel at 3o mph or walk round one way systems), Gmail (I’ll miss it, not least Chat) and Search (there are other fish in the sea). As for single sign on, Open ID is coming. I don’t need your single sign on and I don’t need you.

(Why do I cast the bits of software I use as people I’m intimate with? That’s a bit yuck. Next anthropologist I bump into I’ll ask.)

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