George: Freedom isn’t free

Few things give me as much pleasure as converting someone to the golden salvation of Gmail.

Non-believers of Gmail wrongly assume their e-mail clients are the way to go. You have your Apple Mail users who don’t understand what a pain in the ass it is to drag mail to folders; your Yale Mail users who don’t delete or file e-mails at all and drown in a sea of phish warnings; your Yahoo users who don’t realize that the minimum age requirement for the service is 50.

But Gmail — fair Gmail. How I love your labels and your colors. How I love archiving e-mails without having to drag anything. How I love that you display e-mail chains as friendly “conversations” that are easy to scroll through!

It is the mold that shapes the worthless putty of ourselves into functioning human beings.

And yet, lately, Gmail is starting to creep me out. For instance, if you try to send an e-mail that has “see attachment” in the body of the e-mail but has nothing attached, a warning message pops up before you send the mail. At first that seems kind, but isn’t it a little weird that my mail client noticed, like a barista secretly listening in on a coffee conversation? Because if it can recognize words in my mail, how do I know that it isn’t somehow storing this information in some huge database that might one day be used for nefarious purposes? And then take a look at the ads on the side of my Gmail browser! They are related to the content of my e-mail! (Don’t believe me? Open up several of your e-mails and see how the ads are vaguely related to the content EVERY TIME). What is going on here? I am perturbed.

I’ve been more into Google ever since they started offering a lot of the services Apple has, but for free. My life revolved around MobileMe (I don’t have time to plug my iPhone into my computer whenever it’s time to update the iCal, come on!) but that’s $90 a year, which wasn’t a problem until my parents got a new credit card and my secret automatic renewal was exposed. And I’m not going to shell out $90 a year for MobileMe and their dumb “cloud,” which I’m convinced is just the easiest way to explain the Internet to old people, like telling kids that babies come from storks. But with some quick Googling (see, it’s working already!) I figured out how to sync my iCal with my iPhone through GCal without paying a dime! That seems downright evil for Apple to charge me when it’s free through Google (though you have to understand I am still an unabashed disciple of all things Mac — I LOVE ME A SMOOTH CURVE). And Google has GoogleDocs with a word processor and spreadsheets and presentations and everything, all for free! I would seriously contemplate converting to Google for my life needs if they came out with a good operating system.

And yet, perhaps because I’m ignorant, something scares me a little. I mean, Google seems to control all the information in the world. I know it’s harmless for them to scan my e-mails for related content, and I certainly don’t have anything in my e-mail that would send me to jail (well, probably not) but those are my words. My private conversations.

When asked about privacy concerns, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said, “if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” OK, point taken, Schmidt, but I’m not concerned about you leaking my information regarding my Facebook notifications to the world — I’m worried about you taking over the world. Knowledge is power, right? So too much knowledge is too much power and too much power means world domination.

Maybe I’m being paranoid.

Until I scroll just a bit further down the Wikipedia entry for “Google” and find another terrifying tidbit from Schmidt: “The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’ ” And if that was just too gray for you, consider this, another quote from Schmidt from a 2010 interview with the Wall Street Journal: “I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions, they want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

BAAAAAH! GOOGLE TELLING US WHAT TO DO! THAT IS THE DEFINITION OF WORLD DOMINATION!

Having said all this, I still love Google. I still plan on using Gmail until the robots come and take me away to work the copper mines for more resources. But there has to be a limit, right? Because if your slogan is “Don’t Be Evil,” your mind still hears the words “Be Evil” every time you think it. And that has to cause some long-term damage.

Comments

  • Tan

    This article is awesome. Wonder if hotmail does that too, but it’s probably not high-tech enough.