Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Google Changes Privacy Policy to Pave Way for Bold New Platform

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Representatives from Google announced Tuesday the most unified and personalized platform available to users. Effective March 1, users will be required to allow Google to follow their activities across email, search, YouTube, the Google + social networking application and nearly 60 other services. Lane Tamwhit, who oversees public relations for the Internet giant’s privacy group, said Google can now learn more about users to provide a "simpler, more intuitive" experience. Tamwhit explained that these enhancements are not currently permissible under existing privacy policies, so the company will be introducing an updated policy that also prevents users from accidentally opting out. "We strive to make our tools as easy to use as possible, but sometimes people get confused and hit the wrong button," Tamwhit said. "In order to ensure that users don't accidentally deactivate all of these amazing new features, we've simply removed the option to opt-out." Even more impressive, the newly proposed suite of services will extend to include an offline experience never before attempted by a web-based firm. "There's so much Google can do to help you if you open up to us," Tamwhit enthusiastically announced on the company's blog.

Full Offline Access to All Google Services
As part of the Personal Assistant Plus (Google PAP) functionality, which integrates all Google services, Gmail users are assigned a dedicated "Super Sibling" who follows them everywhere they go, monitoring their actions and recording all the details of their daily goings-on into their productivity applications: Gmail, Talk, Google +, Calendar, Maps and more. Better yet, Google Super Siblings (SS) constantly check their users' systems to inform them of updates or critical deadlines.

"For example," Tamwhit said, "the Google SS can provide reminders that you're going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what traffic is like that day."

"Super Siblings aren't just passive observers," Tamwhit added. "They take photos of you, interface with the people you've just spoken to and, when they can, attempt to interview you directly about how you feel, what plans you have and so on. They can also tell you what your friends just posted on their Google + streams, uploaded into Google Docs or scheduled on their Calendars. It's mobile, it's 24/7, it's integrated, and if you don't have access to the Internet, no problem. The SS does."

What Kind of Information is Being Collected?
Everything that's already being stored on Google servers as part of a user's account: calendar appointments, location data, search preferences, contacts, personal habits based on Gmail communications, device information, search queries and more.

"The more information you upload, the more we can assist you," Tamwhit effused. "For example, if you're managing your household budget using Google Docs, we have all that data now. So, if you're struggling a bit financially, Personal Assistant Plus can recommend discount shopping, send targeted Google Offers or refer you to credit counselors who are participating in our affiliates program."

Google PAP Creates Jobs in a Tough Economy
Google PAP not only saves its users countless hours of manually inputting photos, scheduling events and sending emails, it also puts unemployed Americans back to work.

Tamwhit said: "The driving force behind Google PAP is Google SS. Assigning one Super Sibling to every Google user is a big undertaking. So, that means jobs. And these people don't need advanced degrees or tons of experience or even rigorous background checks. Anyone in need of work can apply. We also hire discharged census takers. This allows us to better match Super Siblings to users personally. Chances are, your Super Sibling already has tons of information about you. We also pay to obtain your public records, which we hand over to the SS along with all of your existing Google profile and account information. These people probably know you better than the government or your own parents. The process becomes more intimate, more customized and less labor intensive for you."

The Most Efficient Mapping System Yet
According to Google, the enhanced map feature in PAP provides users with greater flexibility in customizing their Google Maps. Through Google's Personalized Omniscient Viewer (POV), Street View vehicles follow and film Gmail users around town.

"By tracking people with our camera-equipped cars, we provide users with a customized Street View map full of interesting details," Tamwhit said. "The information also feeds directly into their searches, filtering the most relevant results. We can mine precise details to create algorithms that not only understand our users' most commonly traveled routes but also suggest places they should visit, such as new restaurants, shops, attractions, museums and theaters -- as long as those venues belong to the Google affiliates program."

What If I Don't Want the SS Following Me?
Google seems perplexed by this question. "Why wouldn't you?" Tamwhit asked. But the company prides itself on its commitment to the user experience. If you don't like PAP, you can simply close your Google account and remove all personal information from the related services after completing a simple form acknowledging that you will never be permitted to use Google again, in any capacity. Additionally, as part of Google's "data liberation" policy, instructions will be provided to guide users through the process of taking their information elsewhere.

"Because we want to remain a lifelong ally to our community, we will not remove any of the personal information we've already shared with marketers, advertisers and affiliated service providers to guarantee that our estranged friends will still receive the benefits they've come to expect from Google services," Tamwhit emphasized.

Google PAP Takes Aim at SOPA Advocates
Google belongs to a consortium of Internet companies that are actively fighting Internet censorship inherent in proposed legislation such as the contentious Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

"To demonstrate the desire for a free and open Internet, we must promote a free and open Internet," Tamwhit stated. "We truly feel the best way to stop censorship under the false pretense of anti-piracy is through anti-privacy. By making our users' online lives open books, we can better illustrate the challenges they could face if companies restricted their access to information."

Google Attempts to Quell Controversies Over Beta User Complaints
Hoyt Barstock, one of Google PAP's first beta subjects, called the system dangerous, inaccurate and frightening. Google claims that PAP is misunderstood by new users like Barstock.

"Well, it'd be nice if Google told you it was going to start tailing you with its weird cars and Super Siblings beforehand," Barstock said. "Yeah, PAP does all the things they say, but at what cost?"

Barstock attacked Google for the "nightmare" he was forced to endure as an SS target, and said the company made no efforts to rectify the problems it brought into his life. "Am I a devoted single father or a registered sex offender? Google PAP can't tell," Barstock complained.

Barstock told reporters that the problems began on the first day of school following the winter break: "So, I'm walking my little girl to school when this two-door compact with a camera tower on its roof starts following me. Everywhere we go, the Google clown car stops and takes pictures. Totally creeped me out. My daughter Reba says, 'Daddy, did we do something wrong? Is that the government?' And I say, 'No, baby, that's Google. They know more about you than the government. Could be worse.'"

Barstock, who admits to living in an economically depressed neighborhood, explained that he and his daughter must pass an adult bookstore before they reach Reba's elementary school.

"So, we hurry past that porno shop and get to the school gates. That's when the Google car turns around and drives off. Afterward, I didn't think too much about it. That is, until I got home and jumped on the computer."

According to Barstock, when he attempted to obtain driving directions to his daughter's gymnastics competition using Google Maps, his default home location had become the adult bookstore.

"Even worse," Barstock continued, "there's this huge picture of me standing in front of it with Reba. 'Bout an hour later, my ex old lady sends this nasty email demanding to know why I'm spending all my money at a titty bar instead of giving her more alimony. And I was like, what the hell are you on about, woman? That's when I learned Google had posted the porno shop on my Google Profile, my Google Maps and my Google Latitude. Then stupid Google + invited everyone in my circles to join me at The Rusty Bush Erotic Bookshoppe. Jesus H. Tap-dancing Christ!"

But Barstock's humiliation didn't end there.

"When I try to find places on Google Maps, it keeps giving me directions to cat houses and massage parlors and strip clubs. I use Adsense on my blog. But now, all the ads are for penis pills, inflatable sex dolls and Dustin Diamond movies. The Google SS guy who follows me around is constantly trying to solicit prostitutes with weird fetishes for me. Keeps saying it's a good match based on my frequent searches for 'football.' Then there's what happened this morning. I wanted to read about how Rick Santorum was doing against Gingrich and Romney. But Google won't pull up those results. Instead, it pesters me with, 'Did you mean anal lubricant and new gang rape mitts?' I sell landscaping tools. Just guess what Google suggests when I try to find a deal on hoes or seed sacks. Yeah, it's ridiculous, but at least I don't have Yahoo employees outside my house begging for change or Facebook's Timeline."

(c) 2012. See disclaimers.