Tuesday, January 31, 2012

TUESDAY TIP Google #FAIL + #Facebook SECURE? It's a Madhouse in Here, I Tell You!

Today we have a couple of pieces of irony in the Great Social Networking Divide (Google vs. Facebook). Click through the jump-break if you're interested in reading my take on the chasm that is widening with each passing moment. This is even more fierce than the MSIE vs. Netscape Mozilla battle of the early 1990s.

Google Invasion
Just after I posted my blog a week and a half ago about how Google Invades Your Privacy, Google sent out an email to all of its users of all of its services announcing Google's New Privacy Policy which still very much includes pixel tagging your life and invading your privacy. They've rewritten the policies to have one major heading--and more  subparagraphs and fine-print loopholes than ever before--so now they can harvest your data for their business needs in a more open and honest manner. Somehow there's a bit of an oxymoron there, eh?

But that wasn't bad enough, so 3 days after sending the initial email, Google is presenting me with an interstitial screen interrupting login and requiring me to agree to the new privacy policies before allowing me to continue logging into my email account. To be fair, it's reasonable to make a customer agree to your TOS before allowing them access to said services. What's unreasonable is the manner in which they're doing it. The TOS are so complex at this point, so cross-linked, multi-paged and ridden with fine print, it's hard to figure out how to read them, let alone what they say! But then, that would be the point, eh?

I have actually managed to read the TOS. The whole long, drawn-out, multiple-paged, cross-linked mess that is, collectively, the TOS and I can tell you, they're nearly the same, just a little more invasive. Basically, you're agreeing to allow Google to use any and all information you enter into any of the services in any other service--without asking you again for permission--and in pretty much any way they might like. So they can take information from your blog visits (other people's blogs you log into using your Google account) or web searches you conduct and use that data to provide their advertisers with allegedly targetted audiences.

My Location Information
I've agreed to the Google TOS because I want to have continued access to my current email and blog accounts. I've already switched over my default search engine (I keep switching between Microsoft's Bing and Yahoo! Search). I'll tell you this, however, reading the new terms helped me be absolutely positively sure I'll need to move from Blogger to Wordpress and from Gmail to ... well, I might have to start hosting my own email :-( That'll suck. I'll need to wait until I have time to really dig into my current Wordpress installation.

I already have my own domain with Wordpress installed and a set of mailboxes set up but I liked not having to deal with it, especially the mail server. I don't like Yahoo! (where I have one account) and even less Hotmail (where I have 2  accounts) but I cannot keep using Google's email service unless I agree to grant them access to my email content. The fine print does grant them pixel tagging access to my email--that's how they extract words from your messages to "target" the ads on the page while you're reading. It's not magic. It's just invasion of privacy. My migration will probably take a month or two but hopefully by March (when Google and Facebook will see their final showdown) I'll be outta here.

Which brings me to the second irony this week. Facebook--of all places!--is more concerned with my privacy (the linked article's from late August, 2011). Given that Facebook used to be nicknamed OpenBook, I find this particularly ironic but it's true. In the last 3-4 months, I've felt more secure and able to limit access to my personal and private data using the new privacy controls on Facebook than the tools and limits Google makes available--or rather fails to make available. I think #FAIL is the keyword there.

The Downside of Facebook
You're getting the Facebook Timeline, whether you want it or not. Worst of all, you can't get the old Facebook back, but Mashable has links to a handful of handy widgets and plugins (for either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox) you can use to emulate some of the more popular "Classic Facebook" features. Why has Facebook done this? Well, it could have a lot to do with the fact they're expected to file a $75 billion IPO on or about Wednesday, February 1, 2012 (according to the Wall Street Journal). They're preparing by tightening up privacy controls, customizing user experiences and preparing user environements for an ad-rich sales platform.

Yes, we already have too many ads on Facebook but hey, they don't make enough money off those ads; they want to sell bigger, better ads. Facebook won't (AFAIK) aggressively pursue your attention using a pixel tag (more correctly called a web beacon) and they will keep the data on your Facebook Profile marked as "not to be shared" actually private.  There's a switch, huh?

If you want to keep your data private from advertisers, Facebook, at least, will do that much for you. They won't sell your private data the way Google will. Facebook will still hound you to make that data public, though. Hey, advertisers pay for a presence on the site while users surf the site for free so it's only expected for Facebook to follow the money (grin).

The Upside of Facebook
Facebook has a lot of built-in tools, widgets, community sharing devices and mechanisms. Facebook established methods of communication that have become the "norm" for social media -- how many times have you wanted to "like" something somewhere else?

Facebook's greatest strength is the extent to which users already know how to get around on the site and already know how to use the tools. I think the best thing about Facebook is the community-building built into the fundamental concept of the site. Back when FB first started there were other social networking sites out there trying (desperately) to become the Next Big Thang but none quite got the "sharing" concept down. It was always about broadcasting out to a listening audience instead of the Facebook way of sharing in two directions.

It's definitely possible to be come a one-way communicator on Facebook but you have to be intensely self-absorbed and never actually click anything to do it. As soon as you "like" something, Facebook automagically makes it more relevant, encouraging others to "like" it making it yet more relevant and so forth. Facebook's greatest strength is how it interprets human interactions...with other humans ^_^

What's Next....

I ran across a nice article on methods of engaging your audience which I'll be reviewing next and there are several articles on "Googleisms" I wanted to write so those'll be coming soon! This weekend's free read will be more of the SciFi Thriller Conditioned Response, Book 2 of the Phoenician Series. Tune in either Friday or Sunday for the next snippet.

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