Google isn't Evil, you're just doing it wrong.


Do you remember digital hygiene? Don’t use ‘password’ as your password, don’t write it down and affix it to your monitor, don’t keep your pin in your wallet. What ever happened to this? It seems like as the list of dirty places that needed our attention grew - deleting cookies, blocking javascript, changing your security settings etc. eventually we reached a point when we said ‘Wait, I have to wash myself there as well?! That’s a bit much much.’ Then someone told us that everything we do is being tracked, online and off (the distinction blurs with mobile devices) and the corrupted body to be cleansed expanded towards the horizon; so we just threw in the towel. We abdicated responsibility and asked the only people we could see to hose and delous us and set us ‘free’ in a padded playground with no sharp edges. At least we didn’t ask evil men.

Now, with the ubiquitous ‘single sign on’ as panacea for all those niggling little digital fungi and bacteria we’re starting to question the deal. I want the most relevant information to my search terms as quickly as humanly, or algorithmically, possible, but I will not stand for biased news! I want instant gratification of every capricious whim, but I will not have my preferences stored. I don’t want to be tracked, and I will not pay.

The tools that google offer from personalised search suggestions and location based, voice controlled information retrieval to face recognition and image aggregation are simply amazing. They are designed to be biased towards you, that in itself is an incredibly useful, convenient, and powerful technology. Imagine walking into a library, sitting down at the table, saying what you want and having all the information that you need materialize before you. Now pull out your phone and do exactly that. It’s a truism that this is unprecedented in the current climate of technological advancement, but you may find a moment of reflection upon it could fill you with immense gratitude.

So, now when we want an objective perspective on an issue or topic, instead of using an appropriate tool (incognito mode, duckduckgo, vpn etc.) we lazily stick with the one we’re used to and demand that it changes. This is akin to walking into a doctor, demanding homeopathics, then getting angry with him for refusing, because he is a doctor.

Did you know you were at the doctor? Yes.

Do you know what a doctor does? Yes.

Then why are you angry? Because it wasn’t what I wanted.

Perhaps one day we can expect the tools we have created to seamlessly mould themselves to our intentions, however that day is not today and I’m sorry to say that’s its eventual realization is going to rely on harvesting a lot more of your data. Until then, why should an incredibly successful company which has built tools of incredible vision and brought tremendous value to the lives of countless people fundamentally change what it does simply because we don’t have the wherewithal to use their tools in a manner that is in harmony with our individual values, whatever they may be? Where has individual responsibility gone?

The general consensus is that Google, and the other massive aggregators, have a responsibility to their users to present an unbiased perspective of the world, despite the fact that their major selling point is that they create a biased perspective of the world, for each individual; despite the fact that we have made them one of the most successful companies in the world by virtue of the fact that we want what they got; and despite the fact that using their services is completely optional.

Let’s bring back digital hygiene instead. Let’s take a bit of responsibility for our choices, bearing in mind that the choice to not educate oneself is a choice. Being ‘tech literate’ isn’t just knowing how to set up an email account or using the advanced features on your phone. People would be well served to understand the price they pay, monitor their own level of comfort, and have the requisite knowledge to implement their own solutions. The tools available are as simple and familiar as you’d expect from any company selling an online service to fill a customer need. The learning curve when investigating VPNs, ad blockers or private search options is almost flat. Just google it.

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