What, if anything, does Google owe us?

Jul 27 2011 Published by under information policy, Uncategorized

Google is an advertising company. They provide services - very useful services - in turn for showing us advertising. They are there to make a profit and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  They have a motto of not doing evil, which some people argue they don't always live up to.

So, they provide a service like search and there's no explicit agreement you need to make to use the service but their "universal terms" still hold and are accepted implicitly. You could use some sort of ad blocker to cover the ads and probably get away with it although that does violate some terms. With other services like gmail, gdocs, g+, there are explicit terms of service that you need to agree to in order to have access to the service.

For blogger, you can't post things for which you do not either have the copyright or have a license (such as creative commons) to post. In news this week (via Sir Shuping on Friendfeed), they did something pretty cool. They made it both easier for bulk DMCA takedown orders to be processed and also easier for bloggers to fight a bulk order (do a counter-notice). Why is this cool, if it's just the law and business? Well, copies of all of the takedown orders go to the Chilling Effects cease & desist clearinghouse where they are available for searching. Secondly, they don't take a sledgehammer to the problem. They move your post into draft status and you can edit it to take out the offending content and then re-post. To me, this seems entirely reasonable.

On the other hand, one of the terms of service for g+ is that you use your real name to sign up. Many people have said in many different places why this doesn't make sense - it's just stupid for Google to have this requirement and it certainly does not further their goal of preventing the morass of trolls and flames and disgusting comments that is found on YouTube. But that's not my point right now. My point is that their terms are that you must use a real name (and be a certain age) and their reaction if you don't hold up your part of the bargain is that they terminate your relationship with google across the board. They lock you out of gmail, blogger, picasa, gdocs, reader... everything.  According to this Gawker piece, it's really messed up a bunch of kids as well as the pseudonymous scientists and celebrities we've heard from. I actually don't see the part about real names in the universal terms, and there's no link from that page to google plus terms.

It's disproportionate. It's punishing instead of just doing business. It's decided algorithmically instead of by humans and clearly the algorithm needs to be tweaked.

I have an ongoing relationship with Google. I expect it to deliver services if I follow its terms of service. The universal terms, afaict, do not mention using my real name. That means that it isn't required for all services, just g+. In that case, remove access to just the service where it's written into the ToS.

I think Google owes people like Grrl Scientist an apology and access to all of her data. Even if they do not reactivate these accounts, they should provide download links for the content.

4 responses so far

  • Zuska says:

    Agree 100%. You have got to the heart of the matter.

  • odyssey says:


  • Google is a sociopathic corporation, doing what sociopathic corporations do. Using a "free" product provided by a sociopathic corporation (in exchange for mass quantities of your personal information that it sells to other sociopathic corporations) for tasks you consider mission critical is fucken stupid.

  • Geeplus Canscrewitself says:

    What PhysioProf says (although I am using my Gmail account to verify this comment).