Who does not use something free from Google? Google’s search engine is the world’s most popular. Google’s Gmail? The most used and popular email in the world. Google Maps? Ditto. Google offers more free products and services than any major tech company. What’s the catch?
Google Spies Are Everywhere
When I first read about Google’s new Photos app for iPhone and iPad, and the free unlimited photo storage, I thought, “Hot dog. An online backup of my photos and videos for free.” Take that, Apple and outrageous monthly iCloud fees.
After giving the situation some lengthy thought, and trying it out using my Google account, I have second thoughts. Google has jumped the shark with Photos.
Jumping the shark has become the name for a watershed moment that marks when everything goes wrong; in politics, business, privacy policies, marketing campaigns, feature bloat; all thanks to Fonzie on Happy Days, the first recorded moment of shark jumping.
On the surface, and that’s as far as Google wants users to think, Photos looks like the ultimate good deal. Unlimited online storage for high resolution photos and videos. What’s not to like? Then the caveats begin. It’s high resolution photos, not original resolution. It’s 1080p videos, not 4k. Go beyond the basic limits and Google has a price tag to thwart being taken advantage of.
But that’s what Google does to users with Photos. Google’s terms are much the same as everything Google. The search engine giant has the right to scan your photos, and toss you a bone or two in the form of a cute collage. Nice, right? Behind the scenes, Google’s unfettered access to scan your photos breeds a level of subtle evil. Google is looking at everything you do. How is that not creepy?
Using Photos for your photos means Google can scan those photos, and that means Google collects a tremendous amount of personal information about you; your face, the faces of your friends and family members and co-workers. Google will learn what clothing you wear, what you eat and where and how much, even to the point of how many calories you consume, what you buy, where you bought it, and far more.
Google’s many ways of gathering an information profile about you means the company could construct a highly valuable package of personal information; height, weight, health, hair color, jewelry, standard of living, where you travel and when, what kind of furniture you have in your home, who you hang out with, where you’re employed and what work you do– all from your free Gmail account, Google Photos, and other free lunch services you use.
Google’s egregious tactic could backfire as people begin to recognize that the tradeoff of personal information for free services and apps is not worth it. Unfortunately, that’s not how many people think. Free is free and attached strings are nothing to worry about. Apple has taken the high road, which can also be called the ‘expensive road’ by pointing out what Google is doing with personal data, and reminding us that Apple does not function the same way. That’s all well and good but Apple needs to put its money where its mouth is. We pay a very premium amount for Apple products so the least the company could do is make counterpart services that are demonstrably better than Gmail and Photos and Docs and whatever else Google offers to an unsuspecting public. I’m willing to pay but what I buy has to be better than what’s free. So far, it’s not.