How Governments Are Screwing Us by Censoring Google

Today the Canadian Supreme Court ordered Google to remove search results that the Court doesn’t feel should be present. The court demands that Google remove those results not just for Canadian users, but for the entire planet. That’s right, Canada has declared itself a global Google censor.

I’ve been predicting for many years this move toward global censorship imposed by domestic governments. I suspected all along that attempts by Google to mollify government censorship demands through the use of geoblocking would never satisfy countries that have the sweet taste of censorship already in their authoritarian mouths — no matter if they’re ostensibly democracies or not. Censorship is like an addictive drug to governments — once they get the nose of the censorship camel under the tent, the whole camel will almost always follow in short order.

The EU has been pushing in the global censorship direction for ages with their awful “Right To Be Forgotten.” Countries like France, China, and Russia have been even more explicit regarding their desires for worldwide censorship powers. And frankly, it’s likely that nearly every nation will begin making the same sorts of demands once the snowball is really rolling — even here in the USA if politicians and courts can devise practical end runs around the First Amendment.

The ramifications are utterly clear. It’s a horrific race to the lowest common denominator bottom of censorship, with ever escalating demands for global removal of materials that any given government finds objectionable or simply inconvenient to the current president, or prime minister, or king, or whomever.

Ultimately, the end result is likely to be vast numbers of Google Searches that return nothing but blank white pages no matter where in the world that you reside.

My dream solution to such global censorship demands would be cutting off those countries from associated Google services. With enough righteous indignation, perhaps we could get Facebook, Twitter, and other major platforms to join the club.

I tend to doubt that these firms would have too much to worry about from a financial standpoint in this regard. The perhaps billions of users suddenly cut off from Google Search and their daily fixes of social media are unlikely to tolerate the situation for very long.

Short of this approach, there are other possible ways to fight back against global censorship. Feel free to ask me about them.

I’ve actually gone into much more detail about all of this in those many past posts that I alluded to above, and I’m not going to try dig out the numerous links for them here. Stuff my name into the Google Search bar along with terms like “censorship” or “right to be forgotten” and you’ll get a plethora of relevant results.

That is, until some government orders those search results to be removed globally from Google.

Be seeing you. I hope.

–Lauren–

Massive Fine Against Google: The EU’s Hypocrisies Exposed

The best phrase that immediately comes to mind regarding the European Union’s newly announced $2.7 billion fine against Google is “A giant load of bull.” Google is far from perfect, but the EU has a long history of specious claims against Google, and this is yet another glaring example.

EU politicians and bureaucrats — among the most protectionist and hypocritical on the planet — see Google as a giant piggy bank, an unlimited ATM machine. The EU wants the easy money, rather than admitting that so many of their own business models are stuck in the 20th (or in some cases the 19th!) century.

The EU is demanding “search equality” — but there’s nothing wrong with Google’s search result rankings, which exist to best serve Google users, not the EU government’s self-serving agenda.

And that’s the key: Where are all the ordinary Google users complaining about Google’s shopping search results rankings? You can’t find those users, because anyone who prefers using non-Google sites is absolutely able to do so at any time. Google services rank so highly in search because users prefer them. Yep, free choice!

The European Union in its typical way is treating the citizens of its member countries like children, who it feels are so ignorant that Big Mommy EU has to dictate how they use the Internet. Disgusting.

I find myself increasingly thinking that we may have more to fear from EU control of the Net than we would from even Russia or China. At least the leaders of those latter two countries are pretty upfront about their attitudes toward the Internet, however totalitarian they might be.

But the EU has its own authoritarian, “information control” mindset as well, in their case painted over with a thin and rotting veneer of faked liberalism.

When actions are taken against Google like what has happened today, the EU’s mask of respectability slips off and shatters onto the ground into a million shiny shards, revealing the EU’s true face — leering with envy and avarice for the entire world to see.

–Lauren–

How Google Risks Court Actions Under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)

Earlier today over on Google+ I posted another (relatively minor) example of Google’s horrible low contrast user interfaces (YouTube image at the bottom of this post — how do you find the “How do I find it?” link?) and I suggested that this continuing behavior by Google could be seen as a form of discrimination against persons with less than perfect vision. (Please see: “Does Google Hate Old People?”: https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/02/06/does-google-hate-old-people — for one of my earlier more detailed discussions. Also “Google and Older Users”: https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/03/14/google-and-older-users — where I discuss the need for a dedicated Google employee to focus on this area.)

Every damned time I write about this topic, my inbox starts to fill with new horror stories related to issues with Google user interfaces in these contexts, that do in some cases seem to cross the threshold into discrimination, at least in an ethical sense if not a legal one.

And I certainly get plenty of people who contact me and bring up the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) as relates to Google.

Thankfully, I’m not a lawyer. But readers who are lawyers have not infrequently asked me regarding any interest that I might have in participating in a class action lawsuit related to Google regarding “discriminatory” user interface and related issues.

My response has always been negative. I much prefer to keep courts out of largely technical policy matters — the thought of them trying to micromanage user interfaces makes me rather nauseous.

Yet the probability of some group moving ahead with legal action in these regards seems to be increasing dramatically as Google’s user interfaces overall — plus documents, blogs, and various other display aspects — keep getting worse in terms of the disadvantaged categories of users. Nor is the fact that most Google users are not paying for Google services necessarily a useful defense — Google has become integral to the lives of much of this planet’s population.

My premise has been that Google doesn’t actually hate older users (or other users negatively affected by these issues). Not hate them per se, anyway.

However, I’m forced to agree that Google’s attitude can certainly be interpreted by many observers as a form of hate, even if characterized by a form of neglect rather than direct action.

It has long seemed the case that Google concentrates on users in Google’s perceived key user demographics, putting much less care into users who fall outside of that focus — even though the latter represents vast (and rapidly increasing) numbers of users.

Nor do I sense that this is a problem with “rank-and-file” Googlers — many of whom I know and who are great and caring people. Rather, it seems to me that the problematic attitudes in these respects are generally sourced at Google’s executive and in some cases program manager levels, who of course set the ground rules for all Google products and services.

Either way, Google’s growing vulnerabilities to legal actions related to these situations seems clear, as these problems continue spreading across the Google universe.

While it could certainly be argued that more easily readable and usable user interfaces and reference pages would benefit all users, Google need not necessarily abandon their new “standard” interfaces with their low contrast fonts in order to solve these problems. I’ve in the past suggested the possibility of a high-readability, easier use “accessibility” interface that would exist as a user selectable option alongside the standard one. And I’ve proposed consideration of interface “APIs” that would permit third parties to write specialized interfaces to help specific groups of Google users.

None of these concepts have apparently seen any traction though, and Google seems to be barreling ahead with changes that are only making matters worse for these user groups who are already being driven bats by various aspects of Google’s design choices.

I would enormously prefer that Google take the ethical stance and move forward toward solving these problems itself. Yes, this requires nontrivial resources — but Google does have the capabilities. What they seem to be lacking right now is the will to do the right thing in these regards.

If this continues to be the case, the odds are that the courts will indeed ultimately move in. And that’s an outcome that I’m unconvinced will be a good one for either Google or its users.

–Lauren–

Google’s Gmail Will No Longer Scan Messages to Personalize Ads (but This Was Always Harmless)

Google has announced that beginning later this year, they will no longer scan or otherwise use messages in their free Gmail system for ad personalization purposes (this is already the case for their paid Gmail (G Suite) product.

This is a good decision to help undercut the Google haters’ false propaganda, but let’s be clear — this Gmail message scanning was always utterly harmless.

The controversies about Gmail scanning were ginned up by greedy lawyers and Google adversaries, with Microsoft’s lying and widely discredited (and now discontinued) “Scroogled” anti-Google propaganda campaign playing a significant “fake news” disinformation role (well before the term “fake news” became popular).

In fact, Gmail scanning has been closely akin to scanning for viruses and spam in messages. No humans were ever actually “reading” Gmail messages for ad personalization purposes, and the scanning that has occurred has been solely to find keywords that would help show relevant ads to any given user. 

Advertisers have never had access to this data — their ads are shown by Google without personal information being made available to those advertisers at all. One of the continuing “big lies” that Google haters propagate is the claim that Google sells their users’ personal information to third parties. They don’t. But a lack of understanding by many Google users of how Google’s ad systems actually work (Google could indeed be better at explaining this clearly) helps to feed such dramatic and completely false notions. 

The bottom line is that Gmail scanning has never posed a privacy risk, but since entirely stopping Gmail scanning puts a final nail in the coffin of these fake abuse claims, it’s an excellent move by Google. Good work.

–Lauren–