Sunday, December 29, 2013

Google+ Stalker App

I'm conflicted by Google. I've been a fan for a long time. I use a lot of Google services (e.g., this is a Google Blogger site). However, there are privacy concerns because they track your search and browsing habits, and scan the content of messages in Gmail.

The benefits of Google's services are considerable. The only other company that offers a comparable level of integration between apps and business-friendly (enterprise-friendly) services is Microsoft.

And it's growing increasingly clear that Google+ is the cornerstone of how we will access all their services. YouTube comments are now done through Google+, and Google+ comments show up in search results. However, this strategy will fail unless they can prove themselves worthy of our trust.

There's an efficiency to making Google+ the central user profile for all Google services. I see it like using Active Directory on an enterprise network to manage all users in the organization. When you log into your computer at work, you may not realize this Microsoft product is being used to manage your user rights on the corporate network, but it's a powerful tool for managing access to computers, network drives, etc. Your Active Directory account may be used to manage your access to areas of your corporate Intranet, especially if the Intranet was created with Microsoft SharePoint. And it's also tied into your corporate email and calendar, Microsoft's Exchange server, which you access using Outlook.

When you're at work, you have a persona, a way of behaving, a role that you play as an employee. At work, you probably shouldn't go on a political rant, disparaging anyone who opposes your political views as stupid. That kind of behavior can be disruptive to a productive workplace, so you should save that behavior for outside of work.

Likewise, anything you don't want your employer to know, you should not send through corporate email. Some IT departments track the websites you visit, often even blocking access to sites they believe are inappropriate for employees to access. I've had coworker who got fired for watching porn at work. Well, that, and racking up a huge 900-number bill on his company cell phone.

My creepy Big Brother moment with Google came this week. My wife showed me an email she got from Google+. It included a montage of videos and photos that have been automatically uploading to her Google+ account from her Android phone. It's like a scene from a crime show when the detective stumbles on the stalker/murderer's secret wall-collage showing photos of the victim. Please rate the Google+ Stalker App in the Play Store. Yay!

So, Google+ is primarily for information you want to share with the world. Sure, you can set who you want to share your comments with, but it's not hard to accidently share with the wrong circles or with everyone. It's just as easy to make this mistake in Facebook. A friend of mine recently set FB to share posts only with himself for a week. I've made that mistake before, too.

To avoid accidently posting to the wrong audience, I use FB for content I want to share with friends and family, so I don't have to change the settings, which might cause accidental over-sharing. Google+, which is designed for plugging into other services that I want to use

Google may find it's subject to the Microsoft curse. By excelling at serving its business clients, Microsoft has lost a lot of consumer market share, where Apple and Google have become more dominant. Microsoft's Xbox is probably the most notable exception, but it does not integrate with Microsoft's enterprise products.

To avoid the curse, Google has to figure out how to do what most people do every day, intuitively change rolls based on context. They also need to become a bastion of personal privacy, and they've taken some serious hits on this. Their latest Google+ email campaign is not helping.

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