The evil in ‘do not be evil’ google

The words “do not be evil” have been linked to Google for a while now, and has reached near mythical proportions now with some of its users. But how much of this is true?

One would argue, successfully, that google must absolutely not be evil, since these very words where immortalized in it’s IPO. However, such reasoning would have one flaw:

They have shareholders now.

Perhaps when google started out, it truly was guided by wonderful guidelines like that, many companies do. Personally, I always strive to be as honest and transparent as possible, but as a private person, I can do that. A publicly traded company like google cannot. It has shareholders. Shareholders are in it for one thing only: making a profit, and as much as possible of that profit. There is no “for the greater good of mankind” in stocks.

Now, a lot of you will grab a torch and pitchfork, (There is an app for that) and demand proof.

Okay, here are some examples that I plucked from a number of users at app.net (commonly known as ADN by it’s users):

  • when removing my unused google+ account, It also – without warning – deleted my YouTube account with all it’s video’s.
  • when I wanted to upload a new video to my companies YouTube channel, it first demanded and forced me to create a google+ account
  • Now, we all know google+ is google’s third or something attempt at building a social network. Personally, all I hear or see about it is messages on Facebook or ADN saying: I created a google+ account for some reason. Followed by a message a month or so later: I deleted my google+ account.

    But seriously, forcing people to create an account there, and deleting their stuff on other sections of the platform if you delete the account? That is pretty evil. It is safe to say that google’s latest attempt to do something akin to a social network is failing too. Most accounts are idle, and those that are not are few and far between. All I hear is that there is zero interaction and zero community feeling. (Something that comes by the bucketload on app.net)

    What is next? My google enterprise (which just got a very unexpected, inconsiderate, and hefty price increase) account will get whipped out if I don’t want to use a google+ account?

    Google, even more then apple, is the most rampant example of vendor lock-in I have witnessed in the industry so far. An apple device without iCloud will function just fine. An android device? Not so much.

    So, is google evil? Yes, increasingly so. They have no choice, their shareholders demand that of them. You see an almost similar thing happening at apple after Jobs, Jobs was fascinatingly good at keeping shareholders at bay, in order to build a monumentally good product ecosystem. He just about got away with everything, simply because the figures showed he was right. Now, you slowly see shareholders demands for higher profits creep in in the little things. And this is worrying. Shareholders don’t know what makes a company like that successful, and they should not get too much say in the development processes. Companies like apple and google need a Jobs who can stick to his core principles and damned the consequences. Shareholders – despite what they might say – do not have the best interest of the company, it’s products, it’s customers at heart. It’s all about how much profit they can make. And if that is by dissolving the company, they will do that in a heartbeat.

    evil cheatgenius / zango.com content trap

    cheatgenius.co.uk-zango.com.jpgEvil is afoot on the internet.

    Unknowing users might be tricked into installing potentially malicious and definitely privacy invading software on their computers, in order to view free ‘premium content‘.

    At least, that is what the people at cheatgenius.co.uk and their partner zango.com are up to, or so it seems to me. (And I tend to have a very good nose for those things – but you don’t have to take my word for it).

    In the beginning, there was me, and I was surfing for a cheat (yeah, sometimes I am lame) for the new C&C 3 demo. I ended up on cheatgenius, and immediately I got the pop-up/layer you see in the upper right corner of this post. Basically they want you to install a ‘toolbar’ which will serve you adds, and works as an interface to a search engine, which will allow you to see the premium content on cheatgenius for free.

    First of all, all content on that site is supposedly ‘premium’ since every darn page gives me that annoying pop-up/layer. (that is something that ticks me off like you wouldn’t believe).

    So, I smelled something I really don’t like, so I investigated further, without installing that software off course. (I am not completely insane you know).

    The pop-up/layer has an extensive EULA in it, which I took the liberty of copying for you here (which is in my opinion, much safer then viewing the real thing).

    So, why do I take such offence to this? Well, first off all, the company who makes the software, used to be known as 180solutions. This company has been severely reprimanded and sued and it’s own EULA states that the use of that software ‘may’ be illegal in Alaska.

    Some (including Zango.com) may argue that the company has made a deal with the FTC, and cleaned up it’s act. I don’t buy that for a minute. If they would truly have cleaned up, their software wouldn’t be (possibly) illegal in Alaska, and a little while ago, Kaspersky Labs won a lawsuit Zango had filed against them, because the Judge agreed with the defendant that it was free to block and screen based on the Communications Decency Act. Therefore admitting that Zango’s software is indeed, indecent.

    Another reason I find the software and even EULA itself malicious is because the EULA grants the software and Zango.com the explicit right to update and change the workings of the software. To quote the EULA:

    7. Updates. Zango, in its sole discretion, may provide you with Updates to the Zango Software as part of this Agreement. The Zango Software will automatically check with Zango for the existence of any Update that Zango has released, and in the event that one is available, the Zango Software will update itself automatically. Nothing herein shall be construed or interpreted as requiring that Zango provide Updates. Zango will not install any new software or Update that in our reasonable judgment has functionality that is materially different from the functionality of the previously installed Zango Software without your prior consent.

    That about says it all. As soon as you installed their software, to view the so-called ‘premium content’ (which, in the case of cheatgenius.co.uk can be seen at many other sources without needing any software), they can do with you computer what they want, when they want it. Now, I’m not saying they actually do evil things the moment they have their software on your computer, but I am saying they can. And their track-record doesn’t really show much promise. The fact that they explicitly deny they will do such a thing is more proof then anything, since most companies like that have been known to change their EULA in a blink of an eye, and then suddenly, they can do whatever they want without breaking the EULA and their agreement with you. (One of the oldest tricks in the book really).

    I am not against advertising. Advertising drives a lot of good sites I frequent, and most of them show no or little tainting in their content to please (potential) advertisers. I am against feeding innocent and unknowing users potentially dangerous software, which could possibly be used by an attacker to install back doors and Trojans. Sites have a right to put advertising on their websites, because they have to eat too. But it can be done in an ethical way, which doesn’t tamper with their visitors rights. Above all a site has the duty to protect its visitors against malicious activities resulting from visiting their website. The construction Cheatgenius.co.uk and Zango.com have is, in my opinion, quite the opposite.

    So, people browsing the internet: please beware, and don’t install toolbars and other stuff, unless you know for a fact that there is no danger to you. In the end you are responsible for the things that take place on your computer, and through your internet connection, and therefore you have an obligation to take care of securing both. If you don’t know how to: ask friends or family, and there are plenty of companies willing to help for a modest fee.