Response to Google boycott

I have received numerous replies to my piece on Google. Among them was criticism from Chris Gulker and Steve Jenson. Steve is a software engineer in San Francisco, working on Blogger and other Pyra inventions and now for Google. He has written a lengthy critique of my piece, and has recently been posting here about his arguments against people such as myself. I have replied to him here: (Steves comments are quoted in italics)

Steve,

Thank you for the reply, I was afraid you might not – and I am very glad that you did. I appreciate your contribution greatly.

I will therefore attempt to deal with the issues you raised in a reasonable and logical fashion.

“It’s unreasonable to call for a Boycott on a company who’s done nothing wrong”

I am boycotting, and calling for a boycott because I believe that until such time as Google decide to open up, that they are subject to some kind of scrutiny given their near monopoly online – that people should stay away.

Why the apparent secrecy? Why not tell their users what they are doing? The privacy statement on Google is not exactly telling us how things are working – what information is kept and how is it used? For instance in Googles own privacy statement:

“Individually identifiable information about you is not willfully disclosed to any third party without first receiving your permission, as explained in this privacy policy (“Privacy Policy”)”

Not willfully disclosed, what exactly does that mean? Am I being paranoid? What information is disclosed? How does Google decide these things? Is some accountability to the general public (at least the US public) not a good thing?

“Having a cookie that expires a long time from now and hiring a former NSA employee aren’t evidence of any wrongdoing.”

Indeed, but I have not decided to stop visiting Google because I have absolute evidence of wrongdoing. I have decided to do so because I simply do not know what Google are doing. And they seem to make no effort to tell me. Why have a cookie that lasts that long? Why not 1 week or 4 weeks? I could live with that… but 35 years? Please tell me why? Why do I feel so uncomfortable with one company having all the information that they do have – because I know that there has never been a company, that seeks to make profit, that would not use the information for ‘dubious’ purposes. I think it would be foolish of me not to suspect something is amiss, given the sheer dominance of Google. As I would be about any company, anywhere, who has a near monopoly.

“Hiring a guy formerly from the NSA isn’t the same as becoming the NSA.”

Nor did I make that inference, it is more of an interesting fact than an addition to the argument. Lots of people in the US work for lots of government security departments, but I thought this fact worth mentioning.

“What exactly would be wrong with our government having, say, a google search applicance to keep track of their internal documents? Ooooh, evil…”

Nothing it all, indeed I read that Google appliances are used already in SF local government. It is the ambitions/direction/policies of Google that I think are at issue. Oohh, evil….? I would encourage you to read this, as it is an appeal to ridicule and as such, irrelevant.

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-ridicule.html

You now go on to quote a number of logical fallacies that you say were within the argument that I wrote.

“My general complaint about this entry is that it’s a call to arms based on logical fallacies”
You cite Dave Winer as an “A-list blogger” who doesn’t like Google and therefore it makes sense to not like Google. Your logical fallacy here is http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.html”

Please allow me to deal with this issue. And I quote from the site you give. “This fallacy is committed when the person in question is not a legitimate authority on the subject. More formally, if person A is not qualified to make reliable claims in subject S, then the argument will be fallacious.”

I would contend that Dave Winer is at the very least partially authoritive on the issue, though that is debatable. Otherwise I cited Dave Winer, because, as a matter of fact – he is an A-list blogger. That is a fact.

I was merely using his views on the issue, as an example of another person who is thinking along the same lines as me, and therefore along the same lines as the article. It is common in debates to cite authority, and I believe Dave to be an authority, if you do not agree then fair enough.

“You and others have an oogie feeling therefore Google must be bad. Your logical fallacy here is:
http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-fear.html”

I am honestly not sure what you mean. Oogie in what sense? If it is an appeal to fear, then please explain how it is unjustified. I am a bit fearful myself, and I think other people might be too after reading the article. But I do not agree that I am trying to scare people outright into not using Google, or that scaring people wins my argument. I am simply saying that I do have suspicions, and I am acting on them. I am encouraging other people to be more suspicious, and should they arrive at the same conclusions based on the evidence, or lack thereof, then they might do the same as me – until such time as the present situation changes.

“You say that Google’s doing too many crazy things and therefore must be out to hurt you. Your logical fallacy here is:
http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/composition.html”

I think it is incorrent to say that I am fallacious here. I listed a number of things that Google do that people may be unaware of. Based on this I have decided not to visit Google anymore, and have said that I would encourage others to do likewise. I think Google is doing a number of crazy things, and suspect that like all companies, Google, while not being out to hurt me, may use its power/influence for dubious purposes – that its users are unaware of.

“You say that Google must fully disclose all of it’s practices or else it is engaged in wrongdoing. You have multiple fallacies here:
http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/burden-of-proof.html
http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/questionable-cause.html”

I think that Google must fully disclose its practice’s or else there is a likelihood that it may engage in wrong-doing in the future, if it is not already doing so. That is not illogical. I am erring on the side of caution here. Why use a search engine when questions are not fully answered, and where a shroud of mystery hangs over company practice? Why not err on the side of caution and use other engines?

I hope I have answered you to some degree.

Kind regards

Gavin Sheridan