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Google: Be Evil

Misc Aug 23, 2022

Ever since 1998 "Don't be evil" has been Google's motto but as time has moved forward this has become more and more of a joke as the company pushes harmful and deceptive business practices on both consumers and its business partners. It's a common theme with many companies nowadays but Google has it's roots so deep in the internet that many of us use at least one of Google's products every day. Google has been the topic of discussion in many privacy and security groups over the past several years and it's become common knowledge that simply connecting with any Google service is a privacy issue that should be avoided. In this article I would like to focus on my history with Google, some recent experiences and news that has circled the insustry in the past few years that have pushed me to move my business away from Google and to advise my clients to do the same.

Early Days

I used to be a huge fan of Google. For many years I used all of Google's products as soon as they came out. I was a beta tester for many Google products and I have had several gmail accounts since very early on. It really felt like a great company to support back then. They were changing the internet with modern and great looking products that were faster and better than anything available. When Android came out I was an early adopter, owning the very first Android device and learning how to develop Android apps. I used Android exclusively for many years along with the full suite of Google products and it was a great experience. Google's innovation was unprecidented and caused sweeping changes in the tech world as a whole. Remember when Gmail made Yahoo mail look ancient?! Google search was clean and modern when we didn't know what modern even meant - it was the future, you could tell by looking at it and that ended up being the case after all.

Changing Tides

I wasn't privy to Google's Advertising business until a few years ago but I knew of it's existence because of discussion on forums related to privacy. At first I was one of those people who simply did not care about what Google was doing I had no issue with a company I felt that I trusted using data and serving advertisements. After all, advertisements help keep products free while they are improving. I was pretty much ignorant to the truths behind what was happening and the implications for what would come. The first annoyance I experienced was when I signed up for a Google Ads account for a website and I was deactivated for seemingly no reason, but I just dismissed it as my business didn't need ads to operate so I simply didn't use the product and moved on. Years later I noticed that several YouTubers that I watch (I watch a lot of Youtube in my free time) started talking about an "ad-pocalypse" and I started getting interested and doing some investigating into Google's press in the privacy and security sectors and what was happening with their products. I was not very happy to learn that Google was deep into user tracking, fingerprinting and all kinds of harmful data collection. While this is unrelated to the issues with YouTubers, discovering these things began the quick realization of what Google had become; an internet super power that no longer cared about users, forward innovation or even the law and why should they? A fine no matter the amount is smaller than business lost if they comply with law or ethics.

De-Googling

Upon learning enough about what was happening over at Google I decided the right course of action would be to simply disallow access to lots of information to Google related services. I spent hours upon hours pouirng through articles just to learn how to use the intentionally confusing Google user dashboard to restrict access that Google had to historical data. It should not require several hours of research to stop a company from accessing personal data which they do by default and never explain to you. I switched from Android to iPhone because I realized that if it takes a million steps to ask them not to track you they are probably still doing so. I stopped using Google as a search engine and switched over to DuckDuckGo. I stopped using Google Chrome on my personal computers but I unfortunately still have it installed because Google has a corner on the browser market and every business wants their website tested in Google Chrome and even more unfortunately there are many websites which still require Chrome to work properly. Monday - a project management platform even told me that in order to resolve performance issues with their platform I would need to use Google Chrome, what a business model! Despite having done all of these things I was still being tracked by Google - you can learn if you're being tracked by simply pretending you want something online and suddenly finding Google Ads for it everywhere and yes this also happens even with ad blockers, privacy extensions, etc. Google is plugged in to you and it's damn near impossible to sever that connection.

Google in Business

While I had made best efforts to sever my ties with Google in my personal life my business still had a Google Workspace account. As much as I had grown to despise the company I had deeply integrated with Google as a business and relied heavily on their services. This all changed with a recent experience with their Google Merchant Center and Google Ads service. I just set up a side project which sells clothing and accessories not tied to my brand or software business and decided to give Google Ads a try. I figured since they are so plugged in to users around the world it would be the best way to drive traffic to my new side project very quickly and I could stop my ads after about a week. My new project uses Shopify and I learned about Google Merchant via Shopify and thought that listing my products directly on Google was a fantastic way to drive customers to my products for a few days until I could sustain with repeat and word of mouth customers since my side business was never intended to be a large business requiring full time advertising.

I set up my own Google Merchant account and Google Ad account and created my advertisement. Less than 24 hours later my Google Merchant account was suspended. I reached out to Google's support team to figure out what happened because the suspension said the reason was "Misrepresentation" but my project was clear, concise and listed very detailed information of the business and each product that was listed there.

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I won't list the side project here because it's a project that's intended to be separate and I don't want to confuse this article as an advertisement of my side business.

I explained all of this to the support staff who told me that it would appear my store did not in fact violate the terms and I would have to appeal 3 times before they could "escalate" my issue and tell me the actual reason for the suspension.

I complied with this request and submitted an appeal 3 times, this took a while to happen meanwhile my Merchant account was still suspended without reason.

After finally being denied appeal the third time the very "helpful" support staff who gave me these instructions said that my account was suspended and they would not be able to tell me why. They also listed several potential violations including the same ones originally stated which the support staff had already verified were not valid.

I reached out again to request a reason for suspension or to be escalated to someone who could give me a reason and was told that they would not escalate my issue because the answer would be the same. Ironic that Google requires transparency but gives none, heh?

At this point i'm very upset with this, it's been over a week and I have followed all of the support staff requests and have gotten nowhere. Meanwhile my Merchant account is suspended and my Google Ads account ended up also being suspended. In a last ditch effort I made a call to Google Support who told me that they do not provide Ads or Merchant support over the phone despite what the support staff stated in their email. Fantastic B2B relationships, Google. Lloyd, if you're reading this, do better.

This was the last straw and I migrated all of my business services away from Google. I'm no longer using any Google products and I would advise my readers, and business connections to do the same.

Takeaway

Google is a sinking ship and a large company that no longer cares for their products, customers or their business relationships. Furthermore they don't care about the harmful impact they create on society via their many, many monopolies used to exploit people and gather personal information to promote their advertising business. It's time to send them a message that we will not accept this and the way to do that is to simply stop using their services. I encourage you, the reader, to do some research about this and make informed decisions next time you're looking for products or services online there are dozens of links in this article and far more resources spread around the internet.

Rant

Now for the fun part, my thoughts about Google in it's current state and the outcome of the issues I have personally experienced. Google has become a bohemouth that has very little care for the little guy and that could mean people or businesses. It has become immune to regulation, and no longer cares what problems it creates in the wake of it's destructive actions. We're fortunate enough to live in an age where information is free and widely available and it's important to consider all available information when making important decisions about your personal privacy or your business. Using Google services for any personal or business matters has become a bad decision and will remain that way until Google makes sweeping changes to it's practices. This is unacceptable and it's about time that consumers take a stand against this kind of bullshit. A quick DuckDuckGo search is a good start! I'm one step away from blocking everything Google network wide in my home despite the terrible wife acceptance factor. It's sad that a company that once stood for change and innovation has becomes this massive problem but it's important for consumers to speak out and stop engaging with harmful products and services or things will continue to worsen. We've seen the same story with Facebook (Meta) and many more.

Alternatives

Side Notes

Don't be a victim of Google.

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Steven

Steven has been writing software and exploring computers since the age of 17 all the way back in 2008!