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‘Invasive’ Google annoying, but not Big Brother

CAMDEN Maine—People are friendly in Maine.

But they like their privacy.

This week I was sitting in a booth at the Boynton McCay diner in Camden with my laptop reading about Google’s decision to remind Google+ users about friends’ birthdays from its search page.

“That’s a little invasive!” said a smiling, gray-haired gentleman in his 60s I hadn’t realized was standing there reading along with me over my shoulder.

“What?” I said as I spilled coffee on myself.

“I said that’s a little invasive!”

“Yes, it is!” I said as I grabbed a handful of napkins.

“I don’t like for Google to know things about me,” his wife said with a smile. Including what she’s reading, I’d guess.

If that’s the case, maybe you shouldn’t do a Google search on the Web, use Google GPS on your phone or use Gmail.

Google knows all. And you know it knows. And it knows you know it knows. And it says you shouldn’t worry: That only computers read your Gmail to produce those tailored ads, not humans. And that all the data it collects to determine macro trends can’t be traced back to little old micro you.

I explained to the couple in Maine that Google+ is only doing what Facebook has done for years. If you’re a Google+ user, those in your circles with whom you’ve opted to share your birthday will be prompted to post a message. And you’ll get a Google search page reminder about their birthdays if they have decided to share that with you.

The difference between Google+ and Facebook is that users don’t have to go to Google+ or even turn on reminder notifications to receive that helpful little nudge, along with a link to the birthday boy or girl’s profile. They’re getting it whenever they go to the Google search page. And there is indeed something a bit invasive about that. Sort of like some well-meaning but nosy person tapping you on the shoulder in a diner and saying, “Hey, buddy, don’t forget it’s your mom’s birthday!” causing you to spill a bowl of soup in your lap.

Google+ blogger Irene Chung explains:

“Everyone deserves a little love on their birthday, so we’re making it easier for you and your friends to celebrate on Google. You’ll see a reminder on Google.com when someone in your circles has a birthday! From there it’s easy to share a fun message, photo, or video with the birthday gal or guy.”

It’s harmless—just annoying clutter. If you don’t like it, opt out of birthday sharing on Google+ or simply use the search bar on your browser rather than going to the Google search page.

Anyway, no tin-foil hat for me.

A tin-foil napkin, yes.

Michael Zitz: 540/846-5163

mikez@freelancestar.com

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