back to article Google finally admits it wants to OWN YOU

Mountain View's Chocolate Factory is putting its vast userbase on notice of major changes to its privacy policies. Come 1 March the 350 million people worldwide who have Gmail accounts, for example, will no longer be able to use that service in isolation of other Google products they browse to online. That's because the company …

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FAIL

But it's not working

Google's search results have been in the toilet for several weeks now throwing up irrelevant shite whenever I look for stuff. I'd argue too that so far everyone who's tried these "portal" approached has lost market share because eventually the "portal" eats it's children/users.

I have a Gmail account because I have a Google phone - I don't use it that much and I'll use it less in future.

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Unhappy

longer than that

I think google's search results have been as shit as everyone else's for at least 6 months to a year now.

I have been patiently waiting for someone else to start providing decent results, but I don't think it is going to happen. Big corporations own the internet now and they don't want to provide you the results you want, they want to provide you with the results they want you to want.

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Good results (so far)

I got pointed at DuckDuckGo just before Christmas and so far it has been pretty good. I don't see dozens of 'variant' results and they promise not to track.

To be fair I have no way of knowing if I am getting the best results or if I am actually being tracked but the only failures I have had so far are from fumble-fingered typing. Normally get a good result in the first two pages (of course it expands down rather than paging just to be different but at least it makes tracking back to earlier hits easy).

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Vic
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> they promise not to track.

I think I will start using them for exactly that reason.

It *really* annoys me that Google's results are all Google URLs that redirect. Aside from the tracking issue, it also means that copy/paste is useless.

Perhaps I'll write a FF plugin to extract the real URLs...

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Plugins

"Perhaps I'll write a FF plugin to extract the real URLs..."

That would win you the internet in my book.

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re: plugin

would this userscript be of use to you?

http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/57679

its not the one i use, just did a quick google for the link...

i am aware of the irony.

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Vic
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> would this userscript be of use to you?

Yes. Thank you!

Vic.

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Switched about the same time

@KJ: I did the switch to DuckDuckGo when google stopped honoring the '+' properly in their searches. Haven't looked back. I get a small pick up when I type a search into my Chrome browser and end up at someone else's search engine. Cause I know google knows every time I avoid them and that's a good thing.

I do miss google's type-ahead feature though. Saves me tons of keystrokes. (on the other hand, perhaps that's because the already know too much about me...)

Do no evil, indeed.

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FF plugin to extract the real URL

A plugin called optimized google or something like that is supposed to do it, didn't work when I tried it.

The link re-writing tracking shit seems to be a moving target. I tried and failed to reliably remove the link re-writing with proxomitron filters (but I barely know what I am doing).

So now I mostly use google through scroogle (when google hasn't blocked them) and Bing FFS.

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RE: FF plugin to extract the real URL

I used to use CustomizeGoogle, then OptomizeGoogle (which used the Customize code-base after the original dev moved onto other things) for years. However OptomizeGoogle, IMHO, got steadily worse and worse at doing its job. I don't think this was the fault of the new dev, more Googles fault with their constant changes (which I'm pretty sure they do on purpose to frustrate these kind of addons/scripts). Its a shame really as OptomizeGoogle had some really neat features. I might give it another try just to see if the situation has improved.

But as someone else mentioned above, the GreaseMonkey addon script above does work.

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Anonymous Coward

"Google's results are all Google URLs that redirect."

"...it also means that copy/paste is useless."

What is this about?

On hovering over links in the search results (google.com, on Firefox), I see in the statusbar the original target URLs, and I can as usual right-click and copy-paste them from the results.

Is this a regional issue perhaps? Or is it NoScript being active?

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Re: "Google's results are all Google URLs that redirect."

I have noticed that they sometimes are and sometimes are not. I'm not sure what it depends on. I surf with javascript turned off by default.

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RE: "Google's results are all Google URLs that redirect."

After some (quick) experimentation it seems that Google still serves[1] their links with direct URLs. However, via some Javascript trickery - which naturally won't work if its not enabled - the direct URL is changed on the client machine to direct back through Googles servers (so they know which link you clicked and track you more effectively). This "slight of hand" is also poorly[2] obfuscated in the status bar.

As you seem to have already realised, NoScript prevents the URL changing code from running and so you get to see the direct URL. However if you, like me, use other Google services which require Javascript to work correctly then the above Grease Monkey script seems to be a workable solution to prevent Google directly tracking the link you clicked on without having to enable/disable Javascript all the time.

[1] If I had my tin-foil hat on I would say Google do this so they can still say they serve only direct URLs. which probably satisfies the "average"[3] user. Remember, the "slight of hand" happens AFTERWARDS on the client machine.

[2] Google, again using Javascript, tells the status bar to ONLY show the direct URL when you hover over a link and not the full re-directed URL. However, this falls over when you right click on the link... the true (re-directed) URL is then displayed for that link from that point on until you refresh or navigate away from the page. (This behaviour happens in both Firefox and Chrome)

[3] Like my nan. Or the other "average" user, the one who thinks they know what they're talking about but haven't actually got a sodding clue... Everybody knows one. A perfect example being numpty unknown who recently advised my ex that her BLACKBERRY shouldn't be used for EMAIL!

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Anonymous Coward

useful info

thank you!

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Use a Second Browser

+1 for using NoScript in Firefox for Google search (I've been using it for a couple of years and haven'y had any issues save the Google search home page looking slightly different). To still use Google's other products (that require javascript) us a second browser, which may as well be Chrome seeing as it's Google's products we're talking about.

I had been using Epiphany (in Linux) as the second browser but am in the process of switching to Chrome for that function.

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Time...

...to start running my own mailserver then. Been meaning to do it for a while anyway.

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Happy

Power concerns?

Can you turn a Pogo Plug into a mail server? The only reason I don't run a dedicated print/file/media/mail server at home is simply because I can't justify the cost/value ratio. Now if I could run those servers 24x7 on something like the Plug I might be sussed.

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Pogo

> Can you turn a Pogo Plug into a mail server?

Of course you can. Actually I would have exactly that. IF I could put my mitts on a plug computer without paying twice the price due to shipping and customs.

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Re: Pogo

... although as you are probably aware a lot of ISP won't let you send SMTP traffic without going through their SMTP relay. Which may or may not have somewhat moronic settings. Configure wisely!

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Unhappy

Crap, I forgot about that part...

My ISP does indeed block outgoing port 25 requests. Makes it quite difficult to test whether or not a member of our email bank is functioning properly. Usually have to VPN somewhere else to do that. I suppose I could set up a permanent tunnel and route email that way.

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If your ISP doesn't block port 25, the RBL arseholes have probably blacklisted their IP range for them anyway. If anyone has a email tunnel-->SMTP converter that runs on a standard LAMP setup, I'd be interested. It'd have to be spammer proof (ie, locked to specific email address/es or IP range) though.

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Vic
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> If anyone has a email tunnel-->SMTP converter

Errr - SMTP AUTH for inbound, and smarthost the outbound?

If your IP range is RBLed, either you've done something nefarious, or your upstream has been shown to be non-responsive when it comes to dealing with complaints.

It's a pain if you're caught[1] in this, but the alternative is much, much worse.

Vic.

[1] I got myself onto a blocklist a few weeks ago. I'd tried to mail from the command line on a machine where I'd forgotten to set up the domain name. When I put the machine on my own network, the mail was flushed through, and Google got my IP address put on a blocklist, where it remained for about twenty minutes. Silly mistake, easily fixed.

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Thanks Vic. I don't think I've had an ISP in the last decade that hasn't been RBL'd. I gather a smarthost is just an ISP's enforced corralling of all SMTP traffic? If people are arranging things such that emails are more easily monitored; then I want to do something else. Because fuck them, that's why. I still haven't got over the shock of governments everywhere legislating themselves the right to read my bloody email.

Back in the day (after ISP-mail dropped an email that cost me a lot of money) I used to run a desktop mailserver. Then -in quite a short timespan- more and more email services were unobtainable; and this has continued until the present; although I'll confess that I haven't checked recently.

So now I bounce email out through my various webhosting accounts...which is alright as it goes and works fine; but I was wondering if there were any more private and self-contained solutions around.

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Lesser of two evils

I'd rather Google were in top spot, than Facebook and someone has to be in topspot.

Hey BigYin, sign up to Udacity and in a months time you can learn to write a search engine!

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Well...

...that's the first time I've ever read any of the actual words from Playboy magazine.

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Headmaster

a good read indeed.

Playboy has always been a good read and plenty of outstanding pieces of journalism have appeared in Playboy over the years.

Heff has always appealed to the educated squire, and left the drooling slobs to Larry and those with well developed aesthetics to Bob.

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actually...

Playboy has a long-standing and largely deserved reputation (among those who look at the non-pink bits) for quality journalism. Of course the main problem is that nobody believes that you buy it for that purpose.

Some of the best journalism happens at the weirdest places, and a consistent winner is, of all things, The Christian Science Monitor.

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"Those with well developed aesthetics"

seems a fancy way of saying "pee fetishists", assuming that particular bedroom (preferably with bathroom en-suite) foible hasn't joined BDSM and polyamory in the "no one's allowed to think it's weird any more" category.

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It has words ?

What will the boffins think of next.

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Paris Hilton

Not just for the pictures....

Greetings and Salutations.

This is a good point. Back in the 70s, I, as a young man, bought Playboy because it was going through a cycle of publishing some of the best science fiction short stories available. There was some fine prose printed in that magazine. And, for all of you nodding your heads and saying "yea, sure...." I will freely admit that, because I have been a fan of abstract art for a long, long time, the pictures were pretty enjoyable too (*smile*)

pleasant dreams

dave mundt

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Anonymous Coward

re Playboy quality.

Playboy did of course feature the work of the late great Shel Silverstein.

RIP Shel, missed, but never forgotten nor forgettable.

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MJI
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Google accounts

I have been locked out of my own Youtube account as Google would not let me view without some other account setup, I had to log out to get onto Youtube.

Now I have forgotten the pass word.

Will look at the other video upload sites.

As to email I am slowly moving all to one of 3 accounts.

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Alert

The next value Google can deliver customers (the advertisers) is...

...WHY people are searching for what they are searching.

They want to tell advertisers that they can serve context-sensitive ads. There's little point in showing business-to-business messages for someone searching for a niece's birthday present. Also, once a present is chosen, that shouldn't reflect directly on the interests of the person buying.

If Google sees that we are viewing a Google+ circle of close friends and family when we search, they might proffer different results (and adverts) from when we are interacting with professional colleagues.

The question we 'products' have to answer is whether we will trade Google (and Facebook and Twitter) gaining a deeper understanding of who we are in return for only seeing advertising messages relevant to us.

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@Alex, good question

"The question we 'products' have to answer is whether we will trade Google (and Facebook and Twitter) gaining a deeper understanding of who we are in return for only seeing advertising messages relevant to us."

Not, I think, if we realize that all Social Networks are long distance (by degrees of separation) and the advertising messages are being sent over a (different) short circuit. The "vision" of Google, Facebook and Twitter (in that order) represent three levels of Social Network collapse.

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Facepalm

WHY people are searching for what they are searching

I'm searching for something so that I can find it. If you put a bunch of moving flashing lights in my way, I will think about searching some other way. Even if you put an ad up for exactly the perfectly right thing every time someone looks at your page, you will get a sale from maybe 5 in a million of your visitors instead of 1 in a million. Either way you end up with 999,995+ visitors who suffer varying episodes of annoyance for your efforts and nothing much else. People think if they just tweak the formulas a little bit all of a sudden being advertised at will be a desireable experience or something...

The question we products have to answer is just how much we will put up with being considered a product.

I look at an item in the store, and it occurs to me how things like people pondering strategies for advertising campaigns, bankers working on tweaking a few more points out of all the money they create out of thin air, various seats of government with the cesspool of coutiers that always follow, managers striving for total situational awareness and control, sundry executive level parasites, and I wonder what the $19.99 I'm looking at would be without any of all that - maybe $4? And I wonder what the goal of the game played between free market and planned economies was? Which one was nimble and which one was bogged down with bureaucracy and layers of people adding no value and grunts at the bottom with motivation deficiencies? What exactly did capitalism win? The prize for being the most inneficient soul crushing minutely monitored war hungry dog eat dog inform on your neighbour way of life going? Grumble grumble get off my yard etc...

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Capitalism is the best political system going because it's the only one that accounts for people taking the piss. The big problem with it is that people who take the piss tend to end up in charge of things. And therein lies both the problem and the state of the world. I can't think of anything better, though.

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Joke

"In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience."

Any chance of El Reg also committing wanton acts upon our privacy so we don't have to login to the sister sites (Channel Reg, Reg Hardware) when going about our commentarding business?

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Where's the joke? :)

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I've been shunning google for over a decade for a reason ...

google is a slow-motion train wreck in progress. Avoid 'em at all costs.

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Anonymous Coward

Create multiple accounts.

Next.

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Run different web browsers

Next

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bears defacating in woods?

To be honest, the only surprise in this to me was that Google wasn't doing this already. Correlating information to individuals to serve advertisers, as Alex Gollner points out, is what Google does.

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WTF?

Well, actually...

There's a high likelyhood in my mind that Google has, in fact, already been doing this and only recently realized that their privacy policies didn't support it. I'm sure they've been down this road for the better part of a decade, actually.

Is it possible to live up to a credo like "Do No Evil" when all your actions seem to be despicable? Obviously not...

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@ C. Save-a-ho

> There's a high likelyhood in my mind that Google has, in fact, already been doing this and only recently realized that their privacy policies didn't support it. I'm sure they've been down this road for the better part of a decade, actually.

I don't know. Google is still ran by geeks, not by marketers. Who else celebrates the hallmarks of geek culture -by altering their logo, no less- these days? What other major website is fully text-browser-compliant? I'm not saying they are not on a slippery slope; but I still trust them to be quite open about the kind of evil they engage in. Well there was this network-sniffing incident of course...

> Is it possible to live up to a credo like "Do No Evil" when all your actions seem to be despicable? Obviously not...

Define despicable. They have been a -if not THE- major support for open source software for quite a few years now, both in terms of contributed code and cash donated, and they are the big player supporting open content from silly lawsuits from the likes of the MPEG LA. They also engage in shadier activities, mostly in the ad-related area -that is how they make money, after all-, but saying that ALL their actions are despicable seems a bit far-stretched.

Disclaimer: I don't have a GMail adress, I don't use either Chrome or Android, and I use Google Search only for about half my search needs. Not exactly a Google fan.

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Anonymous Coward

This is exactly why I rent a cheap and cheerful vps to run a mail server, oh and use duckduckgo.

google, you use to be so good.

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DuckDuckGo...

...is awesome.

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Vic
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> google, you use to be so good.

Google came from out of nowhere and took the business from AltaVista, HotBot, and the like because they offered fast, lightweight results without excessive advertising or other farting around.

Google has now become that which it replaced.

It is only a matter of time before someone does to Google what it did to its predecessors...

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Quack.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm sorry, I stopped reading when I hit the sentence that had the words "Playboy" and "sticky content" in it!

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Anonymous Coward

Stopped

I pretty much stopped using google after they back tracked on net neutrality in its deal with Verizon.

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