I Hate Loving Google

Fundamentally, Google is not very lovable company for me. In particular, they make their money from exploiting a model of interactions between consumers and vendors that does not really correspond to my ideals. However, in many aspects, Google has been a trendsetter in a very positive way. Two examples came very recently.

First, Google decided to allow Yahoo! Users to log into Google services using OpenId. Some have been very fast to say that this is a trick to attract Yahoo! Users into Google. Maybe, but most importantly, this is the first time that a major Web player accepts to be the relying party in an OpenId authentication. This means that Google will accept Yahoo! users without authenticating them themselves, and they will only get limited personal information from Yahoo!. If we think about it, it isn’t much, because Google doesn’t really get personal information about us when we create an account; the information comes later, as we use their services. But this little move could be a game changer in the small world of OpenId and federated identities, especially if Google gains from it. It would then show how OpenId can really be leveraged by major players.

Then, Google has published a new privacy policy. It is very short, written in plain English, and basically contains nothing shocking. Of course, Google uses our data, but they clearly refrain from reselling it directly. Plus, their rules sound good.

On the opposite, we have Apple (I love hating Apple) and their iTunes Store Terms and Conditions. I usually get warned about new terms and conditions while getting an application on the Application Store for my iPod Touch. I think that the latest version was 80 pages when formatted for an iPhone. How many people actually read that. I don’t, at least on a mobile device. I browsed through them on my PC, and found a reference to Apple’s Privacy policy. This document is not much longer than Google’s document, it is not bad, but not as clear. My favorite part is that one:

We may also disclose information about you if we determine that disclosure is reasonably necessary to enforce our terms and conditions or protect our operations or users.

Damn, I now need to read Apple’s terms and conditions.

Of course, I don’t claim to be fair between Google and Apple. Nevertheless, Google obviously looks at a number of “open” technologies, and being clear about privacy is becoming extremely important for a company who has the power to misuse our data in many different ways. At the same time, Apple is solely looking at a very closed world, which only opens when there is no other choice. So, I still like better Google, but I’ll keep my Touch, because some applications on it remain unmatched on Android devices.

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