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Google Gets Into the Hotel Business

I had an idea: Now that Google is expanding into non-Internet related businesses like self-driving cars and mining asteroids, something they might want to consider are hotels.

Why? Because they already don’t care about your privacy, and this could be a big advantage for a hotelier. Hear me out.

Every room is wired with microphones and cameras – everything you do and say is recorded. This way, if you’re hungry and you say so, you get a call from room service asking what you’d like to order. Granted, maybe you want to go out to eat, but Google needs your money so you’ll just have to get through them first.

When you do brush off room service because you want to go out, you get another call from the concierge. They heard what you said, and so they called you a cab from the company the hotel has partnered with.

If you come back later that night with someone you met, maybe you’ll have sex. That’s when the bellman will show up at your door with a selection of condoms from the gift shop you may be interested in purchasing.

Don’t worry about who is going to see and hear all of this information they’re recording, though. It’s all anonymous. So if that person you took back to your room isn’t your wife or husband, no one will ever know.

Unless your wife or husband is a law enforcement official. Then it will magically be pretty unanonymous.

After all, if you’re doing something in a hotel room you don’t want other people to know about, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it, right? Hey, if you don’t like it, you can always go to another hotel.

Unfortunately, in this scenario, Google Hotels controls 66.8% of the market, and it’s nearest competitor Bing is doing the exact same nefarious shit.

If all that sounds crazy, why are Google’s online policies not considered just as crazy?

All of this is just about exactly what they did when they decided all information would be shared across all of the platforms they own. On the surface, it never sounded too terrible: If you’re searching for an Adam Sandler movie, maybe later on YouTube will show you some more Adam Sandler movies since you showed an interest in it. So what?

The problem is if you don’t want that kind of help from Google, it’s damn hard to get out of it. The privacy policy may be shared, but there are a number of different avenues you have to take to opt out of them.

And in some cases you can’t. I own an Android phone – the OS created by Google. In order for it to function, I have to use a Google login. Once I do, Google records my name, address, phone number, and the serial number for my device – and adds it to my Google account record. I cannot tell Google to leave that information out, I cannot delete it once it has been added. I am locked into their idea of “convenience,” which does more for them to learn about me than it does to make their products function better.

Also, like in the metaphorical hotel, Google says their data collection is anonymous, that no one could determine who you are based on what they get. However, Google can easily give law enforcement officials your search records at the drop of a court order.

Now, I actually have no problem with law enforcement officials getting this kind of information with a valid court order. What I cannot understand is how something supposedly “anonymous” can tell the police anything about an individual user. If this data really didn’t point directly at me, police wouldn’t have any use for it. That the police keep subpoenaing this information shows Google can tell whose records are whose, and is telling its users a bald-faced lie.

The one way I’ve found around giving Google too much of what I think is too much, I use separate logins for all of their properties. I have one Google login for work, another for socializing on Google Plus, another for YouTube, and yet another for my phone. The idea is they cannot share between accounts because they don’t know each of these profiles is me. I can’t be sure this works, though. For all I know, they collate all this data into one profile for me, with the notation that I’m a smart ass. If they did, I certainly wouldn’t expect they’d tell me.

It also means, oddly, that I cannot use my G+ account on my phone for fear of Google. If they’re tapping my phone conversations, (which they are capable of doing,) it doesn’t matter to me because all they have to connect these to are the fake name I gave them when I created the phone’s Google account. If they tied it into my original Google login, the one I created back when they were still dedicated to not being evil, they would know EVERYTHING about me. And I’d have no way of stopping them.

I’ll leave you with this story, which is apocryphal but I hope true, because it’s brilliant: When Google Maps debuted Street View, a number of people complained because their homes, their cars parked outside, and the license plate numbers on those cars were all visible. These people said their privacy had been invaded. In response, Google’s resident cold, vicious demon – heretofore known as Eric Schmidt – again said that there is no more privacy; You know, that old chestnut.

In response to this, some enterprising bloggers got on Google Maps, and hunted down the view of Eric Schmidt’s house. Then they blogged about it, including the Street View picture, to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Shortly thereafter, Google started to blur the license plate numbers on vehicles it captured.

Whether this is true or not, it does illustrate that privacy isn’t just a concern for criminals or philanderers or people who do things they “maybe shouldn’t be doing in the first place.”

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Stop buying electronics

The CES is this week – the toy fair for middle-aged men-children who want to find out what to ask Santa for next Christmas. Now, I’m not the kind to tell people they need to stop buying electronic baubles because of the sweat shops they come from. I also won’t bust on people for spending beyond their means during a recession. I don’t really think I should have to.

No, the reason for the title of this post is simple: By buying more phones, tablets, computers and accessories, you are sending a signal to manufacturers that they don’t need to make anything better in order to get your money.

Think about it: Every year, manufacturers come out with products that are largely the same as the ones they released last year. They push a version of Android that’s supposed to be slightly better than the one they sold you last year, or an iPhone that doesn’t have a broken antenna. And exactly how many versions of the Nintendo Gameboy need to be made until they decide they’ve gotten it right?

If you keep buying something new each year, you send a signal to manufacturers that they just need to put out something – anything – to get you to buy it.

If your phone is good enough, just keep it. Stop replacing the stuff you have if it isn’t broken. If enough people finally let manufacturers know they need to innovate something that is actually new before you give them their money, they won’t keep releasing products that don’t entirely work, need patches, or are just useless collections of molded plastic.

What’s Wrong with Blackberry

Years ago, Cadillac was the premier car on the road. It’s the reason some people still say something unrelated, “is the Cadillac of” whatever they’re talking about.

Then the Lexus and the Infinity started stealing their thunder. Cadillac’s response was to pretend they weren’t losing their dominance as the luxury car to own, and just kept doing what they’d always done: Turned out expensive, roomy cars with poor gas mileage. And of course, they got stomped.

Cadillac only really started to turn things around when they came out with the Esplanade. Gargantuan SUVs were in, and if there’s one thing Caddy knows how to make, it is oversized cars. And by 2005, you just weren’t anyone unless the Cadillac Esplanade is what you drove to the Source Awards.

Now, in the story above:

  • Replace Lexus with iPhone
  • Replace Infinity with Android
  • Replace Cadillac with Blackberry

Blackberry was also the phone of choice for people who wanted to do more than just talk. When you saw someone with that huge keyboard, you knew they either had a lot going on or an employer willing to get them a phone. It got e-mail, which was a magical concept just 5 years ago, and you could actually type out messages without having to press the 7 four times, then the 4 two times, then the 4 again three times, then the 8 once… because QWERTY keyboards were too cool to be believed.

Then the iPhone and Android phones came out, and the market changed completely.

What was the response of Research in Motion, makers of the Blackberry? They continue to turn out various versions of the same phone. The Curve and the Bold and the Torch have different features, but are essentially the same OS with the same keyboard. (Though the Torch has a touch screen that’s larger than the standard Blackberry, in a lackluster attempt to be iPhone-ish.)

If Blackberry wants their Esplanade, what they really need is a real update to their operating system, better support for third party developers, and prices that make sense for what they sell.

As a Blackberry owner, I do like it. The keyboard is still comfortable, and makes texting one-handed simple. The voice commands work brilliantly – far better than anything else on the market. Blackberry Messenger is still a free alternative to texting – if you know someone else who has a Blackberry, of course.

If RIM can’t figure out how to compete, they need to play to these strengths better. If they can’t do that, maybe they just need to get bought by someone who can. Surely Facebook is considering their options for getting into the mobile market. Buying up the once great house of Blackberry would certainly make the creation of an Official Facebook Phone a lot easier for them to do.