On Digital Altruism


Google Drive is a dream and Google Drive works well and with Google Drive you have everything under one hat and Google Drive does not cost a penny. Google is the most altruistic and generous and caring company there is on earth, as long as you do not study its information documents. To their credit, their information documents are open to everybody, accessible and well written. They do not keep secrets from you.

Just one random and on the surface harmless example: In the Ads Personalisation documentation you can find the following paragraph:

“Make the ads that you see more useful to you when using Google services.”

If you bother and look further you get the honest and sobering clarification:

“You can change the types of ads you see from Google when you adjust your interests, age and gender or opt-out of ads based on your interests. Please note that you will still see ads after opting out – they’ll just be less relevant.”

Yes, and it is not so much the lack of relevance for you which is problematic here, but the underlying access to information and its use for interests which are not at all under your influence or under your control.

Google is totally free from direct claims to your wallet, but Google is not free at all from a big interest in something else, which makes up for their generosity and offers them a financial and political bonanza. If you enter its most generous digital offers you must not be deluded about entering a kind of harvesting machinery which strips you of any available detail connected to you which digitalisation of our data has amassed and is collecting all the time.

Google is “free” in many ways. It offers a unique freedom of access to an enormous amount of information and the freedom to share belong to their most important assets. However, this freedom might persuade us all to turn a or many blind eyes to the fact, that while benefitting from this freedom we are helping to create a surveillance system in which we lose more and more any possibility to determine the direction of our and our children’s lives.

Google’s altruism cannot be understood without highlighting its own interests which are not hidden at all. We just have to read their documentation and we have to bother to draw conclusions. This freedom is available, but it costs you some effort.

One more point about Google Drive. Google Drive works best when and if you hand over all your documents and data to google’s cloud system. There is a very high chance that your data is safe and this increasingly so, because encryption is becoming more and more sophisticated. However, your data is somewhere else, not in your drawer, and it is totally illusory that digital data is not hackable. Furthermore, should you close down your Google account and should you delete all your data on Google’s cloud, who can give you any guarantee, that delete does not mean “delete” and “delete” means a lot and is defined by a lot of small print, not only in Google’s documentation but in the realities of digitalisation of data. Google is only a prominent example for a particular new definition of “free” which is payed with serious loss of freedom.

Is Apple which “cares about user privacy so much” better? What an irony, when you find out that Apple employees are selling user’s data! . Even more mind boggling when Apple officially admits using Google’s Cloud platform.

Do not stop being puzzled and do not stop keeping your eyes open. As I said above, it is part of the fascinating dialectics of our digitalised world, that the devil cannot wear disguise: The same system which tries to harvest your data has to talk about how it is doing it.