Thanks for nothing, jerkface

Summary:OPINION: One month after creator and leader of Google+, Vic Gundotra, quietly quit, Google chief Sergey Brin told a conference audience last week that involvement in Google+ was "a mistake." He made the exact opposite statement in 2011.

Sergey Brin Google Plus

In case you missed it, Google CEO Sergey Brin publicly admitted last week that Google+ was "a mistake" for him — one month after the man he hired to run the social network, Vic Gundotra, left the company without explanation.

Brin told the audience at boutique Bay Area tech conference Recode that he was "kind of a weirdo" and that, "it was probably a mistake for me to be working on anything tangentially related to social to begin with."

It runs in stark contrast to when Brin told the world how he came to love Google+, and admitted to taking a direct hand in its design at the October 2011 Web 2.0 conference.

Seated onstage next to Brin, Vic Gundotra told the audience that its "design owes a lot to Brin's vision."

Brin's statement comes only one month after Gundotra quietly quit the company, and without explanation.

Google+ broke our trust

Thanks to one crystalline moment of Google+, it became clear that a company we trusted couldn't be trusted at all.

The Google+ so-called "real name" policy can best be described as a confusing, velvet-glove-cast-in-iron policy where users of Google+ are required to use their birth or government ID names — and when flagged, must prove it, and submit official documentation as proof.

Google began its "real name" enforcement with mass Google+ account suspensions and deletions shortly after Google+ launched in July 2011. The whole mess is called Nymwars.

Ex-Google employees were deleted. Writers, musicians, programmers and more were deleted. Editing your name raised suspicion and still risks getting you flagged.

"Ex-Google employees were deleted. Writers, musicians, programmers and more were deleted. Editing your name raised suspicion and still risks getting you flagged."

Google+ remained silent while Nymwars raged through the headlines — until it told press it would allow "alternate names" — which was incorrectly reported (at first) as if Google had begin to allow pseudonyms. This was shown to be untrue when Google told ZDNet that "nicknames" had to be proven with your real name and government ID.

In the background, Google+ began "unifying" people's identities (combining its background matching of users names and profiles) in Android address books.

For LGBT, political dissidents, activists and at-risk people everywhere, Google's little Google+ project became a loaded gun pointed right at anyone whose privacy is what keeps them alive.

Users found out in January 2014 when Google+ force-integrated chat and SMS into "hangouts" in the Android 4.4 "KitKat" update.

At-risk users were disproportionately affected, most especially transgender people who needed to keep their identities separate for personal safety and employment reasons.

One woman was outed to a co-worker when she texted him, and risked losing her employment.

Google's response was that her outing was "user error" — Google blamed her, the user for not understanding the new, confusing integration.

After Sorensen's nightmare hit the press,  more stories emerged from transpeople who had been outed at the hand of Google+ , spanning all the way back to the beginning of 2011's Nymwars.

Google+'s appalling, absolute inhuman detachment was probably deemed a necessary price tag attached to the shiny prize of product saturation.

In case you're wondering, the "Hangout" feature was Sergey Brin's idea. Gundotra had told 2011's Web 2.0 audience, "He was intimately behind pushing us to make Hangout happen."

Google+ embodied the Internet's cardinal sin: It broke everything it touched

YouTube got hosed by Google+.

On November 6 2013, Google changed its YouTube property to only allow comments from Google+ accounts , thus de-anonymizing commenters, as the principal element of its site-wide comments overhaul.

Google's war on anonymity imploded with this move to force Google+ — and its unwanted "real name" policy — onto YouTube users. The outraged YouTube community's anti-Google+ petition currently has over 239,000 signatures. The co-founder of YouTube slammed Google for forcing users to use Google+.

Google's problems with Google+ identity control malfeasance became pop culture fodder.

Android apps got similarly screwed by Google+ in 2012 when Google changed its Play Store to only allow comments from Google+ accounts, and app reviews suffered.

Google Search is no longer the clean, high-performance tool we once relied on and admired — now it's a fetid stew of Google+-littered, screwed up mystery-mechanics, running under the misguided assumption that anyone and everyone only wants more of their own location, their connections, Google's clumsily guessed interests, and Google+ favoritism in the results served back to them.

Now we're filled with a sense of dread with every Google change, every Google product release reminding us that we're being tracked and recorded, and we're held captive by "one account, all of Google" — all with Google+ at its infected core.

Well, Brin said he wanted to "change the world"

Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt told National Public Radio digital editor Andy Carvin in 2011 that if people don't want to use their real names, then they shouldn't use Google+. He explained that Google should be considered "an identity service" with Google+ as the foundation across all its products.

I don't want to think that controlling our own identities doesn't matter to Google; or it's as if to Google we are the faulty parts of its machine.

Or that we are just Google+ with a body vaguely attached. Or to Google, the problems are our own faults, and any calls for respect or privacy in a painful world are just annoying to Google, which has better things to do, like terrify us with the privacy nightmare of Google Glass and making bulk data consolidators' jobs of cataloging our personally identifying information easier.

Google is not just a company. It maintains infrastructure for what have become vital services: it is a utility. And Google+ had made it so we can't refuse, or opt-out of, Google.

This is something you'll only start to see if you try to avoid having a Google+ profile.

Many people now use Google+ without even knowing it, through its non-consensual cross-posting on YouTube, Android photo integration, the takeover of Google Talk, and the infinite ways in which people every day make Google+ profiles without realizing it. Want to make a comment on a Google product (even if you don't know it's a Google product)? Google makes you a Google+ profile.

We originally chose to use Google's services because out of all the fly-by-night startups, companies and social networks, Google was one whose infrastructure we always felt we could really rely on (even if we don't always agree with their politics, or policies).

The madness of Google+'s pathos to saturate and force people to be units of data subsumed the originators and handmaidens of its critical failures — which, now that Google and Google+ are one, have become Google's legacy.

With Google+, it became clear that we were all little more than webs of flesh spun over packages of saleable data.

If only someone could have stepped in and course-corrected Google+.

Oh, right. Someone could have.

The same someone that just told the world, "heh, oops" and walked away to go retreat back into himself, and play with his cars.

Previously:

Topics: Google

About

Ms. Violet Blue (tinynibbles.com, @violetblue) is a freelance investigative reporter on hacking and cybercrime at Zero Day/ZDNet, CNET and CBS News, as well as a noted sex columnist. She has made regular appearances on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show and is regularly interviewed, quoted, and featured in a variety of publications that inclu... Full Bio

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