When I was a little kid, we used to play a game where everyone except one person would line up on one side of the room with the one person facing away covering their eyes on the other side ‘guarding’ the wall. At any point, the person on guard can spin round and uncover their eyes. The goal was to get from one side of the room to the other without the person on guard catching you moving. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of that game… I thought it might be Freeze Tag, but apparently not. In any event, it feels a lot like we are playing that right now with our privacy rights and the online giants.
In this modern online case, it’s the search engines and social media giants which are sneaking up on us trying to get to the other side without getting caught moving our rights. They make progress by tinkering with the long verbose terms of service and user privacy agreements (which none of us ever read). Typically, when one of these changes is affected (like the recent ones to Google+ ) they are couched in ways that are so vague and sweeping that it leaves privacy activists and the FCC reaching for their guns while the rest of us just scratch our heads and get on with life.
I’m a huge user and fan of Google, but this stuff drives me crazy. I actually did read the recent changes to the rules and I’m still in the dark. Here are a few examples: I went to see the brilliant and breathtaking movie Gravity last night. Does me posting about it on this blog whilst I’m logged into several Google platforms count? Can I expect to see “Brilliant and Breathtaking says ThinkJudd” on a billboard some place? Probably not. However if I went to Google Play and commented on the movie or shared this blog through Google+ (as I will), then it looks like it’s fair game. If I emailed my kids about the movie through Gmail, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t expect to see those remarks recirculate on Google. I don’t actually mind that much either way about things I post in what are clearly public forums… what bothers me is that it’s not clear what Google intends by the changes.
What will happen (as happens every time) is there will be a few days of excitement and complaints, a few stories in the media about big brother then the news cycle turns and we go on with the new norm firmly in place… until the next time. We are clearly moving to a new norm where we have collectively agreed to trade much of our privacy rights for convenience and cool toys… tag you’re it.