The evil Side(wiki) of Google

It took me a while to get to this one (most of a month), but I finally did. And I’m wishing I had dropped a few things to get to it sooner.

A recent blog entry details the dark side of Google’s new Sidewiki application. This real life example is perhaps the most shocking abuse of a technology with Google’s name on it ever recorded (and yes, this quote is a bit long):

A gentleman I know is a really hard working guy, who’s busted his butt for more hours in a day than I ever want to work, for years, to provide a good living for his wife and daughter. I mean, 14 hours a day in the long term, building a business that’s based on providing value to his customers.

This guy has a medical condition that results in one eye pointing off at an angle that’s not even with the other. The picture he uses on some sites makes this obvious.

Some ignorant, malicious, psychopathic, deranged, bored, sadistic bastard of a man-child (sorry, but that’s the most polite description I can use and still convey the merest surface of my contempt) used that as the basis for a “wiki-note” implying that this guy was a pedophile.

On Sidewiki, right next to the guy’s own business web site.

If there’s any lie a person can tell online that warrants having a 6-inch hole put in them that the sun will shine through, that’s the one.

This… mindless, soulless, stupid creature told that lie for nothing more than his own amusement. Because his victim has one eye that didn’t track right in a photograph.

Google got rid of that one pretty quickly, but how much will their response time slow down as the service grows?

Lessons to be learned from this:

  • I would opt all of my domains out of Sidewiki were such a thing possible.

  • That not being possible (yet), I believe my readers are intelligent enough to realize that Sidewiki is a separate site which I do not control.

  • Since this was written, it’s now possible to use a bookmarklet to view Sidewiki entries. So, at least you don’t actually need to install Google’s toolbar and thus agree to the obnoxious EULA. That said, I still may not be aware of some or even most Sidewiki comments. I may soon take advantage of the comment from the site owner which stays on top. (Though, I shudder at the implication that indeed, in order to do even this, one must have a Google account and register the Web site with Google. This really should be opt-out at minimum, and it should not require the creation of a Google account to do so.)

To be fair, the bookmarklet does make it a bit more obvious that the comments are not hosted on the same site. Google needs to make this clearer to the toolbar users of Sidewiki. It’s one thing to allow someone to post comments about other sites; it’s another entirely to not make it obvious the comments are in fact on a third party site. I don’t think Google is the first to implement something like this, but Google’s implementation is clearly the most dangerous of all.

The article goes on to express grave, perhaps deserved, concern that Google Wave will fuel widespread adoption of Sidewiki. The only reason I am remotely excited about Google Wave is that I have been told this will not remain proprietary to Google, that one can set up their own Wave server instead of using Google’s. Of course, this may be like Microsoft telling us that .NET is cross-platform, when the reality is it’s completely portable across any OS Microsoft makes, and if one wants .NET for anything else one must port it themselves. But, that’s another rant for another day.

I’d like to think Google is a little less evil than Microsoft or Apple, if only because the thought of a truly evil Google is terrifying. I’m not sure how much benefit of the doubt is left.