Last week was busy. But productive. This week has been busy — but almost entirely occupied by suckage. Coping with sh … stuff.
Don’t worry. This is not the sort of stuff that matters in the vast scheme of things (though one of the individual stuffs has the potential to be painful in the near term). It’s mostly just the mundane irritations that make you want to tear your hair out, wish you’d never gotten out of bed, and ask yourself how much pain you’re willing to bear tomorrow for drowning your sorrows in not one but two bloody Marys today.
But you plug on through, you know. Everybody has days and even weeks like that. They pass. So early this evening, I thought I’d made it through another one and could just relax in peace and privacy. I sat down at my table with some nice Chinese takeout, enjoying the little view from my window. I was finally starting to unrattle and feel hopeful … when down the road rolls a Google Street View car — tower on top, revolving NSA device, looking like the all-seeing eye in some corny 1950s syfi flick, scooping in everything. Images. Wifi networks. Who knows what else. In the past, they’ve scooped up passwords, bank account numbers, and all manner of other things — “accidentally,” of course. And they’re terribly sorry; that was the work of some rogue programmer; yada yada.
It was one of the next generation Google cars, all upgraded with New! Improved! snoopery. Like this one. Exactly like this one, in fact:
I live on a pretty obscure street in a pretty obscure town in a pretty obscure rural county. I knew Google Street View was a problem in civilization. Even semi-civilization. But never did I dream I’d see those agents of the corporate-surveillance state here.
So I jump up from my chair, dash out and flag the driver down.
“I don’t want my house on Street View,” I say (realizing the whole time that I’m now ending up in a Google-government database, even though they’ll obscure my face in the online version).
“Nothin’ I can do about it,” answers the unprepossessing specimen whose bulk takes up the entire space between the seat and the steering wheel. (What, no Google driverless cars yet for Google Street View?)
“Well, how do I stop the image from going online?”
“How do I do that?”
“Oh, just go to Google and it’ll say ‘Admin.’ Then click on ‘Contact Us.'”
I dashed back into the house and immediately entered the Dread Portal of Evil, Google.com. I discover instantly that there is no “Admin/Contact Us” function. (Why am I not surprised?) It takes me about half an hour, and many dead ends and link-following circle jerk-arounds to discover that a) there is NO way to get an image removed from Street View (you can only request them to blur it) and b) you can only do that after they’ve raped your privacy by putting the unblurred image of your domicile online in the first place.
Unless you’re German. If you’re German you can opt out before the Masters of Evil exploit you. No matter how much I searched, being like a 15th generation descendent of cranky German emigres doesn’t count.
In fact, it was remarkable (though not surprising) how absolutely content-free all of Google was when it came to giving information on getting out of Street View (lots of “We really, truly, slavishly, devotedly care about your privacy” but almost no useful, or for that matter, truthful, content; some links that claimed to go to “protect your privacy” pages went instead to glossy “isn’t Google Maps Wuuuuuuderful!” pages). Google’s incessant cheerleading of itself while avoiding actual question-answering content did not improve my mood.
Only when I finally realized I was on a merry-go-round and left Google for good old StartPage (revoking scripting permissions and deleting cookies as I left, of course) did I — easily! — find information about how to limit the invasion of Street View.
The articles still said you could only request a blur and only do it after the offending material went online. Some also warned (though I suspect apocryphally) that you might be “targeted” if you wanted privacy on the usual excuse that you must have something to hide. But at least they had actual instructions and I didn’t have to hunt for half an hour.
Yeah, thanks, Google.
With all the horrors going on in the world — and just the surveillance-state horrors alone being enough to make you cry — having GoogEvil on one’s doorstep in the middle of nowhere is far from the worst thing. But I truly understand why some people just give up and give in. And why some feel so invaded they can only run and hide.
After the corporate bastards had driven off to hound and harass someone else, I looked over at my wifi router and grinned to realize I’d done a rare thing and turned it off before The Goog invaded because I’ve been having network troubles. Of course, my network is encrypted anyhow and has an obscure and boring name nobody would identify with me. So even if the router had been on, no harm. But you’ve got to wonder what else those creeping, peeping Toms are scooping up and what disgusting things they’re doing with it.