How are you? I are fine.
I know that there really isn’t a Mr. Google, and that the company is run by two guys whose names I can never remember and who I confuse with the guys from Amazon and Facebook and Oracle and that company that no longer exists because it was forced out of business by that other guy whose name I can never remember. But “Dear Privacy-Invading Bastards” seemed cold and impersonal.
Recently, and by that I mean about a month ago and not in the previous sentence, I read that Microsoft was offering a new free email service, called Outlook, which was to supersede its hotmail.com, msn.com, and live.com services, all of which were embarrassing to own, but not as embarrassing as still using aol.com, which is even more embarrassing than the fact that Honey Boo-Boo tied Bill Clinton’s DNC speech in the ratings.
Which is damn embarrassing.
I had been looking for an alternative to Gmail for some time. While a lot of people have complained about your new design, or what a pain it is to find the “Reply” and “Forward” buttons among the international symbols for “No not that one,” “Try again,” and “You just deleted your folder,” I was more concerned about your data mining.
Now I know that the service is free and you have to find a way to make money. I’m not a filthy communist. I don’t expect something for nothing. I don’t work for the White House. But data mining, unlike coal mining and copper mining, which is stealing from the earth, is stealing from me.
And my me is mine.
You see, you’re stealing my “key” words. And this is key, so please listen up. These words define me and my interaction with the outside world. And when enough of these words are strung together, they form an idea. And stealing someone’s written idea is plagiarism. And plagiarists never prosper, unless they can get the ads.
For example, there is one thought, one idea, that the data mining of my email will dredge up repeatedly: in casual conversation, resumes, purchases, requests for retractions from the New York Times.
It is this:
I like cake.
You have no right to “I like cake.” You have no right to sell “I like cake” to advertisers, so they can sell me … cake. I don’t want to see multiple, ugly, clamorous ads for “cake” every freaking time I open an e-mail from someone asking me whether I still like cake. Which I do.
But that’s none of your business.
So when Microsoft introduced “Outlook” and some of the tech blogs began raving about it, I immediately grabbed new addresses before they were gone and I was forced to append a string of numbers to my favorite names, like I had to with Gmail (email@example.com). I then spent the better part of a weekend changing the contact information I had supplied to various utilities, services, and government departments, like Homeland Security, which promised to email me 24 hours before martial law was declared so I could pick up my dressy jacket from the cleaners.
At first, it seemed like an ideal tradeoff. The Outlook service has a discrete column of neatly designed ads that are easy to ignore—or not. Hovering over the ad with your mouse reveals a sharp image of the product. Which is the most interaction I have had with ads since those X-rays specs they sold in the back of comic books. (Damn things never worked, by the way. I could barely make out my third metatarsal half the time.)
Outlook boasts practical anti-junk/spam filters, and when you send an e-mail it produces a genie effect, like it was being whisked into a vortex. Or the Apple Dock.
But then stuff happened. Like my being unable to log in. Then logging in and having the window freeze up on me. Then being asked to log in again. Then updating my folders only to have the whole thing log me out. So I had to log in again. Every. Single. Day.
I realize that this is sort of a beta version of new Outlook. But there will never be a gamma, omega, or charlie version if something as basic and staying open is broke.
Also, the ghostly white background reminded me of a dentist’s office. Just before everything goes blank and the voices come. Asking me if I have insurance.
So I am tempted to come back to Gmail and the neat array of themes you offer. (I never deleted my accounts, just moved all the mail.) Plus, damn it, Gmail just works.
Only I don’t want to come back. Not if you insist on exploiting your technological advantage over us in order to log every word we write, every website we visit, and every move we make. That’s the behavior we have come to expect from the worst of multinational corporations, who exploit human vulnerability to accumulate massive profits for their senior executives to buy trips to the International Space Station so they can wave at France.
And given that your tag line is “Don’t be evil,” this is what medical professionals call “ironic.”
Do you really want to continue to be analogized to the KGB instead of IBM?
So let’s make a deal: I will pay you $60 a year and you stop stealing from me. “I like cake” is all mine. You can embed a column of nice-looking ads on the landing page — but nothing in the emails themselves. And nothing about cake.
For $100 a year, I don’t want to see ads at all. Anywhere.
And for $250 a year, you allow me to use your services and you get the hell out of my business altogether. No data mining, no logging of IP addresses or search terms, no driving through my neighborhood with your Joker-mobiles snapping pictures of my house and stealing my Wi-Fi signal. For $250 a year, you allow me to use your fine search engine, email, and BoobTube (you couldn’t pay me to use Google+)—and you get the hell out of the voyeurism business.
Oh, and if it’s ever discovered that you’re secretly spying, like you have been wont to do, I get to sue your ass until you’re reduced to hawking floppy disks to the Bulgarian secret police.
Trust me: it’s more money than you will ever get out of me, because in the years I have been using Gmail, I have never once clicked on a single ad. I don’t even see them now, what with Gmelius. I realize that I’m still part of the aggregation figure of users you “deliver” to advertisers. But what can that really be netting you? Guys: $250 a year. Come on. Money. Money. Geetus. Coin. Currency. Cabbage. Lettuce. Swag. Gelt. Lucre. Filthy lucre.
Don’t be evil. Or stupid. One day, the temptation to use all that information you’re accumulating is going to get the better of you, and you will find yourself doing something almost as bad as evil.
You will be doing something Illegal—with a capital Ill. You will turn some exceedingly useful services and fun ideas into the biggest hacking scheme in the history of virtual reality.
Can you Google “Max Ray Vision”?
So let me know what you think ASAP.
You already have my email address (as well as much else, no doubt).
P.S. Rest assured that I have communicated my concerns about how crappy Outlook is to Mr. Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft now that Bill Gates is fired for making us look at Vista. As evidence I am attaching a photograph of the letter I mailed.
*Dr. Evil and Mini Me image taken from here.