music, technology & life in pasadena, california

Hijacked by Google

I’ve been living with Google Desktop Search for the better part of six months. After a short installation procedure and indexing time, everything on your computer’s hard drive is indexed for search. Instant search. No longer do you have to wait while your operating system’s Find feature churns endlessly looking for that obscure text or Word document; it all happens in under a second. It’s a big boon to desktop productivity.

I was hesitant at first because I was worried about the possibility of someone at Google being able to read the contents of my hard drive, but with Zone Alarm Pro installed I’m notified whenever a program wants to “call home” and I can block the action, so I felt pretty safe.

Recently while working in my office, I heard my computer shut down and restart. Hmmm, strange…I didn’t notice a power failure or brownout. When the computer finished rebooting there was an extra toolbar along the right side of the screen that was almost impossible to get rid of. When I finally cleared the windows, my whole desktop had been rearranged and icons moved. When I finally got a handle on the incident, I realized that Google Desktop/Toolbar had updated itself (I had allowed it to “call home” earlier in the day) and installed its new version onto the drive, all without telling me or even asking me if that’s what I wanted.

I later found that the sidebar was Google Gadgets, a useless group of applications that mimic Apple’s Widgets. OK, maybe they're not useless, but I hate having things cluttering the desktop. Do you really need to have a real-time thermometer, analog clock or news aggregator open all the time taking up valuable screen-estate?

I don’t mind when a piece of software checks for updates, but no action should be taken without the express wishes of the user and that clearly did not happen here. Updating should never be automatic. It should be opt in, not opt out. I took it as a sign to be wary of Google, the company whose motto has always been “Don’t be evil”.

Well, it was good while it lasted…

September 14, 2008 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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