Google and Freedom of Choice

A week ago, a popup screen appeared on my Chrome browser, preventing my usual Google search. With a few clicks on it, I burst into laughter.

The screen immediately reminded me of a prank-type app people used to send in emails as a joke, back when viruses were not as harmful as they are nowadays. Usually you would get an app that would display a Windows form with two buttons (“Yes” and “No”) but without any “Cancel” or close button. The question would ask something obscene like, “Are you stupid?”, or some politically incorrect question, or a question along the lines of, “Do you want me to delete your hard drive?”

I created an example for you. Try it below:

Do you want me to transfer all your money to my account?

Whenever a person tried to click on the “No” button, that button would escape the cursor. After a while, one would eventually get bored and click on “Yes” out of curiosity. Consequently, in the case of the “wiping the hard drive” prank, you would experience the horror unveiling in front of your eyes. Animation would show the program throwing all your folders and files into the “Recycle bin”, and then your “Recycle bin” emptying itself out, in less than three seconds. And you would watch this play out, unable to react in any appropriate way. Then, just minutes later, after almost getting your first heart attack, you would realize that no files or folders were harmed at all.

So, let me walk you through the Google screens.

The first thing I noticed was the “We need you to do this in order to continue using our services” text, so I clicked the “Next” button. That led me to an even longer page, at the bottom of which was an “I agree” button, without any option to “Disagree.” :)

On that page, I read how they use my location, IP address, cookies, and other sites I visited to improve my search experience. I remember how I got hundreds of Google ads after I bought certain things, each one offering me the very same thing I had just bought. WTF, Google? If I’ve just bought a freaking bicycle, why on earth would I need another one, for the backup or what!? Anyway, I also remember how I spent hours trying to type the “correct” keywords in order to get the same simple results I’d gotten on another computer with the same (or similar) keywords, with only difference being my network location. And I remember how those “customizations” made my searches very, very “smart,” and my search experience excruciatingly “pleasant.”

And the message clearly said “explore other options” in case you didn’t want to click on the “I agree” button. So, for the sake of fun, I thought, I do not want to “Agree,” so let’s check out what those “other options” are, options that about 90% of other people would probably never click.

And, I read a funny text saying that even when I turned off the option to display ads, I would still have ads, only they wouldn’t be relevant anymore (like they have been relevant before!?), and then those not so relevant ads would follow me onto other sites – faaaaaaaantaastic!

And there were more options, and other things to switch off; I tried to turn off as much as I could, in the hope that the popup screen, which had prevented my search, would disappear ... but that never happened.

And then there was the YouTube search customization. I remember how I spent hours searching for the video I had watched just a few months ago while that option was still active.

And cookies ... yadda, yadda, yadda ... and I lost my patience.

So, what did I do?

I said, “*uck, let’s find an alternative.” I opened “Bing” search engine, and typed “alternative search engines to Google” in the search box, ironically I was using alternative to find yet another alternative (pretty awkward, I know :) ). And, among many I chose “DuckDuckGo” and I was amazed by all the search results I was getting. And if you ask me why I didn’t just use “Bing” in the first place? To be honest, I simply do not know.

Although it sounds kind of weird if you say to someone “duckduckgo it on the internet” instead of “google it”, I think I will get used to it. Or maybe I should use “duck it” instead?!
What do you think?

“Internet search is not about how I/you behave,
but about the content that I/you want to find!”