Well, we knew this was coming.
Today, the Monster of Mountain View finally unveiled its latest effort to create a data-mining Facebook clone: Google+, which appears be an amalgamation of older Google products (Wave, Buzz, Voice) combined with some Facebook-like features and wrapped in a slick interface.
Basically, what Google is trying to do with Google+ is get people to give it all the information they currently provide willingly to Facebook… like activities, interests, relationships, and so forth. Google already has a good guess as to what people who naively use its search engine like or do, but having a user confirm his or her preferences in a Google profile is better.
Google+ will be incorporated into all Google properties through a toolbar, which will encourage people to populate their Google profiles with lots of personal information and identify their friends to Google. A “feature” called Circles supposedly makes it easy to categorize contacts that already exist in Gmail into groups – the examples Google provided were “Family” and “Bike Geeks” and “Friends”. Google wants people to fill out these relationship webs so it can dramatically improve its data-mining abilities. (It doesn’t have access to Facebook’s internal data, which is why it is so desperate to build its own Facebook clone).
There’s also an app which integrates with Android and automatically uploads photos a user shoots with the phone to Google’s servers, and pushes those photos into Google+.
As you might expect, Google+ will not respect the wishes of people who want to have nothing to do with it.
Another twist is that people in your circles don’t have to be members of Google’s social net. If Aunt Mary refuses to opt in, you can include her anyway, and she can still get the pictures you post to the circle via e-mail.
Amusingly, none of the promotional materials we’ve seen for Google+ even attempt to talk about protecting user privacy. That’s because the whole point of Google+ is to help Google do a better job of waging war on people’s privacy. What Google is asking is that people trust it with all the information they currently give to Facebook in addition to what Google can automatically collect from people using its products.
That’s just too much data for one company to have, period.
People concerned about Google opting them in to Google+, as it did with Buzz, should take this opportunity to Leave Google Behind.