Ron Upshaw: Google played fast and loose with our information again
I deleted my Google Plus account today. It felt good.
I also never signed up for a Google Plus account, but I guess that’s beside the point. You probably have a Google Plus account too, and it may have been hacked.
If you have use Gmail, or YouTube, or Docs, then you also most likely have a Google Plus account.
Odds are you were given one when Google to tried to jump-start its new social media platform a few years ago, in an attempt to compete with Facebook. But Google Plus never really took off, and it just kind of sat there in the background… except to hackers.
Turns out that just like Facebook, Google has been asleep at the wheel regarding the security of its users’ personal information. Hackers were able to get user data on around half a million people. I don’t know if that means just a name and email address, or if the hackers have credit card numbers and medical histories. Google has been evasive about the details, and the security flaw actually prompted the company to shut the entire Plus network down.
One of the interesting things to me is how small a story this is. There was a time, not so long ago, when a security breach of this magnitude would be the lead story on just about every newscast. Now, people barely raise an eyebrow. The idea of personal privacy used to be sacrosanct to all Americans, now we just give it away for thumbs-ups and heart clicks.
Here’s the thing though: For most of us right now, Google knows more about us than anyone in the world. Everything you’ve ever searched for is linked to your Google account, along with credit card numbers, purchase history, health concerns, and the most embarrassingly weird or kinky thing you were ever curious about.
I like to tell myself that the only reason I’m so active on social media is that it’s a requirement of my job. We have meetings about best practices and how frequently we should post on this or that for audience engagement. The truth is, I would most likely stay active even if I didn’t do what I do. But worrying about whether some 17-year-old in the Ukraine is selling my identity and credit score on the dark web is getting tedious.
Here’s an idea: How about some actual consequences for big companies when they leave the door open to hackers? Maybe some real monetary fines, an amount that would actually get their attention, or even payment to the people affected. They’ve made so much money on our data; when they get hacked, maybe we should recoup some of that value.
Or an even better idea, get social with the human beings that you interact with in the real world. Talk to your co-workers, go to lunch with that old friend, or take a walk with your high school bestie.
Maybe we can take this latest security breach as a motivator to put the social back into our analog lives.