Thursday, September 6, 2012

Privacy, please

The other day, I was perusing items in my Google Reader, when, suddenly, items would no longer load.  So, I went to Gmail to see if there was a problem with Google.  Instead of being able to log in, I was directed to another page.  On that page, they notified me that my account had been locked due to suspicious activity.  They noted that, usually, suspicious activity consisted of some sort of Terms of Service violation.  I'm not sure how I violated Terms of Service by clicking on a blog link to like something on Facebook, but that's another story.  Then they requested my phone number so they could give me a call or send me a text to unlock my account.  Now, I don't know if you've noticed, but Google frequently requests your phone number in order to be able to contact you if you've forgotten your password or if there's a problem with your account.  I always refuse.  I'm sure they are aware that I access my Gmail and Google Reader and Google Maps on my phone, so I'm sure that they already have my phone number.  But I haven't given them permission to use it for anything, so they can't do anything with that information.  Because I am suspicious by nature, and I enjoy making up completely ridiculous yet believable conspiracy theories, I assume that the account lockdown was just a ploy to get me to give up my phone number.

I prefer to communicate by email, so I sent one complaint and 2 requests to unlock my account.  It took Google approximately 43 hours to complete the task. [Mel actually noticed that there was a problem - that surprises me.  I am so anti-social sometimes that I used to think I could disappear for more than a week before anyone noticed. (Now I have an almost 6 year old little cling-on, so that wouldn't happen).]  Apparently, had I been willing to give up my phone number, I would have received faster service.  But, as I told Google, if I had to give up my Reader and Gmail...well, I'd have a lot more time on my hands for other things like reading and knitting. 

I don't know why I find it so irritating that everyone asks for my phone number.  Maybe it's because I hate talking on the phone.  Maybe it's because I have a constant stream of voice mail messages from the school district now that my girl has started kindergarten.  Maybe it's because I find the phone so intrusive.  Maybe it's because when I answer my work phone, it generally turns out to be bad news.  Maybe it's because I don't have a landline, so every incoming call has an associated cost.  (I am pretty cheap, after all.)

More likely, though, it's because I know that every company is trying to accumulate data on me in order to market to me more effectively.  I was stunned last night when, after watching Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention and commenting about it on Facebook, Clinton and Obama ads immediately popped up in my sidebar.  It is beginning to make me slightly uncomfortable to watch that tracking happen.  So, Google, no thank you.  I will not give you my phone number.  It's one of the few pieces of information over which I have a bit of control, and I'm keeping that control. 

(I will, however, be exporting my address book, so that if I do get kicked off Google again, I will be able to send out a message to let people know that I haven't disappeared into thin air.)


  1. I'm with you. Google keeps asking me for my phone number. I won't give it! (I also don't like the phone. Love email, hate phones.)

    Someone (I think it might have been on Lisa's LWB site?)recently recommended Bloglovin, and I've been using that and love it. It emails me with updates - much like Google reader, though it actually takes you to external site to read the blog.

  2. I opted to give them my phone because gmail contains my life. Oh, not just my friends, but my passwords from re-sets and my registrations, and and and. It's a symptom of living on the road or being technologically engaged or something.

    I need to know, if my account is locked, or if I think I have been hacked, I can deal with it. I also use my phone for 2 step verification.

    1. I hear you, but my Gmail is just one of my many email accounts, so I can be a bit loose with my attachment. Gmail is my blog email (important) and my online surveys email (not very important, and changeable). I like to spread stuff around, I guess.

      My other issue is that I don't trust the security of my phone (even though I know Blackberries are supposed to be quite secure), so I don't use it for anything more important than text messages and phone calls. But then, I don't travel for work very often, so it's not an issue for me.

  3. I too refusedto give my phone number. Until my account got hijacked. Huh. And now the bloody pushy bastards have it. They are not using it, thank god, unless necessary. But still. I am completely in the matrix. Hear me meow.

  4. Blogspot is being a ahole again.
    So, kindergarten. I hear itt's scary. And I can't fix the typo because of blogspot freezing and so here is another silly and vacuous comment.

  5. Oh, I hear you and I feel you on this one.

    Stupid G keeps asking me for my number as well...what if my account details got lost...what if I forgot the password? Oh yeah, I am sooooo scared of that happening.

    I have an ulterior motive for not giving the number. One of my accounts is not a known email id for my family and RL friends. What if I receive random BS message from sweet G someday, and that leads to my secret being leaked?

    Anyhow, G is not getting my number. Not at all.

  6. I don't talk on the phone. My message on the home machine warns people that odds are, I'm not calling you back. Because I don't.

  7. I hate the phone. I need to figure out getting off of the high school's calling list. They email and call at the same time with the same message. Annoying!

  8. Probably a good idea not to give out your number. I've been a bit blase about it in the past and seem to be on the "who calls me" website a=t least once a week as a result of annoying dropped sales calls.

  9. Hmm...makes me wonder if I should avoid skipping that annoying little question next time it pops up. Glad you are back online, though!

  10. I don't give my number either. I also hate that so many sites require me to log in through Facebook. Why?
    It is unnerving how much they seem to be 'watching' us. That sounds so paranoid, doesn't it? But it's what their doing.

  11. Facebook is creepy. I use it to post blog updates, and to stalk old acquaintances (see? Creepy!), but the way that they tailor ads to updates really skeeves me out. It makes me feel like I'm living in a dystopian novel. I can't get into my Yahoo email address right now because they want my phone number. Not gonna happen. Luckily, I'm not overly attached to that email address.

  12. It's so lame to comment twice on the same post, but I'm not sure how else to talk to you, since - as far as I can tell - you're not on twitter. Just wanted to say hello and wish you happy holidays!