With yesterday's release of Google Drive, Google, in theory, improved the lives of its Docs users, providing a more seamless experience for document creation, saving, storing and sharing. But, as a consumer, all that connectivity, while appealing on some levels, makes us even more dependent on Google with our data than we already are. And that's the conundrum: We want our technology to be compatible, for it all to just work together, without extra steps, parts, conversions or effort. That's the appeal of a service like Drive over Dropbox. But, when services get all interconnected like that, we become slaves to one brand, which presents many issues, both philisophical and actual.
Google is selling Drive on its Docs integration, stressing the ease of having a user's documents and storage in one place. "All your stuff is just... there," writes Google on its blog. That is appealing -- no fuss! Also, as any Windows user knows, incompatibility can introduce a lot of hassle. But, this über-connectedness makes users more dependent on Google The Brand, which may go against user interests. This setup ensures we give Google more data fodder for advertising and money-making and whatever nefarious things it might do with our personal data. And, as Google Drive's terms of service outlines, users really surrender all their personal data:
When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content"
And later down, Google puts a nice little clause in there that says Google can uses your stuff for whatever it wants. The more integrated these services, the more data Google gets sole control of. Frankly, it's just creepy to surrender all data to one Internet overlord.
Beyond the ickiness that comes with surrendering ourselves to one tech company, there are practical reasons to spread our digital lives across multiple platforms. Say Google's having a technical hiccup, like that Gmail outage last week, a Drive, Docs, Gmail power user would lose access to "all your stuff." It's like traveling with extra cash hidden in your underwear. After a mugging, there's still a little something to get by one. The digital world works like that, too. It's best not to keep everything in one place.
This problem extends beyond Google, as all tech companies are thinking up more ways keep us under one compatible roof, selling the consumer benefit angle. With Apple's iEverything all the time policy, for example, things just work, without much effort. That is, if users buy everything Apple. And Facebook's whole Open Graph, media integration brings up similar issues. Connecting Spotify and Facebook makes music sharing seamless. But, there goes that privacy again.
At least in the cloud storage realm, users don't have to give it all up to Google. Before Drive came along, Dropbox worked with all our gadgets and browsers just fine. Google offers a smidge more space for zero dollars. But, are 3 more gigs of storage worth handing everything over to one company?