Lots of people have expressed fear at the power Google has over our information. I don’t intend to expound on that. Suffice it to say that they know more about me than I do.
It’s never bothered me. I have always trusted Google to take care of this information. They’ve always been on the same side of privacy, net neutrality, and copyright debates as me. They’re extremely active in the open source world and they seem to value open source rather than simply using us. I trust them.
I used to trust them.
A couple weeks ago, Aaron (head developer of Arch Linux) received an e-mail from Google Adsense telling us our account had been terminated:
While going through our records recently, we found that your AdSense
account has posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers. Since
keeping your account in our publisher network may financially damage our
advertisers in the future, we’ve decided to disable your account.
Please understand that we consider this a necessary step to protect the
interests of both our advertisers and our other AdSense publishers. We
realize the inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you in advance
for your understanding and cooperation.
How are we a risk to advertisers? What are we doing wrong? How do we fix it? No explanation. Aaron, of course, asked for clarification. They regurgitated the response:
Thanks for providing us with additional information. However, after
thoroughly reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into
consideration, we’ve re-confirmed that your account poses a significant
risk to our advertisers. For this reason, we’re unable to reinstate your
account. Thank you for your understanding.
As a reminder, if you have any questions about your account or the actions
we’ve taken, please do not reply to this email. You can find more
information by visiting
Following instruction for obtaining more info, Aaron posted here: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdSense/thread?tid=029aef7a42e7c4f2&hl=en&fid=029aef7a42e7c4f20004707fc5d9ce9e
Still no additional information. I find this offensive. We are an honest, upstanding, unfunded open source Linux Distribution. We have done nothing wrong.
I respect Google’s right to choose where they place ads. If I was a marketing agency for companies that sell adult products, I wouldn’t post advertisements in a daycare or during Saturday morning cartoons. However to cancel our account without giving us a chance to fix or even understand their rationale is troubling.
The money from Adsense is mediocre at best, compared to our donations and schwag income. But this event caused me to reevaluate my trust of this mammoth company. I’m not suddenly “OMG Google is evil, I must not use their products.” (As a teen I had this tendency toward Microsoft products. I’ve matured a bit and can acknowledge that Microsoft has some good products: their mice and keyboards.) However, I now feel less comfortable giving this company full control of my information.
And thus, I am slowly moving my e-mail account from GMail to my own domain. I’m considering anonymizing my Google cookie. I’m reluctant to put my own or client data on Google App engine. I’m losing enthusiasm for my Android powered phone (that has as much to do with Java as it does with Google, to be honest), and evaluating all new exciting Google services with just a hint of distrust.
Google still creates some of the best technology in the world, and they are still mostly friendly to the open source community. They are a large company and the actions of one department obviously don’t reflect the opinions of others. Adsense is Google’s cash cow. The more exciting Google projects occur in research and innovation. There isn’t much communication between the two.
I am looking forward to Google Wave (I intend to set up my own host, of course) and to an anonymized version of Chromium for Linux. I have no problem with Google Gears. I still use their maps, but I’ll have to stay off Latitude.
Update: This post unexpectedly hit Reddit, and within a few hours, Aaron got another e-mail telling us that our Adsense account had been reinstated. We’re still lacking an explanation, and I’m still not sure I trust them, but I have to give them credit for quick action!
I hadn’t made this post to get action out of Google, though, so we’re probably not putting Adsense back on archlinux.org and I’m probably not going to go back to GMail.