By Tom Ehrich

It was fun ramping up my engagement with Google products. It isn’t as much fun ramping down, but it must be done.

On the way up, I had one giddy discovery after another.

Google Search – amazing! fast! authoritative!

Google Mail – free! powerful! hip!

And so on through Google Chrome, Google Apps and Google Analytics. It was like free candy.

Now the bill is coming due. Google has corrupted its search results by giving top placement to advertisers and Google-Plus users’ information – while violating their privacy. I began to wonder what Google would do with my emails, documents and search results passing through its hands.

So I switched to the Firefox browser, open-source apps for documents (Open Office, now Lotus Symphony), and Bing for search. I haven’t found a suitable replacement for Google Mail, but I am looking.

I’m not naive. I remember the late-night radio ad: “Money talks, nobody walks.” I’m not opposed to enterprises seeking profits. But I also am in no mood to have my life and work sold to advertisers and data trackers. My online existence is mine to control, not theirs. I’d rather pay a fee for a respectful service.

Why bring this up? It’s a reminder that we need to take personal responsibility. Use Facebook, but know the real terms of use. Use free tools, but know that even “free” carries a price. Enjoy the fun side of collaborative workplaces, but know that it’s probably cutting into your creativity.

Free and easy might end up being costly and exploitative.

Photo: Coney Island, NYC