Consumers Against Consuming Gmail
I find it surprising 31 organizations claiming to be “in favor of privacy and civil freedom” asked Google to close Gmail. Yes, you read that right, organizations that define themselves as in favor of freedom are demanding that there should be fewer options for regular people like you or me –by the way a fervent user of Google’s excellent email service.
The excuse they offer is that a Google application “reads” their emails automatically to place related advertisements, therefore violating something they call “implicit trust”, forgetting that there always applications that read emails automatically, if only to send them to your computer. These organizations’ trick is to add “civil” to freedom to be able to hide behind it and restrict real freedom, no nicknames needed..
A fast glance at the list of “organizations” makes clear some are just individuals. Also, twelve signers are consumer organizations, including our local pain-in-the-ass FACUA. Can consumer associations be against consumers’ freedom to choose the product that best fits their needs? How can such nonsense be possible? The problem is that it is not unusual for such organizations do this, they do it every day, and FACUA calls it “consumerism”. They follow Ralph Nader, the American extreme left politician who started his career writing the book "Unsafe at any speed", in which he attacked Corvair cars for being unsafe. Thanks to Nader it became forbidden to sell that car, despite later government research proving it was not particularly unsafe compared to the other cars of the time. However, his book and his campaign made him the most famous “consumer defender”. But by the time he published the book, the number of victims of car accidents was dropping dramatically and neither Nader nor the later regulations he inspired made much of difference.
Since then, defending consumers means reducing their options to what the defenders think is appropriate. Nader himself wrote that “sometimes consumers must be protected against their indiscretion and vanity”. That is the model all consumer organizations, including the Spanish ones, seem to follow. They only protest to the companies, either because they don’t follow their contracts (for obviously fair reasons) or because they consider that their protégées are incapable of choosing.
If we look at FACUA closely (they deserve it for signing manifestos) we see that on their webpage they comment on things like transgenic food, despite no problems or health risks have been proven, or “sustainable energy for all” something that undoubtedly keeps consumers awake at night when they turn on their computers to read such a “consumerist” slogan for the “consumer’s rights day”. However, you can’t find a note protesting the fact that the European Union is restricting the imports of clothes from China in order to prevent clothing stores from filling with cheaper goods to be enjoyed by the consumers in our continent: exactly those who they claim to defend.
In their attempt to have authorities limit the consumers’ freedom with the excuse of protecting them from themselves, they don’t include bothering authorities when they prevent citizens from accessing better shopping deals because the authorities might get angry. It is more comfortable and easier to denounce Google for doing something that all email systems in existence also do.