A Google Group Gripe

In the past few months I have received invitations to join varied Google Groups. While they are no doubt easy to set up, the (ironic) thing these groups had in common was a focus on free culture (e.g., FOSS and Wikipedia). However, I have not been able to learn how to subscribe to these groups. Instead, I have to log in using a GMail identity. So not only do we have echoes of Microsoft’s presumptive ubiquity (if you don’t have their software, you are not welcome to participate), Google has access to both your browsing history and your private email?! I am not a Google-hater, but I am concerned about my privacy and proprietary lock-in. The majority of my web browsing is done in Konqueror, and I don’t accept any cookies from Google. I also filter email to GMail via a procmail recipe for when I’m out and about, but this is occasional, rare, and on public machines that I don’t spend significant time on. (If I need to use a Google service, I pull up Firefox with cookies enabled.) In a literal sense, those people that use Google for searches, email, and calendaring are like Alice in Wonderland, having eaten a magic cookie from Google that reveals all. (I suppose if I must, I will have to create another Gmail identity for subscribing to these lists exclusively; I can then fetch those messages via the POP service that Google kindly provides.)

On another (miscellaneous) privacy related note, this was certainly an odd conflict: Mozilla Ponders Policy Change after Firefox Extension Battle

Ported/Archived Responses

Gavin Baker on 2009-05-07

Yep, appending -subscribe should work. It won’t work with some groups, though – I’m not sure why.

Of course, there’s still no reason for the groups not to use a FOSS list management software like mailman.

Joseph Reagle on 2009-05-06

It looks like one might be able to subscribe by sending an email to [Groupname]-subscribe@googlegroups.com.

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