Too many cooks spoil the broth

Pure rant ahead.

I wasted ages this morning trying getting rid of the automated text fill in the Google user accounts log in box. I accept that there are greater problems in the world, but this one was more irritating at the time. I am very comfortable living with AI, but I do want there to be a big OFF switch wherever it has an effect.

It wanted to log me in as me, in my main account, which is normally fine, but in the interests of holding back 1984, I resented Google ‘helping’ me by automatically remembering who uses my machine, which actually is only me, and filling in the data for me. I clean my machine frequently, and when I clean it, I want there to be no trace of anything on it, I want to have to type in all my data from scratch again. That way I feel safe when I clean up. I know if I have cleaned that no nasties are there sucking up stuff like usernames and passwords or other account details. This looked like it was immune to my normal cleanup.

I emptied all the cookies. No effect. I cleared memory. No effect. I ran c cleaner. No effect. I went in to the browser settings and found more places that store stuff, and emptied those too. No effect. I cleaned the browsing history and deleted all the cookies and restarted. No effect. I went to my google account home page and investigated all the settings there. It said all I had to do was hit remove and tick the account that I wanted to remove, which actually doesn’t work if the account doesn’t appear as an option when you do that. It only appeared when I didn’t want it too, and hid when I wanted to remove it. I tried a different browser and jumped through all the hoops again. No effect. I went back in to browser settings and unchecked the remember form fill data. No effect. Every time I started the browser and hit sign in, my account name and picture still appeared, just waiting for my password. Somehow I finally stumbled on the screen that let me remove accounts, and hit remove. No effect.

Where was the data? Was it google remembering my IP address and filling it in? Was it my browser and I hadn’t found the right setting yet? Did I miss a cookie somewhere? Was it my PC, with some file Microsoft maintains to make my life easier? Could it be my security software helping by remembering all my critical information to make my life more secure? By now it was becoming a challenge well out of proportion to its original annoyance value.

So I went nuclear. I went to google accounts and jumped through the hoops to delete my account totally. I checked by trying to log back in, and couldn’t. My account was definitely totally deleted. However, the little box still automatically filled in my account name and waited for my password. I entered it and nothing happened, obviously because the account didn’t exist any more. So now, I had deleted my google account, with my email and google+, but was still getting the log in assistance from somewhere. I went back to the google accounts and investigated the help file. It mentioned yet another helper that could be deactivated, account login assistant or something. I hit the deactivate button, expecting final victory. No effect. I went back to c cleaner and checked I had all the boxes ticked. I had not selected the password box. I did that, ran it and hooray, no longer any assistance. C cleaner seems to keep the data if you want to remember the password, even if you clear form data. That form isn’t a form it seems. C cleaner is brilliant, I refuse to criticize it, but it didn’t interpret the word form the way I do.

So now, finally, my PC was clean and google no longer knew it was me using it. 1984 purged, I then jumped through all the hoops to get my google account back. I wouldn’t recommend that as a thing to try by the way. I have a gmail account with all my email dating back to when gmail came out. Deleting it to test something is probably not a great idea.

The lesson from all this is that there are far too many agencies pretending to look after you now by remembering stuff that identifies you. Your PC, your security software, master password files, your cookies, your browser with its remembering form fill data and password data, account login assistant and of course google. And that is just one company. Forgetting to clear any one of those means you’re still being watched.


Synchronisation multiplies this problem. You have to keep track of all the apps and all their interconnections and interdependencies on all your phones and tablets now too. After the heartbleed problem, it took me ages to find all the account references on my tablets and clear them. Some can’t be deactivated within an app and require another app to be used to do so. Some apps tell you something is set but cant change it. It is a nightmare. Someone finding a tablet might get access to a wide range of apps with spending capability. Now they all synch to each other, it takes ages to remove something so that it doesn’t reappear in some menu, even temporarily. Kindle’s IP protection routine regularly means it regularly trying to synch with books I have downloaded somewhere, and telling me it isn’t allowed to on my tablet. It does that whether I ask it to or not. It even tries to synch with books I have long ago deleted and specifically asked to remove from it, and still gives me message warning that it doesn’t have permission to download them. I don’t want them, I deleted them, I told it to remove them, and it still says it is trying but can’t download them. Somewhere, on some tick list on some device or website, I forgot to check or uncheck a box, or more likely didn’t even know it existed, and that means forever I have to wait for my machines to jump through unwanted and unnecessary hoops. It is becoming near impossible to truly delete something – unless you want to keep it. There are far too many interconnections and routes to keep track of them all, too many intermediaries, too many tracking markers. We now have far too many different agencies thinking they are responsible for your data, all wanting to help, and all falling over each other and getting in your way, making your life difficult.

The old proverb says that too many cooks spoil the broth. We’re there now.



7 responses to “Too many cooks spoil the broth

  1. Nice rant. Make your next one about how banks operate to “serve” their customers.


  2. P.S. I just tried to figure out how to resize pictures in Gmail’s new picture insertion app. I quit after 20 minutes. Clearly no one’s minding the soup.


  3. Quite a rant. Interestingly, if you used +LastPass you’d not have spent “ages to find all the account references on my tablets and clear them”; because you’d have all the data in one place. And, as you’re probably aware, using “incognito mode” (or whatever your browser calls it) will ensure you’re not “watched”, because every time you close the incognito window, all that information vanishes. The same if you use guest mode on a Mac, or on a Chromebook. Or the Tor browser bundle. (I don’t know about Windows; as the most compromised OS out there, I’ve not run it for over five years).

    Your interest in “holding back 1984” is interesting, but confused. 1984 is all about control; yet the point about your browser keeping this information is to make things simpler and more targeted for you, not to control your use. You can probably turn this feature of your browser off, by the way. I prefer not to bother, so that content is better targeted to me. As I detail here, sadly companies aren’t very good at it.

    Finally, you call yourself a futurologist. You’ve just made that word up, haven’t you? (See my profile)


    • I did consider using +lastpass a while ago but it is more of the same, the very point of my rant. Chrome has its own password-remembering, so does my email, so does my PC, so does my tablet. Adding another layer that claims to look after me and claims to be secure actually adds another vulnerability, so it may make me less secure, not more. Yes, I use incognito sometimes on some browsers with some accounts on some devices and OSs, not other times on others. Like you I prefer to let some bits be monitored so that I get the right content more often and that means I occasionally do a spring clean. The number of things remembering stuff is increasing and spreading, and of course they all want to make our lives easier and more secure, but adding complex layers and interactions of good intentions can result in there being too many pieces to check and maintain – too many cooks.

      I am in the middle of reading 1984 at the moment. It was good futurology and I have explored several aspects of it in my blogs. Multi-thread surveillance is an important component of the control system.

      “You call yourself a futurologist”. For 23 years now I have earned about 98% of my income from futurology so I call myself a futurologist in much the same way a plumber calls themselves a plumber. You use the title too. So do thousands of other people. It is what I do, that’s my job title. What’s the problem?


      • I understand the issue – and certainly Chrome and LastPass both remember my passwords, which I agree is as a security concern. Of interest, though, that’s all that does – my tablets use Chrome’s password vault, as does my phone, as does my two MacBooks, as does my Chromebook. Sticking to Chrome/LastPass appears to give me a relatively secure environment: and, theoretically, one wipe of Chrome and LastPass will remove all the information.

        I use LastPass, incidentally, to give me truly random passwords (which I never even see myself); and additionally use two-factor-authentication on the accounts that mean the most to me (Google, LastPass itself, Amazon AWS, and a few others).

        My “futurologist” comment was a joke – you, like me, have just made that word up, but it’s a fine pseudo-word. After five years of calling myself a “radio futurologist” (I started in 2009, I think) you’re the first person calling themselves a “futurologist” that I’ve found. There are many so-called “futurists”, but – as I say to people who ask – I’ve always wanted an ology… 🙂

        I look forward to more of your blog posts, now I’ve found you.


      • I got ‘futurologist’ from The Sunday Times who featured my technology timeline in 1993. At the time I was still called an Executive Engineer which really doesn’t sound much fun so I adopted their word. Sure it’s made up, but at least it’s obvious what it means and I don’t like the American term futurist, the etymology seems wrong.

        I am happy to do some stuff in public, and some in private. I like to know which is which, and this problem was the equivalent of discovering a new hole in my curtains.

        As for more blogs, I usually look at longer term issues so many of my previous blogs are still relevant. If you like 1984, you might like my blog on the Great Western War.


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