Last Saturday morning, I was greeted with a message on my Android HTC phone from the Google Book app congratulating me on the successful download. What download? On further inspection, I was now the proud owner of Jane Austin’s Pride And Prejudice. Downloaded at my expense over 3G.
The problem is that I never asked for this book. Furthermore, I have never even used the Google Books app before.
It would appear that Google decided to download this book for me. Surely not? Perhaps there was an innocent explanation? A software bug?
So I contacted Google and asked how this could have happened, how I can prevent it from happening again and what Google proposes to do about my network data charges. This is their reply:
Thanks for writing in to Google eBooks. As the Google Books app comes bundled with a suite of Google apps, it cannot be removed from your Android device.
Please go to Settings > Accounts & Sync > your accounts > Uncheck the “Sync Books” option for each account you have.
This should prevent the Google Books app from downloading any more updates or books.
As for the data issues, Pride and Prejudice is the only book that will download without your permission. It’s about 44KB. Can you please estimate how much this data cost you and I will talk to my supervisor about compensating you?
I suspect that because I have never used the Google Books app before, they have decided to push a book onto my phone to encourage me to start using it (and presumably to start buying books). So I am being charged for receiving an unsolicited service – a cold call, calling collect! Would this have happened whilst abroad, incurring astronomical roaming data charges?
Furthermore, I checked the Sync options on my phone, and guess what – the Sync Books option is unchecked. Another email to Google, another reply:
I am going to pass this information on to our engineers so that they can provide us with the information you requested.
I apologize for the inconvenience caused and will put all the efforts from my side to provide you with the information as soon as possible.
To be honest, I never thought I’d receive a reply from Google about this, let alone from a real human, and I certainly didn’t expect them to be so frank in their admittance.
The crux of the issue is this: how can a company like Google with their track record for doing slightly evil things ever consider that this is not a totally idiotic and stupid thing to do. This is not a software issue, this is not an edge case quirk: it is a deliberate and cynical policy in order to gain profit. The fact that I cannot even uninstall this app indicates to me that Google still don’t “get it”.