Google, as a company, is very much the stereotypical nerd, lacking social skills and any sort of ability to read the room. The company’s history is littered with good ideas that are sabotaged either by Google’s misunderstanding of how people think or just a basic failure to grasp social cues. And so it is with what might have been a useful feature on Google Maps: Calorie counting.
It seemed innocuous enough, and indeed Google was just following the lead of a lot of other navigation maps and dedicated apps like MapMyRun. You searched for directions, and in the little bubble under walking directions, you’d see how many calories you’d burn.
If you popped open the walking directions, it’d tell you how many mini cupcakes you could eat after the walk. Cute, right? Well, that depends on your issues with food, ability, and a whole host of other issues:
It’s fairly easy to roll your eyes, but eating disorders and psychiatric issues such as depression, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance abuse issues are strongly related. By dangling cupcakes in front of their users, Google seems to make light of all this. So, for some people, it’s like Google decided to jab them in the eye with a stick by when they just wanted directions to a party.
What’s sad is Google should have learned by now that it’s the rollout, not the feature. Nobody asked for this to be enabled, Google just pushed live the update, and there was no way to turn this off. Google has, literally, years of disasters and angry complaints that tells them not to do this, and yet they keep doing it.
This is a relatively well-meaning example of an ongoing problem. Google’s motto is supposedly “Don’t Be Evil,” but in practice, it seems more to adhere to the idea that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. But that can have real, serious consequences when nobody asks why they would need forgiveness in the first place. A little too often, Google seems to view the entire world as its lab and its users as test subjects who’ve consented to everything, and that needs to stop. Because sooner or later, you run out of forgiveness.