[NEWS] The Final Countdown: Google to cease free G Suite
All good things come to an end, and with Google, that seems to be happening sooner rather than later. The company has announced the shutdown of free G Suite accounts starting May 1st, and requires users who wish to keep their domain email and data to sign up for Google Workspace instead.
The email package service has been offered free to small businesses and schools for over a decade. G Suite users must upgrade to a paid subscription by July 1st, 2022, or lose access to custom domain Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and Docs.
While the changes won’t affect most people, it means added costs for family-owned businesses and educators. Users of Gmail who retain the “@gmail.com” domain suffix and have free Google accounts that give them Calendar, Drive, Docs and so on will not be affected — at least for now.
The decision to end free G Suite has created a lot of mixed feelings among users. For some, this move could be seen as Google trying to take more money from their customers. The mandatory paid upgrades cost between $72 and $216 per year. But for others, it could be viewed as Google trying to create better security, with enhanced support available for paid plans.
The mood on Twitter ranged from satirical:
It’s hard to predict how many free G Suite users will jump ship and source a more affordable email provider, but with recent reports of a shrinking user base over at Facebook, this story could signal that the glory days for tech monopolies are numbered.
In other news
- IRS scraps plans for facial recognition. Two weeks ago we reported plans by the Internal Revenue Service to use the third-party service ID.me to verify taxpayers’ identities using facial recognition. In a stunning about-face, the IRS has changed course. As reported by The New York Times, the agency made this decision after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as privacy advocates, complained about the invasive identification method as well as fears that the technology would not be available to a large number of people who do not have broadband Internet.
Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said, “I have long argued that Americans should not have to sacrifice their privacy for security. The government can treat Americans with respect and dignity while protecting against fraud and identity theft.” He encouraged the IRS to instead use Login.gov, a system already in place for other federal services. And Fight for the Future’s Caitlin Seeley George called on the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies to end their own contracts with ID.me.
- As we watch the Olympics, China may be watching the athletes. The 2022 Bejing Olympics has kicked off in style, but athletes have had to face numerous privacy concerns. Wired reports that Olympics organizations in multiple countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands, warned teams not to bring personal mobile phones, and many athletes are instead using burner phones.The countries have advised their athletes about potential surveillance, and recommended that competitors avoid addressing political topics. As US snowboarder Julia Marino told Wired, “there has been discussion of what could happen if we do speak out.” As the heart of many of these concerns is the MY2022 app, required for Olympics health and travel monitoring, as the app has weak encryption and may leak sensitive data.
- Non-fungible animals aren’t a lot of fun. In a creative fundraising and awareness boosting effort that’s come under fire, the World Wildlife Fund UK announced that they would be creating digital art NFTs featuring 13 endangered species. The WWF UK plans to call them “non-fungible animals,” or NFAs. It’s an adorable idea until you realize that the number of NFAs matches the number of individual animals of each species left in the wild. As Gizmodo explains, “there are only 447 Baltic porpoises left, for example, so only 447 NFAs will be sold.” This immediately raised concerns that these NFAs could increase in value if one of the animals suddenly went extinct. Plus, critics argue, it’s problematic at best to use NFTs, which are energy-intensive, to protect the environment.
- Look out ISS, they’re already planning your funeral. The Guardian reports that the International Space Station will be decommissioned at the end of 2030. At that point, NASA will send the space station back to earth at Point Nemo, a remote location in the Pacific known as the “South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area.” But the ISS will be in good company, as this destination—the furthest point from human activity—is already a space graveyard, with it serving as the final resting place for a number of previous space stations and satellites.
- Go on a chaotic sardine hunt with a penguin! Gizmodo reports that scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society on Isla Martillo in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina have a special program to protect penguins. To learn more about the feeding habits of Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua), the researchers enlisted the help of one male penguin, giving him a one-day break from fatherhood, and strapped on a ‘penguin-cam’ for a single feeding session. The results are remarkable, proving that these penguins rely on sardines for part of their diet, and also showing that albatrosses, comorants, and sea turtles share in the feast. (For those concerned, Gizmodo points out that the little dude was closely monitored after the camera was removed, and was released back to his parenting duties.)
Tip of the week
Coco Chanel once said, “The best things in life are free. The second best things are very, very expensive.” But we disagree. When it comes to online tools, the best choice typically offers a strong balance of features and value. Software development costs money, so it makes sense that most companies will need to charge something to stay in business.
Before you settle on a new app or cloud-based software, always compare at least three choices, even if the first thing you try seems perfect. For G Suite users now searching for a replacement, you should test drive three alternatives before you switch. Office 365, for example, includes more features than G Suite, but charges more for advanced security and offline access. Private Email Ultimate, in contrast, gives you advanced spam protection automatically, and up to 5 email inboxes. So do your homework!