The Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) was perhaps the first to note the universal trend that growth is slow but ruin is rapid. I call this tendency the "Seneca Effect."

Friday, April 7, 2023

How to Make Your Google Masters Happy: Fixing the Privacy Policy of Your Blog


As I told you in a previous post, for months, Google has been pestering me with notices that there was something wrong with the privacy policy of my blog and that if I wouldn't fix it, they would start doing dark and dire things, such as making my blog invisible to search engines. Now, after many attempts and much struggle, I can tell you that the saga is over.  So, I am posting these notes that may be useful for you in case you find yourself in the same situation.

The problem had to do with the privacy regulations of the EU and the EEA, aka the "General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): I had to obtain consent from the user for something not explicitly described in the ominous messages I was receiving. Fixing the problem turned out to be a small Odyssey. 

1) Using search engines The first thing you normally do in these cases is look over the Web to see if someone has already solved the problem that plagues you. About this specific question, I immediately found myself facing a wall of sites claiming that they can solve the problem for you if you just pay some money. Mostly, they looked like traps, but I was dumb enough to pay $29 for a "personalized policy declaration" that came with the request of a further payment for hosting it on their site. I took care myself to create a subpage of the blog to host it at no cost. 

First lesson learnedskip the sites that ask you money to fix this problem unless you are a commercial site and you need to do it quickly. 

2. The text I downloaded may have been a good policy declaration, but Google still wasn't satisfied and I later learned that they didn't give a hockey stick about that. 

Second lesson learned: you can spend a lot of time (and also money) fixing the wrong problem.

3. I contacted Google's customer service at -- yes, they have a customer service to help people fixing exactly the GDPR problem. Amazingly, I got in contact with someone who seemed to be a real person -- the messages were signed "Gargi," which is an Indian male name. After a few interactions, he finally told me what Google wanted. It was simple: I just had to add the sentence "cookies are used for ads personalization" in the "consent banner." And that was it. Gargi even sent me a screenshot of what the banner should look like. It was a step forward. 

Third lesson learned. Human beings can still be useful for something. 

4But who controls the cookie banner? I had never placed a cookie banner on my blog, and I saw no such a thing appearing when I loaded the blog. Other people told me that they didn't see any banners on the first page of my blog. I had always interpreted the lack of a banner as a consequence of my blog not being a commercial one. But, no, the trick was a different one. After much tinkering and head-scratching, I discovered that my browser (Chrome) keeps track of previous decisions and didn't show the banner again to people who had already accepted the cookies. I could see the banner if I erased the cookies from my main browser, or used a "virgin" browser. The beauty of this trick is that not even the people from Google's customer service seemed to know it; so, at some moment, they started telling me that my blog had no cookie banner, and I had to explain to them that they just weren't seeing it, but it was there. Once they understood this, it was no more a problem. But it took time. 

Fourth lesson learned: Truth may be hidden, and often is. 

5. How do you change the text of the cookie consent banner? One of those things that look easy but are not easy at all. First, you have to access the HTML code of your blog, which is not an easy task by itself. It is like open heart surgery: you make a mistake, and the patient dies. Then, even if you know how to manage HTML, you soon discover a little problem. There is NO CODE for the cookie consent banner on the HTML page of Google's blogs. The banner is dynamically generated from somewhere, Google knows where, and it is not accessible with the tools provided by Google's blogger. 

Fifth lesson learned: Google plays with you like a cat plays with a mouse.

6. It means that there has to be a widget for the cookie banner, right? Yes, there is such a widget that you can set as showing a cookie banner as you like it to be. The problems are that 1) it cannot show the banner at top of the page, where these banners normally are, and 2) it doesn't replace the Google-generated banner. So, the result is that you have two different banners in different areas of the screen at the same time. Apart from the awful effect on the way your blog looks, it is not surprising that Google was still not happy with this solution

Sixth lesson learned: Some solutions are not. 

7. How about trying chatGPT? Eventually, chatGPT gave me the right hint. It said that it was possible to insert a cookie banner script in the main HTML page of the blog. I tried the scripts provided by chatGPT and none worked, but those provided by helpful human bloggers did. I found that scripts (unlike widgets) can supersede the Google-created banner. After some tweaking, Google was finally happy. 

Seventh Lesson learned. ChatGPT is your friend, but it is a bad programmer   



The good thing about this story is that I learned something, but it was also a sobering experience. The way Google managed it was so bad that I can only understand it as an explicit attempt to discourage small bloggers who are not making money from their blogs and who can't afford a professional maintenance service. Just why harass poor bloggers to do something that Google could do easily on a banner that it is wholly managed by Google? I mean, do you realize the time lost to do such a simple thing as adding a single sentence to a banner? 

It seems clear to me that at Google they don't like blogs in general. Even though they offer a blogging platform, it is a poor service for several reasons. Yet, Blogger also has several good points, the main one being that it is free. Then, it offers you possibilities of customization that other "bare-bones" platforms (e.g. substack) do not provide. For someone who just wants to express his/her ideas in public, it can still be a good choice. But, after this experience, I am wary. Google knows what they have in mind next in Mountain View. So, I may switch platforms in the near future. For now, "The Seneca Effect" blog is still there, alive and reasonably well, even though shadow-banned by the Powers That Be. And maybe these notes could be useful for you.

Final lesson I learned: I, for one, welcome our new Google masters 


Here is the script to control the text of the cookie consent banner to be cut and pasted into the HTML code of a blogger blog after the </head> tag. It is simple, but it wasn't so simple to understand what was needed. 

<script type='text/javascript'> 

  cookieOptions = { 

    msg: &quot;This site uses cookies for ad personalization, to analyse traffic and to deliver some Google services. By using this site, you agree to its use of cookies.&quot;, 

    link: &quot;;, 

    close: &quot;Okay!&quot;, 

    learn: &quot;Learn More&quot; }; 



  1. This is what is known in the business as Yak Shaving -

    Congratulations, Ugo, now you know what it's like to be a professional programmer.

  2. New Map of Future Oil Production

    Iraq can never stand behind AI that long - producing oil this far in the future, though...

    The country doesn't have hard metal deposits, coal, industrial base, water and the rest...

    Bringing all these from far away into Iraq - will consume energy unfathomably more than all what oil can be produced in Iraq...

    This is no matter how much oil in Iraq remains in the underground....

    Therefore, AI will shrink and shrink in covering the globe - until ends up - just a knife, a stick or a bare hand left with an oil well-guard - in Iraq...

    An oil well-guard - guarding memories of the past going into an oil-free future - no AI...

    The little remaining oil in Iraq needs to be left alone, however, and left alone - now...

    ...alone - instead of falsefully turning Iraq today into a chaotic, synthetic little China or a victim of another civil and other wars - destroying all the oil left in it - like no tomorrow...

    Let the little oil left in Iraq managed not by AI, ChatGPT or our Western Civilisation- but rather only by Wise Counsel...

    A Wise Counsel that the less oil it approves out - the wiser it proves

    A trial on how the future will look like - without oil - while little oil still around...

    Relieve Iraq from the UN, Security Council, OPEC, the US, the West, China, what's called Silk Road', hydro dams and others - leave it simple, energy-conscious, war free - back to its nature, function and wisdom...

    In any system of energy, Control is what consumes energy the most.

    No energy store holds enough energy to extract an amount of energy equal to the total energy it stores.
    No system of energy can deliver sum useful energy in excess of the total energy put into constructing it.
    This universal truth applies to all systems.

    Energy, like time, flows from past to future.