Editor's Note: Is Google Evil, or Just Naughty?
Aug 01, 2008, 23:00 (22 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)
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by Carla Schroder
Is it really that hard to do the right thing, all on your own
without being forced to? It seems to me that after a person makes
their first billion dollars they might sit back, relax, and think
about how to improve the planet a little bit. Oh sure, go on some
fun shopping sprees first. Buy an island, fuel up the stretch
Hummer, zoom around in the private jet, buy a magnum of Dom
Perignon and mix it with Mountain Dew, throw a big party on the big
yacht...and then maybe think about some of the tough problems and
what to do about them.
There is a principle of noblesse oblige, which
translated literally is "nobility obligates". Another way to say it
is "To whom much is given, is much expected." I'm not particularly
hardcore on the concept- if a person wants to live a life of idle
fun, fine with me. I do prefer that people refrain from damaging
others. Especially people whose official motto is "You can make
money without doing evil."
I've been leery of Google for a long time. At first it was cool-
a Web search engine that worked well, unlike the motley collection
of search engines available way back when, such as Yahoo, Lycos,
AltaVista, and so forth. But it didn't take long for the rot to set
in, and Google became the biggest data collector and data miner on
the planet. Do you have any idea what they know about you? No, and
they won't tell you. Their billions are based on collecting and
selling your personal data- do you get a cut of the swag? Did they
get your consent? No and no.
Irony or Hypocrisy?
The Google empire is built on Free and Open Source software. I'm
not sure if that's ironic or hypocritical- maybe both; perhaps it's
just plain perverse genius, exploiting a community based on
openness and freedom to exploit the world.
Now we have Google Street View, which Google justifies with this
rather weasely argument:
"Plaintiffs' privacy claims fail, among other reasons,
because the view of a home from the driveway that can be seen by
any visitor, delivery person, or telephone repairman is not
private...Unless there is a clear expression such as a gate, fence,
or 'keep out' sign indicating that the public is not permitted to
enter, anyone may approach a home by a walkway, driveway, or any
other route commonly used by visitors, without liability for
Surely even billionaire geniuses understand the difference between
people in your neighborhood having a view of your home, and
plastering photos of it on the Internet for the world to see and to
be recorded for posterity. And of course they do- they just don't
care. Having basic respect and consideration for people gets in the
way of exploiting them. Then they use spammer's logic to justify
"... Google's preferred solution to the problem is for
people to use "the simple removal option Google
Opt-out is a corrupt principle, not to mention impossible- we could
spend our lives opting out of this junk. Opt-out means "We know you
won't like this, so you don't get a choice." Billionaire geniuses
can afford to shield themselves, and exempt themselves from their
own abuses. Are Sergey Brin's and Larry Page's homes and family on
Street View? Nope.
Scott McNealy is famous for saying "You have zero privacy
anyway. Get over it." But as far as I know, Sun never implemented
any wholesale invasions into people's privacy the way Google does.
Though it does illustrate a certain mindset, which is "I got mine,
too bad for you." Wouldn't it be a refreshing change of pace to
hear something a little more farsighted and humanitarian, like
"This new technology era brings unprecedented opportunities for our
basic rights and considerations as fellow humans to be trampled
into oblivion. I will use some of my considerable resources to
fight for laws to protect us, and to create tools to help everyone
protect themselves. I may even give serious consideration to not
behaving like an evil overlord my own self."
Of course you'll never hear that from the billionaires. Because
making money is a lot easier when you don't care how you do it.
Opt-in or opt-out? Street View case echoes privacy debate
No Such Thing as Complete Privacy
on Privacy: 'Get Over It'