Friday, June 15, 2007

Google You

I found this cartoon first on the editorial page of the Chicago Tribune and thought it was quite fitting. Went well with an editorial today from Steve Johnson called "Street View: The Creepy Side of Google." He says:
The transition for Google is now nearly complete.

The lovable Internet start-up with the "do-no-evil" motto and the cute, seasonably changeable logo has transformed into something more ominous.

Google is now keeper of our private search data, whether we want it to or not; chronicler of our hard drives, if we let it; exploiter of our newspapers; digitizer of every book it can get its hands on; and, now, photographer of our ordinary, on-street activities, from sunbathing to visiting a strip club.

It's this last, the recent arrival of the Street View feature as an enhancement of Google Maps and Google Earth, that has proved to be the tipping point, or, more accurately, demonstrated that a tipping point had already occurred.

Yes, Google's Street View seems to have made people rather uneasy. Since its launch, it has been covered extensively in the news and around the blogosphere. Seems we didn't have a problem with Google keeping our search history (and we already know it won't be turned over to the government. Google will fight such a request first, providing time to cover our tracks, so to speak), searching our hard drives for information we know is there we just can't remember where we put it, and why bother hopping from one news website to another when there is Google News that presents it all at once?

But being able to see ourselves on the street, through our apartment or office window, is unexpected. The novelty is quickly wearing off. But Mr. Johnson does make a valid point: "surveillance cameras blinking from above intersections and camera phones in many pockets" is making privacy non-existent. The next thing to expect is for law enforcement to use Street View in conjunction with its surveillance cameras, perhaps to strengthen a case going to court. It's not beyond the realm of possibility, now is it?

There will be little any of us will be able to do that won't be captured and posted on the Internet for the world to see, whether we like it or not. But just think, if Kevin Bankston, a privacy lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, can be caught smoking, it makes you wonder who else you might be able to spot, whether it be Googlers, the founding members of Google or anyone else you've wondered about...oh wait....right....that information has probably been filtered out already. Silly me. I forgot. Google only wants to invade everyone else's privacy under the guise of "helpfulness in navigation," not their own. My bad.

Mr. Johnson closes by asking:
Whether Google ends up doing that will serve as a pretty good test for which Google it wants to be. Rich, but still, to the best of its abilities, a good neighbor? Or the kind of rich it's verging on already, the rich that forgets how it got all that money in the first place?

It stands to reason, considering most large corporations forget, that Google will continue down the path of the rich that forgets how it got all the money in the first place. But it's so good at keeping us all occupied with that right hand of righteousness, we'll feed the machine without giving it a second thought.

Really, what business today can survive without Google? Just like few that sell retail items can survive without the business it receives from Wal-Mart.

Somewhere, someone is paying close attention to signs of fractures in Google, just as someone, somewhere, was paying attention to fractures in Wal-Mart. After all, nothing lasts forever.

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