cheney and google 01.21.2006, 6:27 PM
posted by bob stein
(this is a follow-up to ben's recent post "the book is reading you."
i rarely read Maureen Dowd but the headline of her column in today's New York Times, "Googling past the Graveyard," caught my attention. Dowd calls Dick Cheney on the carpet for asking Google to release the search records of U.S. citizens. while i'm horrified that the govt. would even consider asking for such information, i'm concerned that the way this particular issue is playing out, Google is being portrayed as the poor beleaguered neutral entity caught between an over-reaching bureaucracy and its citizens. Cheney will expire eventually. in the meantime Google will collect even more data. Google is a very big corporation, who's power will grow over time. in the long run, why aren't people outraged that this information is in Google's hands in the first place. shouldn't we be?
dan levine on January 22, 2006 12:51 AM:
"Google is being portrayed as the poor beleaguered neutral entity..." who says that? I don't.
And I don't follow your reasoning on this post.
You think people should be outraged that a single company has such a powerful bag of information? I can't see "people" being outraged by this. I can see "internet informed" people being reinforced by this legal action and spreading the message of "centralized scariness" to mainstream culture. The way you are using "people" seems far more mainstream than I would expect.
It has to be a movement of the enlightened to the general public. How/why could "people" feel this way?
"Why aren't people outraged that this information is in Google's hands in the first place. shouldn't we be?"
"We" are not the same as "people".
As I see it, this particular episode has two results:
1. Google gets more public cred for fighting "the man".
-- valid and deserved, but not negating the original problem
2. Informed internet culture starts to worry (more than they already are) about the centralized power of Google.
This is what you are leading up to, right?
What can/should we all do about it?
bob stein on January 22, 2006 11:58 AM:
in an attempt to keep this discussion related to the work of the institute, i'm just going to respond to your suggestion that i think people should be outraged that "a SINGLE company (emphasis mine) has such a powerful bag of information." actually my concern is not Google alone.
we (humanity collectively) are building a network which is so powerful that it will touch and shape our lives in ways we can't even imagine. we are uploading our memories to the network and increasingly many of us spend significant numbers of our waking hours connected to it. over time as hardware and software become more sophisticated the virtual world aspect of the network will become so compelling as to offer an alternative to the "real world." i am concerned that a significant chunk of the future is being developed by for-profit companies, which have notoriously short-term outlooks and are not set-up in any way to consider the general good. Google's development of electronic books whose main innovation is that they collect information about us which is used to customize advertisements is a perfect example of for-profit technology which runs counter to a notion of general good. we can find countless examples in the work of Microsoft, AOL, Cisco, Yahoo etc. Google is just the newest and maybe smartest kid on the corporate block.
K.G. Schneider on January 22, 2006 12:38 PM:
I'm working on a theory about "soft privacy" to explain why so many people are not bothered that Google has this data. (Someone else may have used that phrase first?) Those of us with a more classic sense of privacy may be appalled... but ask your average kid using Facebook. We may be the last of our tribe.
But for all that, Google is simply doing what Yahoo and Microsoft did not: stand up to these vast McCarthyesque fishing expeditions.
dan levine on January 22, 2006 8:01 PM:
I completely misread your post. Thanks for the follow-up.
sol gaitan on January 24, 2006 11:26 AM:
The "what can/should we do about it" mantra that pops-up whenever we are presented with incontrovertible realities has become, for me, the clearest indicator of the apathy and selfishness characteristic of our times. What K.G Schneider calls in her post a "more classical sense of privacy" bothers me too, because it is presented as an old fashioned alternative to lack of reflection. Privacy is a right, and has to be interpreted as such. The fact that Google's alternative to e-books is to know our reading habits so we "discover books" and buy them is disturbing enough, but the fact that someone out there is collecting information about what I read is scary. The Institute is doing something about it by denouncing, or announcing, in an open forum the perils we as a society face when for-profit companies are shaping the way we interact within and outside ourselves.