Google Flirts With Evil

Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, said gathering more personal data was a key way for Google to expand and the company believes that is the logical extension of its stated mission to organise the world’s information.

Personally, I’ve never been much concerned about these issues but I understand that some people are, and it’s entirely within their rights to be so. The evolution of technology to the point that Google envisions it, where they could tell you "what jobs to take and how they might spend their days off" actually sounds pretty interesting. Likewise, their advertising engine being able to better target what I want is something that I would want to be able to take advantage of.

But here’s the thing, the data they are collecting is about ME and as a consequence of that Google is able to piece together things about my life, my online life as a proxy for my real world life, that they are profiting from without my informed consent. They would say "well don’t use Google services and no data will be collected" but that argument rings hollow when Google doesn’t publish what they are collecting, or hold themselves to public review on what they wish to collect.

More to the point, Google is now the tip of the spear for the entire industry so what they do will soon be replicated by every other search provider. The internet is a public utility at this point, like electricity, and the simple fact is that individuals cannot not use it without suffering economic disadvantage.

While I’m not prone to suggesting that government should step in and regulate given their track record, in the words of Thomas Sowell:

"Nothing is more common than political "solutions" to immediate problems which create much bigger problems down the road."

Having said that, Google should heed their own slogan "don’t be evil" and offer all of their users an opt-out mechanism that simply put allows me to flip a bit and delete everything they have attached to my username. Google could actually take a leadership position on this issue and use it for competitive advantage, I would certainly be more inclined to use Google services over competitors, or anyone else for that matter, if this option were to be made available to me, but Google probably isn’t concerned about competition at this point and that should concern everyone.

Tags: ,