Google As Benevolent Dictator: The Gatekeeper And The Data Collector

from the are-you-scared-yet? dept

Two separate stories in the NY Times provide fodder for those who view Google as the new scary borg. The first, looks at Google’s sometimes slippery slope role as a “gatekeeper” of information within certain countries. For example, it looks at Google’s agreement to help block access to certain YouTube videos in Thailand and similar decisions in other countries. The article plays up Google’s reluctance to be involved in making these sorts of decisions (and highlights how the company hopes that more countries learn to accept free speech a bit more), but it still leaves you with this questionable feeling of Google as quasi-government censor. No matter how well-meaning the people may be who are making the decisions, it still feels questionable.

The second article isn’t just about Google, but talks about how, with various online services, many people are effectively giving up their privacy. This is hardly a new topic, and it’s one that’s been discussed repeatedly — often with a nod to the famous Scott McNealy quote from almost a decade ago: “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” The article touches on a lot more than just Google, but does mention the fact that Google seems to have access to all sorts of data that, when clumped together, could be seen as a violation of privacy for some.

Between the two stories, you can see why there’s a growing sense of worry among some about how Google could become dangerous. It has access to all sorts of data about you — and has the power to make decisions about what you can access, often with no explanation or recourse. Put that together, and you get this picture of Google as the benevolent dictator of the internet — where it may be using its powers (mostly) for good, but there’s plenty of potential that eventually it could turn evil. And, to some extent, it’s worth highlighting these issues, so that people don’t become complacent about Google’s actions. But, there’s an undercurrent to these stories that seem to miss out on a few things: if Google really does start abusing either of these “powers,” unlike with a dictator, people have pretty easy choices to go elsewhere. Furthermore, as more concerns are raised about any potential abuse, people are rapidly working on technologies that solve both issues — allowing people to surf the internet much more anonymously, while also routing around censorship. So, while it’s not problematic to highlight these potential issues with Google, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t necessary checks and balances in place.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Google As Benevolent Dictator: The Gatekeeper And The Data Collector”

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Anonymous Coward says:

There are checks and balances in place to keep our government honest in terms of our privacy, but we still see issues with that, don’t we?

As long as there are people involved with systems, sooner or later some employee will dig into records to look at things they shouldn’t. If Verizon employees can look into Obama’s calling patterns (credit Verizon for disclosing that) does anyone really think that they could be safe from such action?

Anonymous Coward says:

Right, and Sergey Brin is the Anti-Christ… get real… Google looking at what websites you go to is no different than blockbuster looking at what movies you rented, or the library recording what books you checked out, or your cell phone company sending you a bill with the list of calls on it, or your television network collecting data on what you watch, seriously the list could go on. If you are really worried about Google then I suggest you open your eyes because there are plenty of companies and organizations out there that some may say are already “evil”. Google should be the least of your worries.

Anonymous Coward says:


Google only has as much power as we give them. We pat Google on the back for making such great searches/etc, but then we turn around and complain that they store data that helps makes those searches better?

When I start typing in the Google search bar, it usually comes up with auto completetions that are crazy awesome. Why the time I type in “Wor”, it has already recommended “world of warcraft”. When I type “Add” it already says “addons” if i type “addons x” it already says “addons x-perl”.

it knows i’m looking for world of warcraft addons and it sometimes even lists a few addons I haven’t seen before, but other people have searched for. I’ll look into those addons because Goggle is “recommending” them in that other people find these searches useful

I find this VERY useful. this also means they know a lot about me. It’s a trade off, privacy vs convenience. You CAN’T have both

sqimy says:

Sergey Brin is a Russian immigrant, not the anti-Christ. That said, he is a very dangerous, arrogant and evil person, who founded Google as a money-making machine with no morals, no conscience, and no real objective other than limitless profit. Google literally promotes itself as God. Actually, Sergey thinks he himself is God Almighty. If Google is not stopped, as China has now stopped Google in its tracks, the world will be run as a Nazi-state with Sergey Brin at the helm. Sergey Brin is only a high-level mechanic with internet expertise, who lacks humanity, compassion and basic common sense. He married a very ugly woman, who is almost as ugly as he is. He said he married in “the faith” for which his mommy has thanked him repeatedly. That is certainly true if the “faith” is “money, money and more money, and, don’t forget, power, power and more power!” His parents brought him to the U.S.A. as an upstart nobody. Why they ever came here is a mystery. They should have stayed in Russia along with all the other miserable Russian rejects.

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