Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How Evil is Google?

"Just Google Mapquest."
[0verheard in the library at an Internet terminal]

This one of the scariest statements I've ever heard. That someone would voluntarily invoke the use of an intermediary to access something that's available directly. It's like the people you see, three feet apart, talking to each other on the cell phone. Why? Because cell phones are such a part of our lives, we think "cell phone" when we think "talk." And just like that, we think "Google" when we think "find it." Even when typing mapquest.com would get you there faster. (That Google has it's own map product isn't even part of this.)

There's a scary cover on the September 1-7, 2007 The Economist. It shows a Google search
box with search options such as "privacy," "antitrust," and "copyright." Since forever, I've always wondered how they seemingly violated copyright by using their "cache" to store newspaper articles which were no longer available from the original publisher. Through the cached copies, I could always access an article that I would otherwise need a subscription to get from the paper's web site.

But hey, I'm no copyright expert.

There's no denying that Google is an enormous, useful tool for locating and now, organizing and sharing information. And I don't have the time to list all the things they do and are planning to do to increase those resources. I'm the effing librarian, not the informing librarian.

Google controls information. Information influences decisions. Decisions guide the world.

People think good things when they think Google. And Google displays ads when people search. So the ads can and probably do, influence what people think. Billions of people. People that allow Google to build larger and more comprehensive databases of how to market more effective advertising to them. People, who, in turn, continue to give Google more data about themselves.

It's just amazing that when the government tries to amass a database as huge as Google's, the people rebell.

This is one of those "we can" moments that isn't being tempered by the "but should we" question.

Ultimately, you need to ask, "can I trust Google?"

And I don't trust anyone with that much power.

[9.06 note: I thought I would get some comments, but nothing. So then I thought that people are just afraid to speak out against Google. But that's wrong. There are lots of sites where you can read about degrees of evil people attribute to Google. I don't any specific beef with Google like some people (here's a good link); in fact, they provide me with this nice place to post. But any organization that gets this big needs to be watched, if for nothing else but my self-preservation. Hell, I can be squashed when Google takes a dump, so I need to watch where I sit.]