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The Critical Path #108: Chief Magical Officer

With new ChromeOS and Chromebook data, Horace returns us to the topic of Google. How do they define and view their customers, products, and businesses? Who actually serves whom? What user data is collected, how is it used, and why?

via 5by5 | The Critical Path #108: Chief Magical Officer.

  • stefnagel

    Wow. Great takeaways. My interpretations, not Horace’s words.

    Customers are the ones who hand over the cash. Google’s customers are advertisers, not users.

    News to me: Google is owned and run by two guys, unaccountable to board or normal business checks and balances.

    What motivates Google efforts? Might it just be the whims of these two guys? Is that a good thing? What happens when management inevitably changes? Can a great organization be based on whims?

    Is Google on a pedestal? Absolutely. Why do we trust it to do no evil? What are its priorities? Merely to do no evil? By whose reckoning? Two guys and what side of the bed they get out of on a given day?

    Are we comfortable with Google collecting data today and figuring out what to do with it tomorrow? That is, putting process ahead of priorities or principles?

    How much magic and magical thinking are we comfortable with?

    Citizens of other countries do not have the protections of legal process that we have in the US. That’s what scares and angers them about NSA surveillance.

    • obarthelemy

      Handful of remarks:

      – The customer question is thorny. I was told in marketing 101 that the customer is the one who eventually destroys your product. But then Marketing 102-155 added purchasers, decision makers, payers, presciptors… and, well, intangible goods… Are the customers of TV programmes and the press the viewers/readers or the advertisers ?

      – How is Google a monopoly ? There are alternative mobile OSes, each and every of their online products has several competitors, even their ad business is far from alone. Also, it’s a listed company, so most of the usual regulatory processes, checks and balances do apply, even though close ownership does warp things a bit. Strong leadership can be good, though. I’d argue it mostly is good.

      – Google are on no pedestal. They just haven’t yet been caught doing evil stuff like MS (monopoly, ISO process subversion, embrace-extend-extinguish…) , and Apple (holding it wrong, masquerading as police officers, playing dumb about malware, working conditions…) have, so they still have the benefit of the doubt.

      – As for Google’s motivation, it’s a corp., so it’s: making money. For now they seem to think that 2 of the main ways to do that are to get more people online in an ecosystem where they (Google) have access to what’s going on; and to push IT everywhere (cars, glasses,…).

      – It’s not only Google collecting data. It’s the government, other corporations (MS, Apple, FB, DropBox…), even individuals. Security vs Privacy (I feel that tradeoff is a bit fake, isn’t government often part of the insecurity ?), and Money vs Personal info. It’s still possible to live in a Google-free world, but nobody wants to.

      – quite a few countries have *more* legal protection, both theoretical and in practice, than the US. What embitters US “allies” about NSA surveillance is being treated like suspects by default, and the suspicion that a wide swathe of economic espionage is also taking place, on top of the security and political kinds, that last one also being an issue.

      • Kizedek

        Ah, there you are; and revealing yourself as quite the Google apologist with this post (though there was always little doubt).

        “- Google are on no pedestal. They just haven’t yet been caught doing evil stuff like MS (monopoly, ISO process subversion, embrace-extend-extinguish…) , and Apple (holding it wrong, masquerading as police officers, playing dumb about malware, working conditions…) have, so they still have the benefit of the doubt.”

        That point, for one, conveniently overlooks a lot of Google “offenses”. For example, the privacy concerns that Google is currently being investigated for by a number of European countries; collecting private wifi data with its cars; working around the privacy settings in Safari and claiming it knows best…

        It’s all rather like trying to be careful about the food products that one buys for your family and consumes, only to find that most things contain genetically modified ingredients anyway, and that there is not much you can do about it. Monsanto or whoever, is supposed to be “ostensibly” good, acting in good faith and solving real world “problems”… only, we find out there is no turning back, little farmers disappear or get sued for seeds blowing onto their properties, the new seeds are infertile, we don’t know the real effect on our health or ecosystems… It just kind of begins to stink after a while — like Google and its influence.

        And one reason it does stink is brought out in these articles: for all its pervasiveness (the extent of which we still don’t understand), Google is far less transparent than one would think. While, despite its renowned secrecy, Apple is far more open and transparent about the actual areas — including manufacturing — where real accountability is needed and should be expected.

      • obarthelemy

        Yes, I’m incredibly biased, which is why I don’t equate “being under investigation for privacy concerns” and “XX people died making my products, but we’ve got anti-suicide fences now so we’re good” or even “that guy the courts forced on us after we got caught is bothering us”.

      • marcoselmalo

        Very disingenuous to bring in the suicide matter, since it has been debunked as a false issue. Suicide rate at Foxconn is something like 1/8 the national rate, and one half the U.S. national rate. Furthermore, deeper investigations have suggested that some of those committing suicide were having personal problems or had pre existing mental conditions.

        If you are going to get righteously indignant about Apple, find a valid issue that has not been debunked. I assure you they exist, but “third world slave labor” is not one of them.

      • simon

        obarthelemy

        By that you mean the suicide at a Samsung-owned factory less than a year ago?

        http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/news/new-455.html

        Or the Samsung contract worker who committed suicide a few months ago in protest to Samsung’s treatment of contract workers?

        https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/55394

        Or those Samsung factory workers committed suicide in 2011?

        http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/01/117_79652.html

        Speaking of price fixing, Samsung has been involved many of them over the years. Do a search.

        I personally find it almost tasteless that you’re trying to equate those issues. The suicide and how the factory workers are treated is a much more complicated and serious issue that’s not just about Apple but about the general human rights and how economies are operated with much nuance and dilemmas. It’s not really a weapon to be used to back up your bias especially the side you’re cheering on has even worse record on it.

      • obarthelemy

        Samsung is Google ?

      • simon

        obarthelemy

        I guess I have to spell it out for you. Working condition has very little to do with Apple, in fact the factories aren’t even owned or managed by Apple. It’s an industry wide problem with any modern mass manufacturing facility in the region.Samsung is an excellent example since they suffer from all the same problems as Foxconn but you don’t hear about Samsung’s suicide problems because nobody cares.

        here you’re trying to make it sound as if the “working condition” is a problem caused by, or specific to Apple. It’s not. If anything Apple is arguably much more proactive in remedying the issues.

      • http://aaplmodel.blogspot.com/ Daniel Tello

        Foxconn is Apple?

      • obarthelemy

        Were they making FoxPhones ?

      • http://aaplmodel.blogspot.com/ Daniel Tello

        Are you from Standpoint Research?

      • marcoselmalo

        Good to see you, O, and Happy New Year! I appreciate a pro Google viewpoint so long as you refrain from the obtuse. Contrary viewpoints, expressed intelligently, help us avoid the excesses of the echo chamber.

        I’ll try to address your points one by one. First point: in the commercial broadcast model, advertisers are the customers and viewers are viewers (or listeners). Broadcast networks promise access to broad target demographics. Example: Males 18 – 40 years old. Google offers the same basic service with certain innovations; they have much more granular control of target audiences offered for sale which is presumably more effective or efficient. More bang for the buck. So long as Google is above board in their user data collection, there is no reason to fault this.

        Google effectively has a monopoly in Search. In itself this is not “bad” or illegal. What they do with that monopoly power is the pivot, and why they draw the attention of antitrust regulators, but so far they haven’t garnered the same attention that Microsoft did. Regulators don’t seem to think that Google has crossed the line anti competitively; any abuses get corrected voluntarily.

        So, Google has never attained the status “Convicted Monopolist” as MS did, nor have they hindered or harmed the internet as MS did with Internet Explorer and the “embrace and extend” strategy. This doesn’t mean they have clean hands, however. I really don’t want to get into all the negative behavior Google has exhibited, but if you really want examples, I will provide them.

        Yes, Google is a profit motivated company, but with the stated philosophy that they can make profits without doing evil and possibly doing some good. Their actual record on this is quite mixed and many of us find the claim hypocritical.

        It is unfair to claim that Google is collaborating with the government without proof, especially since Google seems to oppose it as best it can within legal channels. There are claims Google could do more, that it can engage in civil disobedience, but that is unclear at best. It goes back to the question of to which interests is Google most beholden. Shareholders? The public interest? The same goes for other companies unfairly accused of helping the NSA.

      • obarthelemy

        I googled it (which is funnily recursive):
        – Google have 33% of Web advertising (http://mashable.com/2013/08/28/online-ad-revenues/).
        – for search, Google have a 67% share (http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2244472/Google-Once-Again-Claims-67-Search-Market-Share)

        Not a monopoly.

      • marcoselmalo

        Fair enough. Also to be fair, that is 67% in the U.S. Market. World wide? I would assume it is lower.

        So monopoly is an overstatement. Certainly we can say Google dominates the search market, but no further. Who are the credible challengers, if any? Facebook?

      • charly

        Google has a near monopoly in search in almost all countries except Russia, USA and China

      • http://sumocat.blogspot.com Sumocat

        “- As for Google’s motivation, it’s a corp., so it’s: making money.” — Corporations are controlled by shareholders. In most major corporations, shareholders are so numerous and desires so diverse that their one common goal is making money.

        Google, on the other hand, is controlled by three people: Page, Brin and Schmidt with combined 64% voting power.
        http://money.cnn.com/2013/06/17/technology/google-stock-split/

        Clearly not as numerous nor as diverse as the controlling parties of other major corporations and, based on what we know about them, I highly doubt their goal is as pedestrian as making money.

      • http://sumocat.blogspot.com Sumocat

        “- Google are on no pedestal. They just haven’t yet been caught doing evil stuff…” — More accurately, most people haven’t wised up to the moral ambiguity of their mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Pretty sure we are part of the world and, therefore, our personal information counts as part of the “world’s information”. I have yet to hear an argument explaining why making that data “universally accessible and useful” is not evil.

      • stefnagel

        Best not feed this troll. He just likes to see his name in fights.

  • Christian Peel

    I would love to understand more about Google. Even so, it feels like they’re going to be in the process of *being* disrupted in the future, rather than doing the disruption. I’d enjoy a show which focuses on startups which are explicitly trying to disrupt a current industry. For example, get an executive from Coinbase, AirBnB, or Uber on and talk with them.

    • stefnagel

      Google may recede slowly as its search and sell business is appropriated bit by bit, by Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Facebook. And it is. Maybe more importantly, why would China and other countries where it is not a presence let Google dominate, as it does in the US?

      • marcoselmalo

        A good example of this is G+, which has not been an unqualified success for Google. G+ is a poster child for skating towards where the puck is, not where it is going.

        Meanwhile, all sorts of little apps and services are carving their niches from social, making Facebook itself less used and less relevant.

        In fact, Apps on mobile represent a move away from web based services, which hurts Google in terms of their data collection. (This was the source of the disagreement with Apple that led to the whole maps kerfluffle.) Apps on the whole make Google’s advertising business less valuable.

        This is how Apple is hurting Google’s business, even if Apple isn’t trying to compete in online advertising. This is the disruption of Google’s business that they tried to head off with Android.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      Speaking with an entrepreneur is like speaking with a young athlete. They can only tell you that when they kick the ball it ends up in the net. Knowing why it ended up there requires talking to a retired athlete (preferably a coach.) (Put another way: most startups are not self-aware.)

      • Christian Peel

        Thanks, that’s a great comment and feedback. It doesn’t have to be an entrepreneur, it could be an industry observer or academic who could talk about new market disruption by startups such as those mentioned.

  • WFA67

    Very much enjoyed this. It reflects my own sense of something potentially “off,” as exemplified by Google’s negatively pitched “mission statement.” (The unconscious doesn’t grok the “no,” processing only the “evil.”) And you used the word “creepy.” Yes…

    In my opinion, Moises serves his show well by keeping his comments to an absolute minimum. Once you get going, Horace, having another voice interject itself can feel to me like a cop throwing stop sticks in front of a speeding vehicle. The quality, curiosity, and depth of your thinking in the moment needs, in my opinion, very free rein.

    Thanks to both of you for a consistently stimulating show.

    • azazello

      I think you are on the right path (pun intended) with grok but the unconscious is not an agent of processing but a source of urges, therefore “do no evil is” the obfuscating denial of the possible intention wrapped in the adage but stripped naked if you listen and know that the unconscious does not know the difference. Arbeit macht frei—another familiar sadistic obfuscation… The creepy quality comes precisely from the sense of being lured into a trap that positions itself as a source of empowering, forward-looking, enlightened but one has the vague sense that its opposite is true and the master is masquerading as a futurist social reformer enslaving the subject whose role is to submit and enjoy the illusion of freedom and perspective.

      • azazello

        I will have to say this to amend my post: science and IT of Babel has nothing to say about ethics, esthetics and transcendence. To say it in a different way: they are amoral in the best/worst way of our sensibilities. And please, do not be surprised that you are creeped out as if you have never heard of the post-modern. Welcome to our humanity…

    • Moisés Chiullan

      I appreciate the compliment (which others might misconstrue as “never talk, you idiot!”, but I don’t). Over the course of my run on the show, what I’ve tried to focus on most is getting a feel for what Horace wants to discuss, and trying to implement some devil’s advocacy where appropriate and keep track of threads he’s mentioned in the past. Sometimes, a more conversational back-and-forth works, but more often than not, Horace is as in his writing, a virtuoso commentarial with need for minimal (but precise) editing and guidance.

  • blenheimorange

    Worryingly opaque Google financial compared to that of Apple makes me think something is very wrong with the Wall street valuation of these companies. I expect the penny will drop for investors, under pressure from Bing and Apple, we’ll quickly see a reversal in valuations in these companies.

    • marcoselmalo

      What pressure does Bing bring to bear on Google?

      Personally, I use it (it’s the default on the Safari browser on the iPad), but I have seen no indication that it is anything like a major threat that will affect Google’s stock price.

      • blenheimorange

        While I agree that Bing does not have the polish and acceptance enjoyed by Google, it presents a working alternative to the core business that sustains the search monopolist. What if the public mood was to turn against Google? They are looking rather creepy these days.

      • charly

        Search is the core business of Google but not its core money maker

        It is like Microsoft and its core business, software development tools. It is were the company excels in but not were they make their money directly

    • http://sumocat.blogspot.com Sumocat

      Google’s financials do not need to be transparent. Though it is publicly traded, Page, Brin and Schmidt wield majority voting control (64%) through a dual-class stock system.
      http://money.cnn.com/2013/06/17/technology/google-stock-split/

      All Wall Street needs to know is that Google is looking ahead to the future with wearables that “suggest” things to buy and robot cars that can “suggest” destinations, in addition to their “Death Star” power to destroy a site’s traffic with the press of a button. No one wants to be cut out of that pie.

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        “We want to ensure that our corporate structure can sustain these efforts and our desire to improve the world”. The tragedy here is that those who wrote these words don’t realize how frightening they sound.

  • marcoselmalo
  • Tim Sweetman

    Nitpick: it’s “don’t be evil”, rather than “do no evil”. (Worth picking, this nit in my opinion. For one thing, “don’t be evil” is less constraining – you can occasionally do evil things inadvertently – and the connotations seem to me very different).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_be_evil

  • Tim Sweetman

    Analogy/metaphor: Google is a whale. It lives by sieving data from the sea in bulk. Periodically, it rises to the surface, and inhales advertising revenue through its blowhole. It’s very intelligent, and sings enigmatic songs that confuse and transfix those who hear them. It couldn’t be so big, or so intelligent, if it wasn’t for its huge size – and it attains that size by bypassing the rest of the food chain, being able to subsist on plankton, trivia, and search queries. If you cut off its oxygen, it would die. If you reduce its ability to gather data, it would be out-competed by other creatures.

    Sometimes, an oxygen molecule gets into an argument with some algae about which of them is the customer of the whale. “Customer” is a landlubber concept, redolent of sealing wax, cabbages, grocers, and the school of thought that says the best thing to do with a whale is cook it and monetise it as whaleburgers. The oceans are vast, and have weird economics. (huge economies of scale, marginal costs which asymptote to zero)

    Meanwhile, on the shore, people are walking their dogs. Economists see the dogs, and leads, and conclude that the motivation of a dog is to stay within the extent of its lead. Dogs, happily, don’t care what economists think, as long as they provide food or throw things.

    • http://miniver.blogspot.com/ Jonathan Korman

      Nicely said. It is a mistake to confuse Google for a normal corporation.

      My analogy:

      Many people think that Google gives away free ice cream in order to enable their spoon business. But actually, Google is selling spoons in order to fund their free ice cream project.

      My other analogy:

      If the tech industry is like medieval Europe, with profit-seeking corporations analogous to principalities all competing with each other, then Google is the Church. It is easy to confuse the Church with a principality: it owns land, builds big stone buildings, employs guys in robes in those big buildings. But a cathedral is not a castle, a priest is not a knight, and the Church’s relationship with principalities is not competition but something stranger and more complex, making it more like part of the environment in which the principalities operate.

      Google has a Mission. I’m not entirely sure what it is. I’m not entirely sure that Google is entirely sure what it is, either ….

    • Padova44

      Yes, Google survives only by algaerithms.

  • Anirudh

    Interesting discussion. A few points:
    1. The discussion on Google doing something evil with your data is probably not fully thought out. There are free & viable alternatives to every Google product, so no one is forced to use Google products. In fact, Google makes it really easy to download and delete all your data from Google servers – which no other company does. If Google loses user trust, it could rapidly lose users, and thus most of its value. Google, more than any other company in the world, stands to lose by mistreating user data. That is the incentive to treat user data with respect.

    2. The discussion on measuring a product’s success was also interesting. You talk about what the right metrics for success are – are they revenue, users, CTR or something else. Later in the show, you also talk about Apple being motivated to ‘delight users’. I would imagine that’s a much harder metric to measure. I’m not arguing that one is right and the other is not, i’m just saying that measuring success is hard, period. And i would imagine that Google & Apple (and a few other companies) use very similar measures of success – surrounding user engagement and satisfaction.

    3. Products for advertisers. Google builds tons of products & services for advertisers, holds multiple training sessions every day and has some of the best insights & analysis tools for advertisers. They don’t get talked about because they aren’t sexy to tech blogs, but they are the reason so many advertisers trust Google.

    • berult

      Accountability.

      You buy an iPhone, and the whole of Apple inhabits the very fabric of it. The integrity of the iPhone wholly reflects the integrity of Apple; both, at once and on the spot, stand to be perceived, assessed, and acted upon without prejudice to alternate propositions. You actually buy…what you instinctively aim to pay for.

      A ready-to-market iPhone adds up to the organic substance of a business philosophy. Accountability-wise, down-current from CEO onto Board onto shareholders, upstream from open metrics to fourth and fifth estates to an auditing market square, an iPhone shows off, on purpose, way more than the sum of its parts; its very soul transpires.

      Google, and Amazon for that matter, as had been the case with Microsoft a generation ago, convolutes, obfuscates, hides-and-seeks, seeks-and-hides, apart-hides, gives-and-takes, takes-and-gives…till its very soul expires. Wall Street-Geek Street territory.

      Accountability of Function leads to Transparency of Form. And an enlightened commercial transaction. Integrity sells in the absolute. Opacity sells in all relativity.

      • Anirudh

        How does an iPhone show off the fabric of Apple any more than how Google Search (or Google Maps, or any other product) shows off the fabric of Google?

        I think you’re confusing the products that these companies build with financial statement transparency (which is what Horace was talking about). I agree that Apple displays greater financial transparency than either Google or Amazon, but that’s a choice, and not a reflection of product philosophy.

      • berult

        When you buy into Google Search, Google Maps, or any other mainstay Google product, would you posit the price of these flagship products to be ethically transparent to the buyer?

        Beyond ‘balance Sheet’ transparency lies transparency of intents.

        There, should sit the pillars of an ‘honest-to-goodness’ commercial transaction. Or any human interaction. Google, to me, honey pots and all, traffics in behavioral flesh. Market-driven for the buyer, the data consumer, honey naught for the ‘traffickee’, potentially me, and a closet return on investment for the trafficker, Google…in all its plain-view aura.

        Google’s running wild, …a geek saddling an unbridled sense of entitlement. Think Wozniak without Jobs’ unrelenting focus on the ‘job-to-be-done’ leitmotiv, …with the power to cue and to queue social narratives to his heart’s content.

        Is Rome burning yet…

      • Anirudh

        You’re making a few points: you are arguing that the average customer of Apple understands better about how Apple makes money than the average customer of Google does. That’s fair and I agree with you. You are extrapolating that to question the honesty of the products built by Google, and that’s probably not fair. The analogy of human trafficking to targeted advertising is grasping at straws.

        I think Google honestly believes that it can provide a superior experience if it knows its customer, and Google Now is a great example.

        Another argument you make is your Woz vs Jobs analogy and claim that Google run by geeks who don’t understand ‘job-to-be-done’. I would argue that you would have to be even more user focussed when your product is free and the ‘cost’ to switch away from it (eg: Google search to Bing) is negligible. I am not doubting Jobs’ focus and intuition (i’m a fan), but i think you’re underestimating Google’s.

      • berult

        A geek left alone with oneself, and with near limitless means at one’s disposal, will be naturally inclined to deal with the world around with a hacker’s mindset. If only to break free from laymen’s artificial, alienating barriers to full geeky expression.

        If not reined in by in-house, constructive humanism, human nature, as expressed in its geeky version, will deconstruct what is more than the some of its parts into an easily assembled, hence easily manipulated whole of functional parts.

        And the ‘more’, the soul, the little…the transcendent ‘je ne sais quoi’ of any creative endeavor, so hard to seize in prose, let alone in algorithm, simply and conveniently evaporates in the process.

        I do not underestimate Google. They’re best dealt with what they try so resourcefully to annihilate within their data sets: the unpredictable, the rebellious soul, well protected in my case by a moat of poetry, the offsetting power of poetic justice.

        Google plays God…such as errand mind seeks to hack a frame. Over my dead, under zealous poetry.

  • Dave Rogers

    The lack of transparency that concerns me is what is Google doing in its data centers with all that data?

    The standard disclaimer/defense is that no actual person “sees” the data, only Google algorithms do. But how do we know that?

    When Google Now gets sophisticated enough to suggest a more discreet motel to a congressman or a business regulator to rendezvous with their lover on their birthday, with a pre-ordered bottle of their favorite wine, we should be worried.

    All Google’s apologists are essentially saying is that we should just trust Google, going so far as to create bizarre metaphors to obfuscate what is really just another corporation doing what all corporations do: making money. Every corporation wants to have some positive notion of its identity, but those notions have no bearing on its actions when it comes to achieving its aims. Apple contracted with Chinese manufacturers with less than humane labor practices. For all its shiny goodness, Apple didn’t really get involved in altering those practices until it was held accountable by the press and organizations that could observe and report what was going on, and call Apple to account. The same can be said for the environmental impact of its products. The deficiencies could be observed and reported, and Apple could be held accountable.

    Who holds Google accountable? What is Google doing in its data centers?

    Enron would never cook the books. Arthur Anderson would never allow Enron to cook the books. Exxon would never let a drunk drive a supertanker. Goldman Sachs would never bet against their own investors. The list goes on.

    When Google learned (if they didn’t already know) that Patraeus and his lover shared a Gmail account to communicate, can anyone really believe a bunch of corporate brains didn’t go, “Hmmmmm…” and see how many other accounts might be similarly configured and show similar activity? You know, just in case they had to tweak “the algorithm.” Because I sure would.

    Maybe they didn’t. But how would we know?

    If you’re Larry Page, and you’re already on record being frustrated and skeptical of government, how do you not structure a query of your vast data warehouse that shows you the political or other vulnerabilities of your adversaries? It’s unreasonable to believe they wouldn’t try to use those resources to further their agenda.

    You create a third party cut-out corporation, say an industry “alliance” of some kind, and then feed politically damaging data to their lobbyists, who then approach problematic Senators and Representatives and secure their cooperation on legislation that affects your ability to make money. Or, achieve your “mission.” To save the world. Or whatever.

    Even if congressman didn’t use Google’s products and services, information can be gathered, inferred from staffers who do, family members, service providers, lobbyists who meet with them, random people who note seeing them. They’re all potentially under surveillance at all times.

    We should just “trust” Google that they’re not?

    The same can be said for Facebook as well.

    Long before Snowden, I’ve said that if Google didn’t exist, the NSA would have to invent it. I was at a loss to understand why Google was being allowed to gather so much data with so little interest/oversight from Congress. I believed Google was somehow involved with the NSA, and that shielded it from Congressional oversight. That now appears to be incorrect. But it remains puzzling why such a vast data gathering effort by a corporation has garnered so little scrutiny from government. Perhaps NSA did shield Google without Google’s knowledge, who knows?

    But what sane person thinks it’s a grand idea to allow an unaccountable corporation access to these vast amounts of information on everyone? What historical precedent exists that assures us this power won’t be abused? There is none. It will be abused. It may be being abused right now, and how would we know?

    What is Google doing in its data centers? How can we observe that? How do we hold them accountable? We don’t know. We can’t.

    What is Google doing in their data centers?

  • poke

    I think part of the problem – which, for some reason, is rarely discussed – is that Google has an inordinate amount of control over the media. They control the means of access and the source of revenues. On top of that, as if their position wasn’t already problematic enough, they’re very aggressive about courting the press. This creates a situation where everything Google does is inflated. What we have here is a company that makes money through ad-based search – easy enough to understand – but gets to dictate what people write about it more than most companies.

    Let me put this another way: Everybody knows Microsoft is the rather staid Windows and Office company. But if you worked for Microsoft, breathed that culture and were caught up in its enthusiasm, you’d probably see Microsoft in a very different way. A constant, exciting churn of innovation, new iniatives and reorganisations, each one backed by a stream of internal propaganda. The difference with Google is that we’re all breathing its culture. Google’s company bulletin board is Forbes, the WSJ, etc. This makes them look very erratic and strange (but exciting).