IT TOOK JUST a week for Google to move from all-conquering hero to bad-ass villain.
Last week, the company founded on a single search algorithm was being lauded for standing up against the US administration’s Big Brother-style thirst for information on its own citizens. The only people then concerned that Google was refusing to open up its databanks to Government snoops were the shareholders, worried the impact of such a move may have on the fatness of their wallets.
This week, Google’s in the dock for daring to allow the authorities in China to control what can be seen on Google’s search pages from the within the People’s Republic. In standing up to the US (hurrah!) while kowtowing to the Chinese (boo!) Google has put itself in the glare of the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons. From here on it, can only get worse.
Ordinary folk who use Google to look stuff up are discovering that Google keeps a file on them. Media darling of the day is Californian Kathryn Hanson, who according to Katie Hafner in the New York Times, panicked after entering the phrase ‘rent boy’ into Google’s ubiquitous engine, after reading about failed UK Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Mark Oaten’s penchant for pairs of the aforementioned article. So close is Hafner to Hanson that she observed that latter turning “immediately” to her boyfriend, concerned that she could now be, “whisked away to some navy prison in the middle of the night”.
Hafner/Hanson was concerned over the US moves to get Google to cough up the search data. She may now be more concerned to learn that Google’s professed aim, according to its founders, is to know more about her than she herself does.
For the search favourite certainly likes to record users’ IP addresses. It also likes to employ a lifetime cookie what won’t expire until 2038. Users of the firm’s Gmail service will be aware that they are urged never to throw away a single email. Why? Well it may be of no practical use to the user to have to search – cumbersomely, we might add – through masses of saved mail to find the one or two that may be of some use. But it will be of commercial use to Google to build up a profile of your mailing habits over, say, thirty years. Oh. And is the email service tied to the search engine? Yup? Rent boy worries indeed.
So Google now has a problem on its hands, and one which will cause more shareholders to jump ship that those that already did so last week. For the public will begin not to trust it. No wonder Yahoo, having thrown in the towel as a web search outfit, has decided that it is back in with a shout.
Strange that Google, having risen so high has gotten itself in such a pickle. It’s done a Microsoft and outgrown its boots and begun to alienate its users. Unfortnately for it, the only way is down. Still, it likely has collected more data on individual web users than the CIA. And information, after all, is power – or so they say.
News source: Theinquirer