Google: the new global superpower

October 16, 2008 at 2:00 am 1 comment

You know that I carry on about privacy issues. And regular readers will know that I am wary of Google and its StreetView (if not, check out the Google category on this blog). I came across two things this week that rather glaringly (for me anyway) demonstrated the tremendous power Google now has. In fact, a new book (Die Googlefalle or The Google Trap by Austrian author, Gerald Reischl) refers to Google as “..the world’s largest publisher, dealer, and registrar of information. But only very few users really know the US search engine has its finger in every pie.”

It is the most popular search engine on the planet. It has a market share of 95% in some European countries. Whole libraries and knowledge centres have been shut down because “anyone can just Google it”. I think there are many questions to ask about Google’s agenda. For example: I’ve blogged before about Google Health. Why is Google getting into handling sensitive health data to which God knows who could have access (Government, employers, immigration officials to name a few).

Check out this video (a bit dramatic due to the music) but it gets you thinking – what is Google really doing with all the user data it stores?

Also, check out this interesting redesign of Google, intended to highlight the privacy implications. Notice how stuff like iGoogle, Maps, Images, Gmail and so on has been replaced by Private Life, Sex Life, Finances, Political Views. You’ll see something already entered into the Search box. Go ahead and press Send and see what happens!

And yet, back in the early days of the dot.com era, Google looked rather innocent with its name in an ugly, garish font. To celebrate its 10th birthday, Google has just made available a version of its search engine from January 2001 (2001 being the earliest year it could generate an index for). Not so long ago really but most of the sites we are now very familiar with did not exist. If you searched for YouTube, you were taken to a site talking about medical feeding tubes. Facebook was still back in US colleges and Wikipedia was in its infancy. Do a search for Sarah Palin and you get zippo (mmm….can we go back to 2001 please?). ThinkingShift didn’t exist. Google Earth, Google Maps and StreetView didn’t exist.

And here’s an interactive timeline of Google’s history – did you know that Google was originally called BackRub?

Google has come a long way since 2001 and we’ve come to rely on applications like Google Maps. But what exactly IS Google’s agenda? Is Google really collecting knowledge about every user and the web? Is it becoming the world’s largest data dealer? Is it becoming an uncontrollable global power?

Image credit: The Age

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Entry filed under: Google, Privacy, Surveillance society. Tags: , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Luke Naismith  |  October 17, 2008 at 8:44 am

    And today, while looking through a site, I noticed a job vacancy for a Policy Counsel with Google here in Dubai. This sentence caught my eye – Keeping in mind the company’s commitment to making information universally accessible and useful, we promote policies that make the realization of this mission possible—a free and open Internet where communication and innovation can thrive and our users’ welfare is protected.
    I agree with your view about what are they doing with the data and the privacy implications, and who else may have access to it without my knowledge. This is where there is a need for consumer protection, privacy advocates, government (and international) regulation and innovative disruptive technologies.

    Reply

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