Friday, 30 May 2014

Googols of Complaints

It is typical of Google that its very name was born of an ignorant mistake: not knowing how to spell ‘Googol’, and not bothering to look in a dictionary, the founders called it ‘Google’.

Google made ‘Google Earth’, which in many places allows one to zoom in closely enough to see, say, what make of car someone has in their drive. Far from taking account of the fact that many people consider this sort of thing an invasion of privacy, they then sent cars equipped with large cameras on their roofs to photograph people’s houses, in sufficient resolution to allow the identification of anyone who happened to be in the street, and made the results available to all with ‘Google Street View’. Next, it scanned and made available on the internet thousands of books, then fluttered its eyelids in innocence when informed that there were such things as intellectual property and copyright. Following prolonged litigation, instead of removing these works from the internet, they made it incumbent on copyright owners to go through a long and complex procedure to request individual removal.

Further litigation tells Google it has no right to provide internet links enabling anyone to find personal information, or indeed disinformation, which people may not wish to be made public. Again, instead of at once removing these links, Google has merely made it possible for people to request the removal, one by one, of any links they may find. I know, from occasionally Googling my own name, that even I, who am not at all well-known, have hundreds of link-containing entries on the internet, made without my permission by other people, including no doubt Google.

What can we do about this abuse? Not a lot it seems. Google is a large and powerful organization and is certainly found useful by the National Security Agency, the American state spying organization recently exposed by Edward Snowden, who has had his passport revoked and been branded a traitor and coward by the very people who proclaim America to be the ‘Land of the Free’. Google, for all its usefulness, has become, in collusion with the NSA, the world’s greatest threat to privacy and, ultimately, freedom.

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