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Is Google the Devil?

Bobby Travis

image I love a good conspiracy theory — they’re just fun, aren’t they? The other day, I read a lengthy article that describes 33 conspiracy theories that are apparently proven true. I tweeted about it. I also wrote a post on my Posterous and Tumblr accounts a few days ago expressing some annoyance at the country-based limitations in purchasing Google’s Nexus One. I wondered why, with all of Google’s power, they were apparently unable to sell the phone across the US border (I’m in Canada). That got me thinking about the power of Google in general, and the glaring distrust that many people hold them in.

Are they really trying to rule the world? Are they really trying to own the world’s information? Information is power after all, and Google has managed to get away with some things that no one really thought possible… Or maybe Google is really what they purport themselves to be: an innocent company that has only benevolent plans for the world at large; from easier computing, to more open access to technology for all, to goat-powered lawn management. Can we really trust Google? Are they watching me write this post right now?

I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know if I even want to know the answer to that, considering all of the Google services I, personally, use and even advocate. I do know that their privacy policy is, shall we say… loose? And if you do a search or three (on Google, even), you will find a multitude of articles and snippets as far back as the early part of this millennium questioning Google’s methods, policies and motives. The most common concerns seem to be:

Privacy issues

  • Who owns your data?
  • What is done with your data?
  • Why is their privacy policy so… fluid?
  • Are they tracking your every move across the web (and now the real world, too) — often in real time?

Do they manipulate search results?

  • Do they want to gather all of your activity and personality information, analyze it and serve you better search results or ads?
  • Do they flat out rig the results just for you, feeding you what they want you to see?

Why are they really collaborating with the Human Genome Project?

  • Is it really to share computing power, or is there some darker, deeper purpose?

Why do they need their own fiber-optic broadband network?

  • They apparently bought up a ton of dark (unused) fiber-optic cable that was laid in the overly-ambitious dot-com boom and then abandoned in the subsequent bursting of the bubble.

Why the major push for cloud computing and mobile computing?

  • Is this really to further the world of computing in general? Or is this just a way to get you and your data more firmly entrenched online, where you can be manipulated, advertised at, and more easily tracked?


And the big, pink elephant of all general questions…

Can we trust Google?

After all, information is power — and Google has a lot of it. Follow that through to the old adage of “Power corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely…” and there is definitely enough fodder there to give your sensibilities a pause. The Google services are generally so well thought out and comprehensive though! Easy to use and generally awesome, right? They make things look so spiffy and clearly beneficial on the surface… Some would argue that that in and of itself is proof that Google is the devil — or some other nefarious figure of evil. “That’s how they get ya,” they’ll say. And they’ll follow with commentary on the insidious nature of evil.

Again, I have no idea. I’m not even sure if I have a fully formed opinion on the subject — but history has taught us (no matter who wrote it) that there is generally an element of truth to most myths and conspiracy theories. Generally. Most.

So what do you think? Satisfy my curiosity on a more global scale. Is using the mega-company’s services really a nice walk through happy happy nice nice land? Or is it a walk down a shiny yellow path surrounded by lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), with a fake wizard and a wicked witch at the end? Bear in mind that this witch is likely water resistant and possibly employs countries instead of smelly monkeys with wings.


Update: Apparently Google has also just applied to be able to buy and sell energy… To lower their own energy costs, or some other, larger reason? What do you think?