Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Don't Be Evil. Just Do As We Say

First Google lost its virginity. Then it lost its innocence. And now, to add insult to injury, it's losing its coolness.

Google has joined the hordes of companies that employ the vermin of Capitol Hill: lobbyists. You can just see the famous motto "Don't Be Evil" hanging askew in a dark corner, in a cracked frame on a rusty nail. Cobwebs partially obscure your view of the statement that once proudly adorned Google's gleaming lobby.

The rationale for this move is evident: privacy is rapidly becoming a major issue, in the US as much as elsewhere. And Google is sitting squarely in the middle of it. It wants to organize and hence store and handle the world's information, much of which is of a personal nature. Pictures, videos, emails, your search and surfing behaviour, together they form an increasingly complete picture of your life.

Google (so far) has no design on all that data but others do, as the US Government is already showing. Other governments will follow, not all of them as democratic as you'd want. So will organized crime (see Anatomy of a phishing attempt).

Google is headed straight for a position in the middle of a tug of war between maintaining privacy and giving others access to private data. It is continually signalling its intention to handle this in the consumer's best interest.

So far, so good. But Google is also consistently indicating that it will figure out our best interests on its own, without others looking over their shoulders. Hiring lobbyists fits that picture. So far, not good enough any more.

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