Should We be Afraid of Google?

Why would anyone be afraid of Google? I mean, just look at their logo! It’s so colorful and whimsical. Their laid back employees get cheap massages at the office, awesome stock options, free gourmet food, and promise to “do no evil.” Whenever we need anything, and I mean anything online, Google saves us SO much time and effort by giving us the best Internet search results around. They’re so great. They even have an emerging philanthropic branch of the corporation that’s working to fight climate change. Sounds the perfect model of a socially responsible, non-threatening business, right?

Not exactly.

Despite the image of Google portrayed by the MSM, Google’s sheer power as a media and advertising business can be destructive. Consider this: Just a couple months ago, Google bowed to Chinese pressure to censor speech among dissidents in that nation by altering its search results. According to the Financial Times:

A Chinese scholar who -challenged the communist government by setting up a democratic opposition party has vowed to sue US internet company Google for excising his name from its local search results.

Guo Quan’s condemnation of Google comes amid a renewed drive by Chinese authorities to clamp down on dissent ahead of the Beijing Olympics that has seen the arrest of Hu Jia, one of China’s best-known human rights activists…

…“To make money, Google has become a servile Pekingese dog wagging its tail at the heels of the Chinese communists,” Mr Guo wrote in an open letter announcing his plan to sue the US search company.

We didn’t hear much about this in the states, did we? Sounds a little bit like evil to me. Worse, Google’s troublesome actions are not limited to how they operate in foreign nations. In The Search, author John Battelle gives us a striking example of how even minor changes to Google’s search algorithm can make or break a small businesses here in America. If we are to accept Battelle’s argument that the problem of organizing and searching for the world’s information is only 5 percent solved, it would seem reasonable to me that these problems will only get worse as Google’s ability to search, store, and deliver information improves. Especially worrisome to me is their recent effort to store and share our personal medical information. Although Google is doing very well financially today, would they further compromise their “do no evil” values in the future in response to dire economic situations? After all, Google is a business. Wouldn’t they adapt and perhaps sell personal information in the future just to survive as a company if needed?

One final example regarding the influence of Google. Just a couple of weeks ago, I experienced first-hand the power of Google’s Page Rank. Bored on a Saturday morning, I decided to post a few links on this blog to live Internet coverage of the Democratic National Committee’s rules committee meeting. Not long after posting (maybe 20 minutes or so), I discovered a HUGE spike in traffic to my blog. After reading my referrers log, I learned that the reason I had such a huge jump in traffic was because my blog was the number one Google search result for “DNC meeting live feed.” A few days later, I noticed another spike in traffic. Turns out, that occurred after this post became the number two search result for the words “machine making place.”

I think that’s what people call “Google Juice.”


2 Responses to “Should We be Afraid of Google?”

  1. June 18, 2008 at 10:35 am

    The same thing happened to me when I blogged a couple months ago about a new Burger King commercial whose music sounded dead on like the Final Fantasy theme. Even now, my post is still the second result for “Burger King Final Fantasy.” Of course, that’s the only time I’ve ever seen a spike like that, so I’m obviously only half as cool as you are.

  2. June 18, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Half as cool is being generous, I think. But I’ll give it to you.

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