Monday, November 3, 2014

Google: Please Don't Be Evil

                                                 Compliments to
I'm a heavy user of Google.

Gmail got me hooked.  I had struggled with Outlook and the whole Microsoft networking/office world in a small ministry while the PC was maturing and Al Gore was inventing the internet.  The promise of lots of storage space and built in virus/spam protection for free lured me in.  And while I've never been in a situation where their paid Google Apps service made sense for me, I've sunk my digital roots deep into Google.

It is most definitely a love/hate relationship.

I have two big concerns.  Since Google is a private business they have the right to turn off my account at any time.  I don't agree with them on sodomy.  They have a legal written pro-sodomy policy.  Since America is becoming the world's leading exporter of sodomy-love, and Google is America's most well known brand ... well, you get the picture.  If not click here.

My second concern is the NSA.  While I don't mind personal-data-driven-advertising being presented to me as I use Google and surf the web, I am troubled by anyone's secret access to my data.  I am especially concerned about the government having access, but would not want anyone secretly sifting my inbox or browsing my Drive account.  Google says that it doesn't allow human eyes to view the data in accounts.  Supposedly, the data that they mine from their accounts is somehow depersonalized before it is sold to advertisers.  And computers are the only "eyes" that sort and sift the data.

I follow the Snowden development's as closely as I can.  He is a hero.  The issue for me is probable cause.  Nobody has a right to use or access my data without my permission.  Nobody.  And certainly no government.

I'm no lawyer.  But I'll wade in and share my opinion anyway.

The only exception in my mind is where there is probable cause.  In most cases where the government would need to claim probable cause I should be notified before the access is granted by the judge (I suppose suspicion of treason might be reason for the government to be able to secretly see what I'm up to).  I have the right to argue for the confidentiality of my data with my accuser present.  The burden of proof regarding their right to access my data rests with my accuser.  I am innocent until proven guilty.

That's the way it should be.  That, however, does not appear to be the way that it is.

A word that gets thrown around a lot in this debate is "metadata."  As I understand it this is sort of like an address.  It is data that points to an email, phone call or file.  It is not the file or data itself.  Governments argue they need access to all of the world's metadata so they can catch terrorists.

I doubt this is true.  I fear the overreach of government more than I fear "terrorism."  Life in a surveillance state terrifies me.

What I love about Google is the cost.  I give them the opportunity to sell depersonalized interests and search information about me to other private businesses.  In trade they give me access to their products.  As long as they are responsible I don't mind this trade off.  And occasionally an advertisement may actually be helpful.

I also marvel at the usefulness of their products.  The fact that they develop and change things after public release, instead of getting it "perfect" beforehand, can be annoying.  All software, however, is frequently changing, improving and developing.  The difference with Google is that they make stuff available at an earlier point in it's development than others.  I enjoy that aspect of using their stuff.

As I was writing this blog post this article showed up in Google News.  It is worth reading.

Larry Page told the reporter.
Looking forward 100 years from now at the possibilities that are opening up, he says: “We could probably solve a lot of the issues we have as humans.”
Is Google a business or a religion?

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