Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Problem with Google

It would be easy to just post this article on Google's seeming intellectual property grab with the comment "don't be evil" and leave it alone, but it really looks like a good faith attempt to preserve Google's ability to manage its services without getting tied up in a nightmare of lawsuits.

I agree that it's probably drawn a bit too broadly, but it's really not that big a deal.  The legal team overreached a little.  Roll it back.  Move on.

And this is the problem with Google

"Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."  There's an inherent tension between that mission and the rights of individuals to both their private data and their intellectual property. 

A good example of this would be Google's ill-fated attempt to digitize millions of books and make them available online.  This would be fantastic news for bibliophiles like yours truly, making literally billions of pages of rare or out of print books available online for free.  It's perfectly in line with Google's mission statement, and it has the added bonus of democratizing information flow.  And it's terrifying for anyone who makes a living on books.

Another example is the recent "slap on the pinkie" fine Google got for collecting sensitive information, including web histories and passwords, from personal wifi networks with its StreetView cars.  A national wifi map would be an incredibly useful thing to have, especially if it's constantly updated by a roving fleet that just happens to be out there mapping roads anyway.  Google only snooped on networks which weren't password protected; it's not like anybody got hacked.  And it's terrifying for everybody who owns a router.

There are plenty of other examples.  Plenty.

A company built on information management requires trust to continue being successful, and small missteps, even those made in good faith, reverberate when made by a company so intricately tied up in our daily lives.

The problem with Google is that there are too many small missteps made in good faith.


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