We used to talk about the Yellow Peril, the threat of a world dominated by the Chinese with their ever-increasing population.
These days I feel the hot breath of Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Emerson Schmidt breathing down my neck. Because now it’s the Blue Green yellow and red peril as giant US advertising conglomerate Google tightens its octopus-like grip on, well, everything.
Ever since Google went online it’s scared the hell out of me.
It already has (strategically) or should I say tactically? placed offices in more than 40 countries around the globe.
Now it’s just announced his plans to build a Google Ghetto in Kings Cross, London England.
Following a £1bn property deal, it’s “ bought a 2.4 acre site at King’s Cross in north London and plans to build a seven and 11 storey complex”, says the BBC, adding:
“The US company will move staff from its two London offices in Victoria and Holborn to the new location when it is completed in 2016.”
Google recently announced its Google Sites was open to any registered user. And of course every time someone new signs up, its already enormous database of who and where is exponentially increased.
It used to be strictly for, “companies and organizations that wanted to use the service on their own domains,” said Google.
“Now we’ve made it easy for anyone to set up a website to share all types of information,” says the company, “team projects, company intranets, community groups, classrooms, clubs, family updates, you name it – in one place, for a few people, a group or the world. You can securely host your own website … and add as many pages as you like for free.”
This is one of the most frightening of Google’s many and various ways of gaining control of who does what online, at the same time scarfing up priceless personal information which, under different guises, ultimately finds its way back to Google’s clients and to any entity which has what Google, in its wisdom, decides (or can be convinced) has a legal call on the data.
And can you say Chrome?
A few people. A group. The world ……..
Google also came alarmingly close to becoming a repository for health information —- your or health information.
Not only but also, it officially launched a health advertising blog and for anyone with doubts about where its sympathies lie, “News reporters may focus on Pharma’s annual sales and its executives’ salaries while failing to share R&D costs,” it states adding:
“Or, as is often common, the media may use an isolated, heartbreaking, or sensationalist story to paint a picture of healthcare as a whole. With all the coverage, it’s a shame no one focuses on the industry’s numerous prescription programs, charity services, and philanthropy efforts.
“Many of our clients face these issues; companies come to us hoping we can help them better manage their reputations through “Get the Facts” or issue management campaigns. Your brand or corporate site may already have these informational assets, but can users easily find them?
“We can place text ads, video ads, and rich media ads in paid search results or in relevant websites within our ever-expanding content network. Whatever the problem, Google can act as a platform for educating the public and promoting your message.“
Through Gmail and Gchat, Larry, Sergei and Eric have a direct line on everyone you’re in touch with.
Google owns YouTube, through which a significant portion of the online world gets its video jollies and not-jollies, Feedburner, possibly the most used news feed management application, and Blogger, one of the largest blogging platforms.
And more. A lot more.
It even has a Public Policy unit through which it seeks ” to do public policy advocacy in a Googley way“.
If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will.
The writing is on the wall.
Google, accused of ongoing Net censorship along with other US majors such as Microsoft, Cisco and Yahoo, has decided to become a world political force.
Or should that be farce?
In its Google Public Policy blog, it’s even flaunting an official labelled Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs.
Says company Public Policy functionary Andrew McLaughlin >>>
At the beginning of 2005, I was Google’s lone public policy guy. Today, there’s a bigger — and growing — team of us scattered around the world, working on issues like privacy, child online safety, copyright and trademark protection, content regulation, reform of the patent system, and broadband policy. These issues are fundamental to the future of the Internet (and of the individuals it empowers), and are increasingly prominent on the agendas of policymakers worldwide.
There’s no mention of how McLaughlin and his growing team plan to operate in countries such as China with whom Google, et al, have prosperous business relationships which seem to violate all the principles of freedom of expression at every turn.
But why shouldn’t that be? After all, the entertainment cartels have long been interfering with international politics, particularly in China and Russia.
“We’re seeking to do public policy advocacy in a Googley way,” said McLaughlin.
A ‘Googley’ way?
He went on >>>
Yes, we’re a multinational corporation that argues for our positions before officials, legislators, and opinion leaders.
At the same time, we want our users to be part of the effort, to know what we’re saying and why, and to help us refine and improve our policy positions and advocacy strategies. With input and ideas from our users, we’ll surely do a better job of fighting for our common interests.
You may, he continues, be wondering why the blog contains two months’ worth of posts, “given that we’re only just now launching”. The answer? Google officially became politically conscious, “internally back in April” when it began to “limber up” its “blogging muscles”.
“Now that we’ve gone public we thought it’d be fun to share our earlier internal posts,” he says. “In the weeks and months ahead, expect to hear more from us on issues like net neutrality, censorship, innovation regulation, immigration, R&D, national security, and trade, just to name a few. All of the members of Google’s global public policy team will be contributing posts (or else – right, team?).”
There is, you’ll notice, merely a glancing reference to censorship which is, undoubtedly, among the most contentious of issues involving Google and public policy not only in America, but everywhere Larry and Sergey have an established presence.
Back in 2004, I spoke with ‘Do No Evil’ Google spokeswoman Debbie Frost, who denied claims that its Chinese service was censoring news, saying, among other things, “to create the best possible news search experience for our users, we sometimes decide not to include some sites, for a variety of reasons”.
And Google blogged, “We also considered the amount of information that would be omitted. In this case it is less than two percent of Chinese news sources.”
Only two percent? No problem, then. And that particular blog is no longer online.
Google’s help entry on censorship used to read:
Google does not censor results for any search term. The order and content of our results are completely automated; we do not manipulate our search results by hand. We believe strongly in allowing the democracy of the web to determine the inclusion and ranking of sites in our search results.
This was changed to:
It is Google’s policy not to censor search results.
It then it went on in the same breath:
However, in response to local laws, regulations, or policies, we may do so.
Google Blogoscoped’s Google Censorship FAQ gives chapter and verse on Google’s censoring policies.
In the meanwhile, “We hope this blog will serve as a resource for policymakers around the world – including legislators, ministers, governors, city council members, regulators, and the staffers who support them – who are trying to enact sound government policies to foster free expression, promote economic growth, expand access to information, enable innovation, and protect consumers,” says McLaughlin, adding with charming modesty:
“We also hope (cliche alert) that this blog will promote real conversation, so we’ve enabled comments.”
I’ve tried to give a glimpse how one huge American advertising firm has been able to brainwash the world into believing it has our very best interests at heart.
But like all corporations everywhere, it answers only to shareholders and investors.
So every time you do a Google search, remember you’re giving it a little bit more power.
Unless we want to wake up to a day when Google is calling all the shots, we need to do something.
In a non-googly way.
Or is it already too late?
Jon Newton — myblogdammit
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