Google and privacy

Mike’s blog

The point is that, regardless of how it eventually manifests itself, the incentives for Google are really skewed here. I would suggest refraining from using Google’s services much (especially with the same Google Account on all services) until they revise their privacy policy and stop storing all this information about you. But here is a situation where we, the ordinary people of the Internet, can actually organize to change the incentives for Google and force them to seriously respect our privacy. Lawrence Lessig, for example, seems to me to be a good force for this sort of organizing.

Just one more point I really need to mention. While the unofficial motto is “don’t be evil”, the official objective of Google is nearly as famous, and much more portentous: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. This sounds really wonderful, and in many ways it is, but it’s not a value-neutral statement. Information is power, so democratizing information is in fact democratizing the world, which is something I generally support. But real democracies inevitably contain some pretty serious inequalities, and combining these inequalities with democratizing too much information can lead to some pretty awful outcomes. A famous example is the idea of the Panopticon, the creepiness of which is dramatized most effectively for me by the one-way TV screens in 1984. If all the world’s information is successfully indexed, but any inequalities exist in access to this information, then the panopticon becomes possible.

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