Google’s brush with the mole men of Broughton


Those interested in the implications of ‘private’ information being made accessible to ‘others’ via the World Wide Web, might be amused by Rod Liddle’s article in the Sunday Times today entitled “The mole men of Broughton put the brakes on Google“.

As he says, “And we should worry a bit about Google, too. It has a suspiciously smiling facade for one of the most powerful and wealthy companies in the world. “Don’t be evil” is its rather cringy message to employees; everybody wears casual clothing, they have days of the week when they can work on stuff which interests them and there’s probably a Red Nose Day every afternoon. At least, in the good old days, with Rio Tinto-Zinc and Lonrho, you knew where you stood; these big corporations didn’t pretend to be nice. Google, however, tells everyone not to be evil and then connives with the authoritarian Chinese authorities in the creation of a firewall to keep out all sorts of stuff that might annoy them. Meanwhile, the company knows more about you than any intelligence agency could dream of. Use any of Google’s services and, like it or not, as a consequence of the much-criticised cookies, your every internet movement will be logged.  All that’s missing, one critic said five years ago, is it doesn’t know precisely where you live . . .”.

This raises very important issues about:

  • the rights that companies, or indeed governments, have to information about individual citizens
  • the amount of information people have about the uses to which such information is put
  • whose interests are best served by making this information available
  • the rights that individuals have to protect information about them being used without their explicit permission

An earlier article in The Times of 3rd April entitled “Village mob thwarts Google Street view car” is also worth reading for background to the story

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Filed under Ethics, ICT4D

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