No vote

Whilst I entirely agree on Google’s position on Proposition 8 in California, the very act of Google coming out with a political opinion on an issue of this sort raises the question, again, of how comfortable we are with the power that Google has over our lives.

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but for many users – at both ends of the technology sophistication spectrum – the internet is essentially Google. Soon, users will be able to use the company’s products to do virtually all digital lifestyle tasks: from running their mobile phones, to the entire act of surfing the web, managing their emails, images and address book, to how they access maps, many of the tools they use to work and so on. All of that whilst the company has the best technology to sift through and make use of all of the data on the web.

And god knows what they’ve got coming up next. They could they go into the enterprise with server products (a key part of their success so far has been knowledge about building their own bespoke servers and datacentre architectures; they already have the appliance product).

That would give Google almost everything –  if they’ve not got it already – and with virtually no oversight. Do we honestly think that if Google took a side on the presidential race in the states that it couldn’t sway the vote. What about if they came out for Proposition 8? Just because we happen to agree with their position, doesn’t mean we should ignore the incredible power they have manage to gain virtually overnight. And the risk of that power being misused.

What will happen now if pro-Proposition 8 websites start slipping out of Google? How can the company claimit is not influencing the results? What about if they were to ban Californians who’d expressed a preference for the amendment from their free services?

I’m not saying it’s going to happen, or that anyone at Google has even considered it. The important fact is that it could happen, and I have no idea what could happen next if it did.

The fact that Google is benevolent is not  a necessary truth. We could wake up tomorrow morning and find it had ‘gone bad’, as we saw with the shock reaction to clearly overreaching clauses in the Chrome EULA.

Page and Brin won’t live forever*. And they may not stay righteous so long either. So perhaps we should all be having another look at Alta Vista 🙂

 

* Unless they find a way to, which is not wholly unlikely.

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Comments

  1. The Chrome EULA was an obvious mistake, and they corrected that.

  2. Well, Google has blocked pro-life ads before, but apparently they’ve changed their policy.

  3. @Jamnastic,
    Not only did they block pro-life ads, they also blocked pro-choice ads.

    Yes, it would be discrimination if google decided to deny a particular group service based on political or religious affiliation. However, they didn’t. They simply avoided controversy by not allowing pro- or anti- abortion ads at all.

    With respect to the OP, you said
    “if pro-Proposition 8 websites start slipping out of Google… if they were to ban Californians who’d expressed a preference for the amendment from their free services”
    That would be illegal. Although business owners have a right to deny service, doing so on the basis of prejudice is a serious crime. At the very least, there would be outrage and a class-action tort. There would probably be a public inquiry, and possibly criminal hearings.

    Yes, I’ll admit that google has a frightening hold on our everyday lives. I agree that there are serious issues at stake. But to suggest that google is actively engaging in illegal censorship of American citizens, or that they are prejudiced, is complete BS. They have certainly censored Chinese sites, but by the demands of the Chinese government. Essentially, it would be illegal to conduct business in a country without abiding by their laws, however unjust those laws might be. Because google is unwilling to loose its Chinese market, they followed the laws. Similarly, in the USA, google follows the laws.

    If it bothers you that google has taken a stand, then boycott google. That’s your right as a customer. But I’d say it’s libel to accuse google of discrimination, or other legal and ethical wrongdoings, where there have been none. And Google has not violated the will of the United States government.

    There’s absolutely no religious bias at google. The government was designed to provide for the freedoms of all citizens. It is defined as a secular institution. As such, by altering the law to change the definition of *civil* marriage to fit a purely religious viewpoint, the government would be violating its own mandate.

    Google is not pushing religious views. It’s not pushing political views. It’s just supporting the constitution, which declares the government to be secular, and declares all people to be equal, and respected.

    And frankly, having a president who makes his church-going habits a party-platform is pretty disgusting. I’m Christian. I have been for all 43 years of my life. But I don’t want a leader who can’t separate his private beliefs from public policy. If people will choose the path of the lord, they should choose it on their own terms, not on the basis of it being the only viable legal option.

    I had a neighbour and friend who I knew for many years. It took him about 5 years before he was willing to admit to me he was an atheist. And when the word got out, he lost his job. He was named Employee of the month in March, and before the month was over he was fired ‘as a result of efficiency evaluations’. Yeah, right.

    McCain and Obama are both Christians. But I’d never support either of them if they tried to influence PUBLIC policy based on PERSONAL religion. And that’s not the way of the lord.

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