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.