Really, Google?

Photo: Mads 5 Credit: T. Rolf
Photo: Mads 5 Credit: T. Rolf

Google co-founder Sergey Brin gave an interview to the Guardian UK this past weekend in which he lamented the loss of what he calls the “open web” of the past, even going so far as to intimate that he and Larry Page might not have attempted to create the search behemoth had companies like Facebook and Apple restricted access to their content.

Ironically the article was printed around the same time it came out that Google was fined $25,000 from the FCC for impeding an investigation into Google hacking open wi-fi connections to steal emails, texts and other private information.  The $25,000 fine was primarily levied for the series of spins and stories that morphed from “we wouldn’t do that” to “we did it without provocation.”

Google wants you to empathize with them because they don’t have access to all of the information they’d like and to forgive them for violating the privacy of people with security vulnerabilities in their network.  Maybe they should reserve some of their righteous indignation for themselves?

I like Google and I use a healthy complement of Google products, but this provides tangible proof that personal information is the currency of social monetization.  And despite anyone’s assertions to the contrary, every social platform is leveraging its users’s personal information for profit.  If Google is any indication it is likely more intrusively than we care to know.

It may be time to stop having the flaccid discussion about which platform has the best privacy features, and start having more relevant discussion about which companies are most responsible with the information their users entrust them with.


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Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty

Writer and chief of miscellany at
I'm the guy that wrote the article you just read. Sorry for the typos.
  • Eric Wittlake

    “Which companies are most responsible with the information their users entrust them with.”

    Yes, however it goes beyond this, as the wi-fi case you highlight shows. It isn’t just the information we entrust these companies with, it is also their practices to get information we don’t intentionally entrust to them and how they handle this information, where there is no opportunity for consent or disclosure.

    This will definitely be interesting to watch.

    • Jim Dougherty

      Good point, Eric! I don’t know if it is my history with Google’s products or overwhelm that caused me to give Google the benefit of the doubt, but in the wi-fi case its undeserved. Hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but I suspect that because Google and it’s employees are the 5th biggest political donor to the Democratic Presidential campaign that this story may not have the legs it could have in a non-election year.

  • Jason Clark

    As a public company Google has to shift with the tides of current trends on the web. The biggest monetizing trend now is personal data-collection (thus targeted advertising) through social websites and walled gardens. I’m sure Sergey Brin’s lament is sincere.

  • Jane

    It is important that users’ information should be protected at any cost. Unfortunately, for the lure of money, fame and publicity, companies are gathering personal information from individuals and selling the database to make a huge fortunes. There should be some means to arrest this trend.