Google controls your e-mail, your videos, your calendar, your searches… What if it controlled your life?
A few quotes:
“It started in China,” she went on, finally. “Once we moved our servers onto the mainland, they went under Chinese jurisdiction.”
Greg sighed. He knew Google’s reach all too well: Every time you visited a page with Google ads on it, or used Google maps or Google mail – even if you sent mail to a Gmail account – the company diligently collected your info. Recently, the site’s search-optimization software had begun using the data to tailor Web searches to individual users. It proved to be a revolutionary tool for advertisers. An authoritarian government would have other purposes in mind.
“They were using us to build profiles of people,” she went on. “When they had someone they wanted to arrest, they’d come to us and find a reason to bust them. There’s hardly anything you can do on the Net that isn’t illegal in China.”
Greg shook his head. “Why did they have to put the servers in China?”
“We’re drafting a team for Building 49…”
“There is no Building 49,” Greg said automatically.
“Of course,” the guy said, flashing a tight smile. “There’s no Building 49. But we’re putting together a team to revamp the Googlecleaner. Maya’s code wasn’t very efficient, you know. It’s full of bugs. We need an upgrade. You’d be the right guy, and it wouldn’t matter what you knew if you were back inside.”
“Unbelievable,” Greg said, laughing. “If you think I’m going to help you smear political candidates in exchange for favors, you’re crazier than I thought.”
“Greg,” the man said, “we’re not smearing anyone. We’re just going to clean things up a bit. For some select people. You know what I mean? Everyone’s Google profile is a little scary under close inspection. Close inspection is the order of the day in politics. Standing for office is like a public colonoscopy.” He loaded the cafetiÃ¨re and depressed the plunger, his face screwed up in solemn concentration. Greg retrieved two coffee cupsâ€”Google mugs, of course – and passed them over.
“We’re going to do for our friends what Maya did for you. Just a little cleanup. All we want to do is preserve their privacy. That’s all.”
Greg sipped his coffee. “What happens to the candidates you don’t clean?”
Read the whole thing, as they say. It’s about more than the specific topic of social graph data – but it’ll get you thinking a bit.
I’ve spent the day in the discussion forums on the social graph/network (the hot issue of the day is what to call it) and while I see the word ‘privacy’ a lot, I haven’t yet found the nugget explaining how privacy is going to work in an era of social graph as exportable, universally mineable data. I’ll keep looking, and as always, welcome pointers to what I may be missing.