Why Google is the Most Dangerous Company on Earth


It knows everything about you.

Not even the U.S. government has compiled as much information about you as Google.  Google knows this, of course, which is one reason why it has made the phrase “Don’t be Evil” its motto.  It understands the awesome power it holds and how that data could be used for odious ends.  I don’t believe that founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are evil – or have evil intent.  But they are no longer in charge of Google – their stockholders are.  And some day Sergey and Larry won’t be around – but Google’s massive databases will be.

The question isn’t if Google is evil, but whether this amount of personal data should be in the hands of a private company.  Any private company.  Should it be against the law for Google to save and archive all of it?  That’s the real question.  Just look at the information they now own.

Im changing my name to Darth Google.

"I'm changing my name to Darth Google."

Google saves your every search

The Google search engine, which is the gatekeeper to about two-thirds of every internet search, has saved each and every search you and everyone else has ever conducted through its portal.  It doesn’t have it by your name – but by your IP address.  It knows your favorite web sites.  It knows what you like and dislike.  It knows if you’ve done research on depression or suicide.  It knows every search you have conducted on medical conditions and diseases.  It knows if you are looking for a job – and probably if you’ve been laid-off.  It knows your vices (no matter how many times you clean out your cookies and cache).  It knows your politics.  Your religion.

And all of it is saved and owned by Google.

How powerful is Google and search?  In January, one of its programmers made an error that caused every site on the internet to be flagged as dangerous malware.  The mistake was caught and fixed within minutes.  But just think of the power Google has in directing traffic.  What if it decided to quietly prevent traffic from politicians or causes it disagreed with?  Would anyone even know?

Google reads your email

There’s an old saying: “Two is company, but three is a crowd.”  This is how you should think of Google’s email service, Gmail, which is used by more than 100 million people.  The email content you are sharing with another party – whether it is your mother, your boyfriend or your lawyer is being read by Google.  It scans the content for keywords in order to serve you targeted ads.  But make no mistake – the content of your emails is being reviewed, then saved, and then archived by Gmail – even if you delete the email.  Think about what your personal correspondence could mean in the hands of the government?  Your wife?  Your company?  Your family?

John Perry Barlow said this about the government, but it could equally apply to Google: “Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a Peeping Tom to install your window blinds.”

Google listens to your phone calls

Google Voice allows for every phone you have to be stored in a single place.  The service listens to your messages and then transcribes them into text messages so you can get them in email or through IM services.  And just like Gmail, it combs through keywords so it can serve you targeted advertising based on the content of your voicemails.  And, of course, it stores those voicemails.

Google knows where you are

With the recent release of Latitude, Google has the ability to track your exact position.  This is a step toward helping advertisers and marketers to better target customers.  But technology that allows your position – no matter where you are – to be broadcast is very dangerous.  What if it gets into the hands of governments?  Or stalkers?  Or criminals?  Or terrorists?

Google is watching the world

With Google Maps and Google Earth, the company is photographing the planet.  It even has “live” cameras set-up across the world – constanting watching.  These services are also capturing and storing all the data you plug in.  So Google Maps knows where you are going and where you have been.

Google knows what your reading

If you use iGoogle or Google Reader then the company knows what your are reading everyday – because it controls your RSS feeds.  It knows what articles you read.  It knows what sites and sources you use.

So far Google has been a responsible caretaker – for the most part – of this trove of personal data.  There have been no reports of people “vanishing” into Google vans or teams of Google burglers breaking into people’s homes when Google know they aren’t home.  But companies change and evolve.  And what happens if the data is stolen?  Or what if Google one day decides to sell it?  Why, for example, are they keeping it – all of it?  Just to serve us with targeted ads?  Really?

What do you think?  Does it bother you that one company has so much information about, well, everybody?

6 Responses to “Why Google is the Most Dangerous Company on Earth”

  1. I thought Google could only spy on you if you use
    Google Desktop.

  2. Hi Pochp:
    Nope, not the case.

    A friend of mine at the RSA Conference in San Fran this week just alerted me that there was an entire session dedicated to this very topic at the show.

  3. I think it is worrisome that, if and when that time comes – Google in the hands of people who weren’t there “when it all began” does run the risk of having it’s “Don’t be evil” motto tossed down a memory hole for the purpose of turning morbidly obese profits.

    However, I think that the mutual understanding whereby Google continues expand its scope of services and grow in number of users is that it will proceed with the utmost ethical and moral approach to how it manages the information that its database beast is fed every waking (it’s probably also fed while sleeping) of its life.

    I don’t think it would be viable for Google to thrive in this century if it forgot for even a split second about its users most precious possession – the illusion of online privacy.

    Personally… my life is on Google. All of it. No exception. I keep my appointments and other reminders on Calendar, I’m using Docs to do more collaborative work online every day, I use groups to work with colleagues, I use Picasa for all of my photos, I am on Gmail 25 hours a day, I couldn’t keep up with anything if it wasn’t for Reader, I keep my to-do’s on Tasks, I keep up with my online identities with Profiles, I upload all of my videos to Video and YouTube… on and on.

    Call me naive but I trust Google more than i do my own computer hard drive and my backup drive as well. It makes life easier. And, I happen to think of it as good news that, if Google knows what I’m reading, for example, it is able to suggest more good reads and ultimately customize my online experience so as to make it easier to navigate the Web.

    We can’t think of privacy like we used to. We have none. I’ve come to not only accept but embrace that.

    I thought you might find this interesting:

    http://prblog.typepad.com/strategic_public_relation/2009/04/google-sees-all-get-over-it.html

    and this on Facebook privacy

    http://kara.allthingsd.com/20090216/you-have-zero-privacy-anyway-get-over-it-that-goes-double-on-social-networks/

    Again. A great post.

  4. Anyone who trusts Google with any data (personal or private) is certifiably insane and should be locked up. Google is a corrupt organization that has no respect for anyone’s privacy and is the primary threat of our digital freedoms. It’s about time the governments around the world woke up and realised what a monster this corporation is.

  5. Yet tens, if not hundreds of million people do. Not sure I’d go quite to the extremes you do to describe Google, but certainly more restrictions of personal data would benefit us all.

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