Slowly, the implications are beginning to dawn on people.
Kate Losse for Dissent Magazine: Feminism’s Tipping Point: Who Wins from Leaning in? (via iamdanw)
“Companies over countries.” That’s an outcome of commercial culture. An undesirable outcome.
You should read this opinion piece. I don’t wish to be one who fear-mongers, but we’re promoting and embracing a technology far in advance of our ability to understand the consequences. Think about the “peaceful atom” and our issues with the disposal of spent nuclear fuel.
But we can envision some of the consequences of what Google is doing, and what it is becoming the model for doing.
Capitalism, commerce and competition cause us to act before we can think. We need to reverse that.
As an advanced technological civilization, we need to learn to think past the end of our noses, or the next quarterly report.
Or we won’t be an advanced civilization for long.
There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with gathering large amounts of data. Information is all around us all the time. It is only our capacity to gather it and manipulate it in vast quantities that has changed.
Like any technology, it is the purpose to which it is used that determines whether it is “good” or “evil.” There are very many good things that can be learned from analyzing vast quantities of data. But it’s harder to regulate the desires and intentions of human beings.
Google is a commercial entity that is focusing exclusively on big data, and the means to collect it. All of Google’s “free” offerings, Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Android, Google+, etc. are mechanisms to cause users to surrender data about themselves. Facebook does this as well, which is why the rumor that Facebook is developing a phone never dies. With its own phone platform, it could gather data that slips through its Facebook app.
But Google is vastly ahead, even though its social offering, Google+, is mostly a dud. It still has Android and all its services; and if it’s lucky, soon it will have Glass, which will give it the most intrusive data gathering surveillance device any spook could ever hope to have.
Google intends to use this data to predict your actions in a particular context. By being able to make predictions regarding your intentions, it’s able to identify “hot” prospects to merchants and commercial entities that might cater to that kind of customer. Having access to that kind of data would be vastly more efficient than broadcast advertising to millions, of whom only a few percent might be genuine potential customers. That kind of data will be very valuable to those commercial entities, and Google intends to provide it to them, and get rich(er) in the process.
But there are other implications as well. We understand more about human behavior every day, and how it may be influenced. It’s one thing to guess with some accuracy what a particular person may be intending to do at any given time, it’s another thing entirely to use that data to influence that person to turn a potential intention into reality. That’s what advertising does. And that’s Google’s business.
Google doesn’t empower us, the ordinary people of the world. It may appear as though it does, but the vast majority of its efforts are on behalf of the people who want to sell you something. Google works for them, not for you. Big data in the service of commerce is not the same thing as big data in the service of the common good.
And then there’s the question of how the government will regard such vast stores of predictive data. Google’s efforts resemble Adm. Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness proposal, which was defunded by Congress. Effectively, the government is outsourcing TIA to Google. Google’s data warehouses will prove to be an irresistible temptation to the national security types in the government. One can easily envision a scenario where, in return for being allowed to operate its business, the government will be given access to Google’s data for the purposes of “oversight,” or “regulation.” In effect, Google will become the domestic version of the NSA.
These are important issues that get very little attention in the press. They’re starting to get more, but not enough. Those of you who use Google’s products and services, especially Android, should be aware that you’re helping to fund and assemble this vast domestic spy apparatus.
There is no such thing as free lunch.
Daily Mail in the flesh
Well, it’s true.
TechHive is running some good mobile switcher articles. On Saturday, Lex Friedman wrote about the first week of a month-long experiment with Windows Phone. Today, Andy Ihnatko—longtime accused Apple fanboy—began a three-part “epic” describing his journey from iOS to Android.
Both are smart,…
Apple is doomed. Thank God. I, for one, welcome Sergey Brin’s all-seeing eye of Android, knowing my every thought before I do.
What IBM did for Jeopardy with Watson, Google seeks to do for used car salesmen with Android.
Using knowledge to improve the human condition is one thing. Using knowledge to exploit the human condition is quite another. That’s called “business.”
In order for Google to acquire enough data at the granularity necessary to meet its “vision” for being able to predict what you want to do before you know it yourself, they need something like Google Goggles. They need intrusive, pervasive, persistent, consistent, surveillance. Ideally, they’d have you wearing these things while making love to your partner.
But since everyone’s going to look like an idiot wearing these things, they need to make it fashionable, hip and cool to wear them; and not just among nerds, for whom no such effort is necessary.
So here’s the come-on to get some “normal” “cool” people to wear them, and be seen and promoted wearing them, so that we can begin to be desensitized to pervasive, intrusive surveillance; just as we’ve been desensitized to the loss of our privacy in our online interactions and our Android handsets.
This is all just a big head fake. Almost literally.
Later thoughts: As I was showering, I was thinking about this. Actually, Google doesn’t need Glass to be adopted universally, be ubiquitous. What they do need is “enough.” They need adoption by a broad representative sample of the population, or perhaps just the population they regard as being of the highest value to marketers. They would use the data gathered from Glass to correlate with the other data they already have from their surveillance efforts in Android, and their “free” online services. They would use the Glass data to fine-tune the correlations and inferences from the broader data set.
Think of it as fine-tuning a de-noising algorithm for a digital image. Some algorithms rely on a profile of a particular sensor to make intelligent guesses about what is image data and what is noise. Think about the progress we’ve made in signal processing. This is the same kind of thing.
I wonder how many sociologists and psychologists work for Google. I wonder how many e-mails may have been sent internally regarding using customers as subjects for experiments without explicit consent. I wonder how many lawyers have looked at the Terms of Service of Googles products and services and offered an opinion that that provides “informed consent.”
You have to wonder what Google’s doing in their data centers. I mean, this is just stuff I think they’re doing because it’s what I would do if I were them, with their stated “vision.”
Glass is such a brazen effort at intrusive surveillance, I have to wonder if it’s a brilliant gamble. If regulatory agencies or legislation don’t stop it, they get a high-quality data set. If they do stop it, that kind of establishes the bar for what’s permissible in terms of data-gathering and surveillance at anything currently below it. That is to say, it makes all the Android handset data gathering legitimate, not an invasion of privacy, because it’s “not Glass.”
The best defense is a good offense.
Apple is secretive. Google is secretive and deceptive. You tell me which is “worse.” Google isn’t “open.” That’s just misdirection.
After The Atlantic got into so much (deserved) hot water after it’s “sponsored” Scientology article, I think it’s important to mention that journalists and publications accept things other than money for positive attention; usually, “access.”
This is a puff piece by Steven Levy, who is usually better than this.
But Larry comes off as an arrogant prick anyway, so maybe Steve didn’t really need to ask any hard questions about Google’s vision to know more about us than we know about ourselves.
And then selling that data to marketers. Or, maybe, your government.