Viacom and Google: Stealing Your Privacy - Don't be evil
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One of the key reasons why it has taken so long for concerns over Google's approach to privacy to come to the attention of the wider public is the extraordinary degree of trust the brand has garnered. The humble student-project beginnings, the casual corporate culture with its unofficial catch-phrase Don't be evil, the (increasingly compromised) minimalist search interface, and the sense that the search engine spoke directly to its users at a time when other engines were barely disguised extensions of corporate publicity departments, have all contributed to this perception.
The truth may be somewhat different. Google has in fact scaled heights of personal data gathering efficiency that government intelligence departments can only dream of. The data Google collects about you - shopping habits, medical queries, social, cultural and sporting interests - amounts to nothing less than an ever-expanding, in-depth personality profile that the company openly intends to keep indefinitely and use to further their own commercial interests.
It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that if an organization was incorporated with the explicit intention to behave this way, there would be a massive public outcry. An alternative perspective on the Viacom-Google lawsuit voiced by some bloggers even goes so far as to suggest that Viacom are - perhaps inadvertently - helping to protect our privacy by exposing the degree of infiltration into our private lives for which Google is responsible.
While the media concentrates on the argument between the two corporations at the heart of the dispute, perhaps there is a bigger question that Internet users should be asking. It is not whether either party is more right or wrong, but whether either side's cavalier attitude to our privacy is acceptable. It's clear that both are acting primarily in their own interests, with those of their customers way back in second place. No one should be especially surprised by this. However, if there is a bright side to Judge Stanton's bizarre ruling, it might be to help Internet users understand that it isn't necessary to support either side in the battle of the titans. On the contrary, it might be time to begin the search for alternatives to both the out-of-touch corporate clumsiness of Viacom and the sinister personal intrusions of Google.
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