Oh, Sergey: Google and the open web

16/04/2012 //

There’s a lot to be lost, […] For example, all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can’t search it.

Poor Sergey Brin. In an interview with The Guardian, he laments that he can’t trawl through the electronic diary on my phone for information to use to target me with ads, which is a Serious Problem for us all, because my thoughts on what I had for dinner yesterday are somehow paramount for the continued existence of the free web.

My previous post notwithstanding, I don’t mean to shit on Google. I use many of their services and their way of delivering ads is far preferable to that of pretty much all their competitors. I also realize servers and programmers and developing eyeware for Spider Jerusalem costs money, and that nothing is free, linux-flavored homebrewed beer regardless.

That doesn’t change the fact that statements like these really creep me out. I realize Brin has to say this stuff in order to keep up appearances, but I wonder how much is a soundbite for the benefit of us, the lowly peasants in the field, and how much is actual conviction oh his part. I find both troublesome, but the latter downright terrifying.

Granted, I’m being hyperbolic and not a little disingenuous here. Brin is probably (I certainly hope) talking about the sort of apps that basically are web services wrapped up in a basic shell. It’s just that it’s not terribly difficult for me to imagine Brin (and certainly Eric Schmidt) one day suggesting that every app should be trawled for information regardless of privacy settings, “for your convenience”.

I don’t feel my fears are entirely unfounded either: Tech commenters these days keep pointing out that “the definitions of privacy are evolving,” implying we should get with the program. Here’s the thing, though: It’s not evolving, it’s being eradicated. Fucking PRIVACY is privacy – change its definition and it isn’t privacy anymore. If this isn’t newspeak, what is? As the saying goes:

Anyone who says that assaulting people with hammers is wrong is just failing to accept the new hammer-assault reality of the digital age.

I use Gmail, Search, Reader, Calendar and YouTube regularly, and Drive and Google Translate sporadically. For those services, I pay by way of exchange, allowing Google bots trawl my info and deliver targeted ads. That’s fine, and I accept those terms, but who decides what Google – or any other service, for that matter – gets to go through beyond that should be me, and no-one else.

Added bonus, the simile of the decade:

If Canada wanted to send tanks into the US there is nothing stopping them and it’s the same on the internet. It’s hopeless to try to control the internet.

They should send the Mounties instead. Nobody fucks with the Mounties.