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Google and Facebook: The Face of Internet Evil?

17 December 2010 No Comment

149858,xcitefun-google-facebook-1“For the nature of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” the Bible tells us – and to that we may add, perhaps, the internet’s, too. We gave it life – and what did it give us in return? Pop-up ads, viruses, and unlimited supplies (or at least offers) of viagra.

It doesn’t even know how to say thank you:  America (not necessarily Al Gore, however) invented the internet – for defense purposes, no less – and now that same internet is being used to leak confidential cables and documents that have caught the U.S., Israel, and most other countries, with their diplomatic pants down. Ingratitude, as everyone knows, is a sure sign of evil.

As evil grows, it gets bolder – and now, the internet comes before us, in its red devil costume, wielding a pitchfork and demanding its due: Our minds, or our souls – or maybe both. And wouldn’t you know it, those two demands are represented by the two great cyber-metropolises of the ether. Like a virtual Sodom and Gomorrah, both Google and Facebook seek to enslave their respective fiefdoms – mind, and soul.

Now I know that some of you are already getting hot under the collar; rational man has no room in his life for evil, and to attribute anthropomorphic tendencies to a bunch of HTML and Java code is – crazy, isn’t it? But let’s not jump to any conclusions; let’s consider the facts, and then make up our minds.

Google is very clear about its intentions: To organize, to manage, to slice and dice the products of the mind – ideas, schedules, projects, thoughts, and data. From the classics to the newest best-sellers, from voice to e-mail, from pictures (Picasa) to video (Youtube) and everything in between, Google aims to become humanity’s data hub. Forget computers; all you need is a screen to hook you into the cloud, and you’ll have access to all your data. And it’s all free!

All your data in one place, easily accessible to you. And, potentially, anyone else who figures out how to get to it. Mind you, I am not a crackpot paranoid; I use, and relish, Gmail, Google Docs, and the rest of the Google cloud family. And so far, nothing has happened to compromise our data’s safety. But you and I, and even the folks at Google, know that it’s just a matter of time before the cloud turns dark and stormy. I am sure the Google people are working to ensure that this never happens. But “never” is a long time, and while even the decent folk must rest, evil never takes a break. And, as we all know, all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Not to mention that Google, which makes its money by advertising, doesn’t even have to look at our personal details to figure out which ads to beam at our browsers; it’s got all the information it needs, and then some, just based on how we use its search engine. Evil? It’s definitely a word that comes to mind.

If Google demands the mind, Facebook is after our souls – no less. Already our kids spend endless hours updating their pages, walls, and statuses. Facebook gives you the ability to update large groups of people at one time with your thoughts and ideas – the things that portray your inner self. Once you’re “on” Facebook, the pressure grows to keep up with your friends, and post witty ripostes and coy obliques of your own. How many people, out of desire (or desperation?) to be a part of the stream have revealed information that is better kept secret – information that could be used against you. Although Facebook is but a few years old, but already its impact on privacy is being felt.

As if that weren’t enough opportunity for mischief, Facebook has decided to go a step further; what Google seeks to do with our data, Facebook, with its new “total communication channel,” seeks to do with our thoughts, feelings, conversations and streams of thought, placing them all in one easily accessible and retrievable place – the cloud. Far more than just the e-mail most people believe it to be, yourname@facebook.com will be a compendium of your personality, gathering together your messages, conversations, all postings, and everything else that comes out of your stream of consciousness, even the secret parts. But the problem with a secret is that once it’s out, it’s out – and then it’s available for anyone to pick up and pick over.

Am I exaggerating? Am I overreacting? I hope so. But the evidence grows daily. As Google gets more information about how we think, it gets better at selling us stuff. The better it gets at selling stuff, the richer it gets, and the better its cloud technology gets – encouraging more of us to move our intellectual and professional lives to the cloud. How things will end up is impossible to know, but to say that there will “never” be a breach – or that the use of our personal information will always be benign – is doubtful, to say the least.

And Facebook? Already it consumes vast amounts of our time, and contains many of our most intimate secrets – and with the new information storage system, even more secrets will come on-line. Already, some people have suffered for sharing those secrets. Of course, it’s their own fault for posting those secrets, just like we would only have ourselves to blame for dispensing with our desktop office suites and relying strictly on the Google cloud suite. “How could they not have seen it coming,” those who watch us writhing in the hellfire on earth of identity theft, or worse, will say. In the end, it appears, the greatest evil is what we do to ourselves. Just some (devil’s) food for thought!

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