Were you suspicious at all when Google decided to film every street in your city? Did you even notice when it seems they captured more than just an image of the street, that there were some car license plates, discernible faces, and even pictures into people’s living rooms, not to mention a few burglaries? Or were you blasé and accepting of another way in which we’re being watched constantly and in Google slowly taking over the world in a myriad of digital ways? I sometimes wonder what would happen should Google turn out to be a political force.
There are people who called us paranoid when we worried about all these captured images. I wondered how well would it work for people planning espionage. I haven’t searched using Google Earth much but it’s been minimally helpful. The only time I looked outside of North America was to research for a story that takes place in Ireland, and it turns out there is only a satellite image of parts of Ireland, no street views. Well there is sort of a street view of Dublin, in parts, but with digital approximations of buildings for other areas. Who knows what other countries have but I hear the Germans are pretty suspicious of Google snooping and are limiting what they’ll be able to digitize.
And no wonder. With the heightened paranoia of terrorism and bombs many countries don’t want full images of their streets and sewer systems, communications areas, etc. outlined in such explicit detail. But that’s not all. The new millennium’s Big Brother is Google and it is everywhere. Yes, most of us use it as a medium for one thing or another, such as the search engine. Google tried to copy all books including those in copyright, infringing on all sorts of copyright laws and then hoping no one would notice. They claimed they were just moving all books into a way that people could access them easier and this makes sense for out of print books in the public domain. But those that still have estates or authors alive, and therefore existing copyrights, should be protected. Google then arrogantly set up a statement saying you could opt out but then you would have no recourse to complain if they copy one of your books, but if you opt in, you’re buying into the system. As opposed to them having to prove the copyright is now public domain, the onus fell on every author and publisher to prove they owned the copyright. This one is still being disputed and it was nice to see that at least some of the apathetic writers’ groups in Canada did band together to try to stop them.
But that’s not all, is it? Now it turns out that not only was Google capturing images of our streets and homes, it was also capturing passwords and documents if people were working on their computers and did not have their WIFI locked. Hmm, If I stole someone’s information, it would be just that. Theft, spying, invasion of privacy. Canada’s privacy commissioner has ordered Google to apologize and delete the information. That’s it? Does Google even have governments cowed that a slap on the wrist is all they get? How about a charge and massive fines? How about a watchdog checking what they have? How many years ago did the snoop the streets of our cities and we’re just finding this out now?
I said I’d be worried if Google was a political force but I’m already worried that it could be behind a political force, supplying stolen information to governments with less that honorable tendencies. I’d be naive to think they didn’t know they were doing this and stupid not to question why. And if any of you are smart, you’ll be asking these questions too and making sure Google is investigated and regulated before they do take over the world.