Barney's Rubble

Google's Biggest Blunders

Some lash out when they're jealous. Others just don't like one person or one company having too much power. So maybe my tirade is driven by envy. Yes, I'm jealous I didn't start Google, and yes, the company's sheer power is an irritant. But with power comes responsibility (hopefully), and I'm not sure Google is the most responsible company. Power and money corrupts. Just ask Nicholas Cage, who bought so many islands and houses he went broke (fortunately, he's just one bad movie away from getting back on his feet).

I think Google execs, with all the money, accolades, private jets and power, have lost sight of reality. They no longer live in the world of the ordinary. The Google motto is "Do No Evil," or something like that. (Did the company steal this from the famous three monkeys like it steals content?) But Google's definition of evil is a bit different from Jonas Salk's, because instead of curing disease, Google labs find new ways to invade our privacy -- and then smugly justify it.

Let's roll through the most egregious transgressions.

Street View is a service I almost like. Google vans around the world photograph houses and streets and buildings so we can see where we might be going. The problem is that these photos show private moments, often peek into our windows and tell the world what we're doing at any given moment. They're perfect for stalkers. These Google vans have collected MAC addresses, passwords and other data. Google has gone on private property to take close-up shots. In one case, Google lost a court case and was forced to pay a whole dollar as punishment.

Google makes things worse by defending its actions. CEO Eric Schmidt may not have Hoof and Mouth Disease, but he sure suffers from his foot in his mouth. Here are a few Schmidt gems:

  • He dismissed the value of newspaper editors even though he sells their content, with no recompense.
  • He suggested we change our names to escape an embarrassing Internet past.
  • He suggested we don't ever do anything on the Internet that would embarrass us -- unless we agree to be embarrassed.
  • He said there's no expectation of privacy on the 'Net.
  • He suggested we shouldn't be anonymous on the Internet because anonymous people can do bad things.

And, finally, Google and Verizon want a tiered, metered, pay-to-play Internet. Oh joy.

But isn't Google great for America? It's great that the leading Internet company is based in the United States. But the good part ends there: Google accountants shift profits to countries with a low tax rate and keep expenses here. Bottom line? Google pays an impressive 2.4 percent in U.S. federal taxes.

Am I a jealous buffoon or is Google truly less than good? You tell me at [email protected], and hopefully we'll publish your letter.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.


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