Thinking out loud

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Nobody likes nosy Parker

Anybody who reads blogs must have picked up the scent by now. Things aren't well on the road to Mountain View. Since it went public last year and its share soared to over 400 dollars apiece recently, tech watchers have become edgy about Google. Comparisons are being drawn with its older "cousin" from Redmond. "Google will become the next Microsoft". Ofcourse, in my opinion, that's rather a compliment, but not everybody agrees.

The one project from Google that really seems to have triggered this wave of dissent is Google Print. As people thrash out the issue of whether scanning (and OCRing) books to make them searchable is a copyright infringement or not, Google doesn't seem to be letting up much steam. They recently announced a contribution of some millions of dollars to a project of the government of the United States to digitize documents relating to the cultural heritage of various countries of the world. Is it a good thing? Some people say its not. After all what does the United States think of itself? I say its a good thing. If a country cannot preserve its documents and make them available to its people, why shouldn't someone else do it for them? And why is Google into it? Their stated aim is to digitize every bit of information in the world and make it searchable. Laudable that. Am I happy that Google is doing it? Not really. Given the fact that I've always dreamt of doing the same, and the fact that I graduate in 2007, Google beat me to the market by atleast 12 years. (Ha! I think too much of myself don't I?)

On the other hand, some other things do get a bit disturbing. Google's (hideously painful to use) Orkut is one of them. I wasn't aware of "Social Networks" on such a large scale before Orkut came along. Ofcourse a huge tonne of other social networking sites sprung up after that. What is disturbing is the ease with which we post tonnes of personal information on these networks. Now it doesn't take too much paranoia to conjure up a "big brother" who might be watching you - always. Google desktop indexes your entire hard-drive. Gmail "reads" all your emails. Orkut keeps track of your friends. Personalised Google search knows exactly what sites you visit. I get a creepy feeling sometimes - Google seems to be peeking into every aspect of our lives. Ofcourse, I've always been a bit paranoid. But maybe its one of the reasons that people are getting uncomfortable about Google. They are blaming it on sloppy products, bad management, and Microsoft-like tactics (read Google Analytics), but on an unconscious level, maybe they are worried that their privacy might be at stake. Is this fear justified? Who knows. But I'm dead sure about one thing - nobody likes nosy Parker.