Originally Posted by cloudgazer
... Google, for its own good, really needs to stop trying to expand into every possible web service, but rather like MS they don't seem able to do that until somebody makes them.
And the problem is that, just like Microsoft, it can't stop that. Just like at Microsoft, the need to dominate and control is ingrained into the corporate psyche. Just like at Microsoft, the idea that, "If Google does it, it isn't evil," pervades the corporate consciousness. And just like at Microsoft, they won't stop until someone makes them, and maybe not even then.
The problem with Google goes well beyond the level of the problem with Microsoft. Microsoft often engaged in unethical and sometimes illegal behavior, but, in comparison, in a sort of low key, behind the scenes way. Google, on the other hand, flagrantly violates the law on a massive scale and when it gets caught belligerently declares that it will keep doing so. (Exhibit A: the Google Books program, AKA, "steal this book, and that one, and that one, and that one, ...".) This idea that that they are above the law is what makes Google the bigger problem, and the entire company seems to have undergone a moral inversion: the conviction that one's cause is so just that any action is justified by it.
Google's goal is to become the gatekeeper to information. All information. They want to control your information through Google Mail, Docs, etc. They want to control the information you access through search and maps and other "offerings". And regardless of how well intentioned they could be (although they have demonstrated that they are not) that sort of control of information is an attack on freedom. Is there really any difference in the danger from state controlled access to information or corporate controlled access to information? I don't think so. Control and the potential for censorship of information is just as big a threat to freedom regardless of the identity of the gatekeeper.
Yet, potentially, the biggest, although related, problem with Google is the threat they pose to personal privacy, and this threat is two-fold. First, there's the threat that Google itself won't be content with treating the data they collect in an anonymous fashion.
In one sense, they already, certainly, effectively don't. Data from various sources is linked together creating a digital profile of virtually anyone who uses the Internet. Their whole system is essentially a giant dragnet designed to discover everything that can be about everyone, ostensibly for the purposes of advertising. They don't treat disparate bits of data anonymously at all, but go to great lengths to tag everything with personally identifiable information, all of which points to millions of specific individuals. In other words, there is no anonymity in Google's database.
All well and good you might say, if they were a company that demonstrated some degree of respect for privacy, ethics and the law. But, as they've demonstrated time and time again, they aren't that company. They are already using that data in personally identifiable ways, and, given the culture of the company, it's simply a matter of time until they begin to use it in flagrantly abusive ways.
The other side of this threat is that they have become a one-stop shop for governments to go to when they want either information on specific individuals, or data to mine looking for "suspicious activity. There are some indications, Google's close ties with the NSA, for example, that this is already going on on a fairly wide scale, but whether it is now or not, it's just too valuable a treasure trove of personal data for governments to pass up, even if Google had the best of intentions on its own.
A lot of people like to dismiss this sort of talk as "tin foil hat", but doing so simply shows an ignorance of the real issues and dangers. A lot of people like to say that there isn't any privacy on the Internet anyway, so what's the big deal, but the reason there isn't any privacy on the Internet is in large part because of Google, and the idea that we should just accept that as the way things are is ridiculously absurd. If there's no privacy on the Internet, then there's no freedom on the Internet, and as that lack of privacy spills into the rest of our lives, our freedom is slowly drained away until we have nothing left.
All of these things would be of concern even if Google had demonstrated themselves to be the most scrupulously ethical and well intentioned of companies. Unfortunately, they've demonstrated exactly the opposite, making the concern even greater.