Google Passes Do No Evil in a Blind Blink

Google has won a lot of adherents and customers based on its ability to marshall thousands of CPUs and huge sums of diskspace to make ordinary tasks better – search, email, mapping, local busines look-up, etc. And Google is able to keep Microsoft at Bay primarily because Get the Facts on Linux is a big lie – Windows still cannot compete with Linux for reliability, performance, and cost of operation. And those differences get magnified into a large competitive advantage in the huge clustering systems that Google maintains for its worldwide web services.

So Google prospers and has a huge lead in the race to find just how big the software as a service market is. Part of that lead is the goodwill Google has generated by delivering highly responsive, and leading edge technology with minimal bumps, problems and backtracking in contrast to its major competitor, Microsoft, for which early and immature/beta software release is standard operating procedure. Vista customers especially beware – Microsoft is on a crash delivery schedule. You will get to be beta testers for at least a year or two.

It is this cavalier attitude towards its Windows users and developers that has earned Redmond a swelling backlash of resentment which again helps Google in the market. But in a Blind Blink, Google may have managed to bungle, fumble and squander a lot of that Peoples Choice goodwill with Googles ascension to Kurzweillian agent – able to bring enormous computing power to bear on problems of global communication and information processing at a fraction of the priceof any other organization private or public. But in the process of developing and delivering such computing power, Google becomes, under duress of loosing license to offer its services in various states and government constituencies, the providing agent for various governments and their need to monitor and control various informational resources and habits of their citizens.

How to Squander Goodwill II

First, take a look at the goals of Google, that sets the agenda and priorities. Google is a $6B/year company. It wants to be $100B/year by 2010. That presumes a 75% annual growth rate and taking 1/3 share of the total worldwide advertising marketplace which is currently at $278B/year. This is great ambitions. The problem is that Google is now planning not to do specific “good things” in the market place and let revenues fall where they may but rather pledging itself to a specific, and dare-we-say speculative schedule of revenue growths. And this covenant is being made to the most unforgiving of parties – never forgetting and ever demanding Wall Street analysts.

So, in order to achieve growth like that promised, it will be exceptionally hard to “do no evil”. These are corporate plans that leave little or no slack and demand a swelling of revenues which will be attainable only as long as Google maintains its leadership position in harnessing the Moore/Kurzweillian vision – ever growing and unlimited computing, storage, and communication power and customers willing to entrust increasing parts of their daily data in what has been to now perceived as benign and privacy-ensuring services. In addition, Google has been able to deliver highly reliable and performant software – but on an esentially an open schedule: no software before its time. Now the company appears to have embraced the Microsoft treadmill: hyper-ambitious plans driven by superrealistic (read third right standard deviation or greater) financial targets. Even the Gentlemen of Gartner would acknowledge these plans have even biased normal curve probabilities in the 1 in 20 range or less chance of success of meeting their stringent timelines.

So having apprarently hitched its wagon to the Wall Street Darling Star and become, like it or not, the providing agent for various governmental “consorts” , Google is in for a brutal series of trials on its “do no evil” pledge to its primary stakeholders – users, partner developers, and even some stockholders who may have been seeking a non-Machiavellian investment in the IT marketplace.

Recent History of “Do No Evil”

So given these working premises it is now worth examining how Google is measuring up against “Do No Evil” in the last few years. You be the judge of how they are fairing:

Privacy of Google held information – There are decidely mixed results as seen by Orkut case and the resulting refinement of the Google Privacy Policy. The Information Sharing clause notwithstanding, it appears Google has tightened its privacy privileges in favor of Google users over the initial Orkut with the notable disclaimer that Terms of Service may supersede the general privacy policy. The issue of privacy of data will continually arise because marketers crave raw consumption trends and at the lowest possible level – which can quickly obviate any perceived privacy protection.

Google Desktop Terms of Service – As an example of how the terms of service may go well beyond the nominal Google Privacy Policy check out what users are agreeing to when they download and install Google Desktop here. Yes, a lot of private information about you, your personal computer(s) and its contents, plus your web browsing habits are stored and saved and used by Google for its internal operations, shared with trusted third party outsourcing agents of Google, and may be transmitted to governments as required to legally operate in other countries and jurisdictions. This latter requirement has lead to privacy and censorship problems in China in recent months.

Google Enforces China Decreed Censorship – at the same time as Google complies with censorship in China; Google moves to maintain Chinese-originated tracking records outside of China so compliance Chinese government request for private information will not be subject to clandestine seizure. Also Google maintains it has delayed blogging and Google mail services in China until it has become acclimatized to Chinese government privacy demands.

Google Mail and PrivacyGoogle Mail presents privacy problems because so much of the mail is retained even if “deleted” by the end user. The retention time is the year 2038. And Gogle has in place unique identifiers that can link Gmail to personal information that is stored when users sign onto the growing number of Google services. And Google has not precluded making those links as legal or market requirements may require.

Google Web Accelerator – transmits all of your Web browser traffic to Google Web servers where all but the HTTPS transactions are retained and check for yourself if you think the Uses clause in the Web Accelerator Privacy Policy is assurance enough for you that your private info will be not be .

Of all the Google services, Gmail and Web Accelerators Privacy Policies appears to be most troublesome. In particular, Web Accelerators policy appears to be Mack Truck passable to this party; so I have passed on Web Accelerator services and now feel obliged to watch for any changes to thePrivacy statements of Google in general because if at first it does not succeed Google will try, try, try again. For example, I am Google Mail user and will watch carefully on what encroachments may come on privacy of Gmail data. I am also concerned that I have received alerts on Google changes of privacy policy faster through the trade press than from Google itself.

So it becomes evident that, more rather than less, I am concerned that Googles commitment to “monetization of its upcoming stream of software and service delivery innovations” will take its use of private information for the benefit of its ambitious advertising goals, in a direction that will be inimical to my personal privacy. I can see myself being inundated with ads for services powered by Google that will make the current Junk Mail deluge (both land and Web mail) look positively like a trickle. In addition, it appears that the bigger question is not can governments trace every economic, social, and informational transaction that I choose to make but when will those operations be outsourced and/or tapped into by governements to the mega-server farm experts from Google – who currently have over 200,000 servers.

In sum, I believe compliance with big governments plus committment to ambitious financial plans have effectively reduced Googles “Do No Evil” slack or wiggle room quite considerably. But do not shed a tear for Google, because Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco and other major IT vendors in the SaaS-Software as a Service game are facing the same governmental challenges and have also succumbed themselves to the same WallStreet Analyst Press Gang of Great, if notExhorbitant, Expectations.

And if we look at the record, Microsoft, Yahoo, Cisco all have made some distinctly wobbly steps in the same market circumstances. Also recognize that all civilized societies are coming to this historical watershed rather deaf, dumb, and blindly. And if the political charades and divisiveness that is evident in Washington DC are any indicator, the ability to install 1984-ish state monitorng and recording every aspect of every citizens actions under the guise of “fighting terrorism” or simply “collecting taxes”, will steam ahead in a patriotic ferver and at a fever pace. And even organizations dedicated to “do no evil” will be coerced by their financial ambitions and covenants into becoming unwitting agents of 1984-like instant privacy snoop and/or massive consumption control. So between a divisive Federal government in the US and financial super-ambition of the likes of corporates like Google, Microsoft, and other “IT luminaries” – there is not a lot to choose.

(c)JBSurveyer 2006