Tuesday, April 07, 2009

We've All Been Googled Now

Google is everywhere. In the olden days of the Interent, when 16.6kbps was practically yogic flying, when AOL sent you a new shiny CD every week, and when going online meant getting bumped off every 2 hours on dialup and not having a landline at the same time ( as well as paying 1p per minute to access it), there was no such thing as Google. We had Yahoo! And AskJeeves, and we had an antiquated forgotten thing I think was called Netscape.

And then Google came, and set us free.

There was a time when “Google” wasn't a verb. These days, to say you're Googling means something obvious. “Searching On The Internet” is a bit of a mouthful. So let's Google baby. Let's Goo Goo Google Crazy!

Google has a motto : don't be evil.

"And is evil something you are – or something you do?"

And what is Googles evil plan for us all?

Google seems intent on logging absolutely everything. The 360 Google Street View Car has been stalking the country, capturing public vomiting, Waldo, and public disorder. Only yesterday, the Google Street View Car presumptiously wandered into a quiet village somewhere in Britain: and found itself penned in by irate residents.

And I agree. Privacy is a double edged sword. In the age of information, it's easier to find out anything. And that includes all about people's houses. I'm not comfortable with the idea of a rotating camera driving past my house and showing everyone my front door – and my garden for anyone who wants to see it on the internet.

Google Street View is a stalkers paradise. Were I so inclined, a quick Google could show me the front doors of anyone I wanted to know about. I could look up all my ex's – all 987 of them. Ultimately I'm too lazy, but it's all there if that's what I wanted to do. There is a reason people call Facebook Fuckbook.

The assumption here, and my God, it is one fuck of an imposition, is that you have to 'opt out' – and nobody tells you what about you is online. You have to find it yourself. The other week, I found a picture of me someone was using as an avatar on a forum. I didn't mind so much, but I hadn't been asked and the picture's security functions to prevent duplication had been circumvented rather sneakily. It would've been quicker for the thief to make their own tinfoil mask for chuffs sake. And the person in question may have been talking a right load of old bollocks : but certainly, they lacked manners.

The only way to successfully exist online is to operate solely on aliases, and not have a shred of you on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Bebo, etc. etc. et bloody etcetera. Which, when The Googlemobile is stalking you is practically impossible. It's highly likely it took a picture of you, even if you are in a building hiding behind a brick wall or a desk at the time. In fact, were an artist so inclined, perhaps he could stalk a Google Street View Car and create a multiple-frame exposure like an old Victorian trick.

The worm has turned for now; but there was hardly a week went by without hearing about how someone got fired for, or didn't get hired for, having a Facebook profile that showed a picture of them having a drink, or saw them tagged on a drunken night out on Flickr or something. Corporate survelliance of our so-called private lives has made a mockery of the assumption of privacy. We are all public now. And everything we do is property of some data harvesting firm ; be it Google or Ghostnet.


In the eyes of Googles, a corporation and a Government is worth much more than a human being. The individual doesn't get a say if they are on Google Street View. We have to track down everywhere we've been – or be incredibly vigilant in our every second of existence looking for a car with a discreet 360' camera on the roof, and then ask The Gods Of Google if, in their clemency, they might remove our image from the Internet. And, since I'm at work a lot of the time, I don't get much of a chance to stop The Googlemobile if it parks outside my house, and tell it to fuck off.

Of course, it's not as Google Street View is particularly fair, or even Google Maps is particularly honest. Google – and the image mapping software providers – have teams of image sanitisers. The general public are sitting ducks, and anything that might be deemed sensitive – and interesting - is photoshopped away. Why isn't there a Google Street View of say, Dulce New Mexico, or Area 51, or any one of a million other fascinating places? Why not take the Googlecar inside houses and be done with it?

You! Yes You! Winston Smith! You're Not Trying Hard Enough!

I love Big Brother 2+2=5. The only place that is your own is a few centimetres in your own skull.

Did you know that White House doesn't have a roof, but an airbrushed grey blob?

That 'Area 51' is just a bunch of low res blobs? Admittedly, image mapping in the desert isn't a great high-demand option, and Google doesn't have the imagery for that view. Please zoom out and try again.

Other, more innocuous examples include, perhaps rather surprisingly, judicious and blanket use of this 'clone tool' in a forest in Europe, and Naval Air Station Sigonella. On June 27th 2006, Googlemaps showed this... and Microsoft LiveMaps – in an image taken in 2007 – shows this...

Does anything look wrong?

What next? Doubleplusungood? Trotsky fading away like a 1917-edition of Back To The Future?
These areas might be 'sensitive', but ultimately these military installations are public property. The military may think it owns them : but at the end of the day, your taxes – and mine – paid for them, and I want to see where the money went.

Make no mistake about it, there are teams of people who sit around all day photoshopping trees over areas deemed of national improtance and sensitivity: and there is nothing we can do about it, thanks to the Official Secrets Act. After all, we are only told what we need to know, and the decision about what we need to know isn't ours to make.

If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear. We aren't Her Majesty's Subjects. We're Google's Objects to be exploited. God bless capitalism. We've all been Googled Now.

No comments: