Monty Python Meets Tech

“No one expects the Spanish Google Inquisition!”

No One Expects The Google Inquisition, But It’s Coming

The Google memo controversy could tear up the implicit social contract we’ve all accepted with the big technology companies to whom we entrust our data.

By Robert Tracinski, the Federalist


Today’s big tech firms, particularly ones like Google and Facebook, depend on an implicit bargain with the people who use them. We get free access to an enormous amount of information, in exchange for which we know we’re going to get bombarded with some ads. That’s a business model we’re pretty comfortable with because it’s what we did with television, and before that radio, and before that (to some extent) newspapers.

In the new Internet version, we know these big companies are gathering specific personal information about our habits and preferences, far more than anyone has ever done, but we accept it because we think they’re just going to use it to sell us stuff, which might sometimes be annoying but isn’t ominous. But if we think there is a wider purpose, if we think they’re going to use our information for social engineering or political manipulation—will that break the bargain?

I live and work in Silicon Valley (though not for any of the companies mentioned in this piece). I have been a consistent user of Google’s services for years. I will be watching how this plays out closely, and urge all of you to as well. Read the whole article, and think carefully about who you share your information with.

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  • Paul Hooson

    These companies view us as a valuable database of customers for sale to any buyers, regardless of the privacy or other losses to ourselves. Normally businesses show a higher regard for their customers as well as respect level.

  • Walter_Cronanty

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

  • yetanotherjohn

    The GDPR out of Europe will make this business model more problematic. Basically, every copy of the data that is collected about you has to be identified (which is a huge job in large corporations), must have a business purpose for its collection, retention and use, must only be kept as long as that business purpose exists and must be purged on request. It remains to be seen exactly what that will look like, but if a company gets it wrong, they are subject to a fine of 2% of gross receipts (not profit). Google, facebook and just about any company that does business on the web are subject to the law. Amazon ships something to me, do they need to keep my address after it ships/arrives/90 days? If a company like google misused the data (e.g. punish wrong think), I think they would be subject to the fine because “Controllers should also implement mechanisms to ensure that personal data is only processed when necessary for each specific purpose”. Because of the issues involved in just identifying the data gathered and kept, large companies are tending to default to the European rules for everyone.