“No one expects the
Spanish Google Inquisition!”
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.