Sunday, February 06, 2011
Have You Been Screw-gled Lately?
Doctorow is also a science-fiction writer, and a futurist. In 2007, Doctorow penned a fascinating, but eerily nihilistic view of the Google-dominated universe. Like the panopticon, Doctorow's short story, Scroogled, is about a world gone terribly astray, where every action parsed directly or indirectly by Google is effectively used to monitor our every action.
Not surprisingly, there is a search engine that goes by this very title that Scroogle, a site designed for those who don’t want Google tracking their searches back to them. Disguising the Internet address of users who want to run Google searches anonymously, Scroogle is a web service that gives users the option of having all communication between their computer and the search page be SSL encrypted.
Think about it: Google can keep your searches on record for up to a year and a half. It's said that if you do not want a record of all your searches in storage, then using Scroogle's "scrapper" might be an effective method.
Are we living in a paranoid dimension here? The librarian in me says that freedom of privacy and information is of course central to a democratic society. Think about it: Google does have an enormous influence on us, although we are only subtly aware of it:
1. Societal Influence - It has been a mental influence on people that if your search is not found on google it does not exist. In fact, if it's not ranked highly, it isn't important. And if one Google yourself (which a lot probably do), it's a reflection of one's "importance" virtually and physically, too. Think of all the resources that companies are exercising in raising their Google ranking. Think of all times you search for meaning and answers to life, all coming from Google search results. If Google isn't a convenient magic eight ball, then what is?
2. Street View - I must admit, I am an admirer of Google Street View, especially when I want to see places I haven't been before. However, it has also been accused of taking pictures and coming too close inside people's private homes and people who walk down the street not knowing they are being watched on Google's service. While they were at it, Google collected about 600 gigabytes of data from users of public WiFi stations (which are not owned by Google) during 2006-2010, including snippets of emails.
3. Politics - Being the world's largest company ultimately drags it into the political sphere, too. Case in point: although Mainland China had already enforced by filters colloquially known as "The Great Firewall of China," Google.cn search results were further filtered so as not to bring up any results concerning the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, or websites supporting the independence movements of Tibet and Taiwan, or the Falun Gong movement. It wasn't until only recently after a clash with China that Google stepped out of placating the world power. But is Google tempting fate as a multinational corporation? I guess while we wait for the answer, we should at least give Scroogle a try.