Thursday, February 16, 2006


Shawn and I have been discussing/debating the future of Google and it's impact. The genesis of this discussion is a class that she's taking in her Library Sciences studies on Google. Today she passed along to me a film presented as a history of the decline of the Fourth Estate by a Museum of Media History. The film is set in 2014. It's a flash file and runs about 8 minutes long. An interesting concept and not far off from my perspective of Google, though I find the blaming of Google, Amazon, and Microsoft for the destruction of journalism to be a bit alarmist.


Scott said...

I think I saw the video several months ago. I'll open it later and check.

Say the premise is alarmist. That doesn't necessarily mean it is out of line. Maybe there should be some alarms.

I think you've posted similar links about what the search companies have already done for the likes of the PRC.,6119,2-13-1443_1882442,00.html

Enabling foreign regimes to control information has become public. If there is ever any data restriction, or further handing over of search records without resistance in this country, is it more likely to be kept secret or less?

Fatherland security could care less if China's abuses are revealed. And what is the likelihood of a disgruntled customer from China showing up at the corporate HQ? They would have far more motivation to keep the secret in this country.

What made google and company roll over like lonely puppies to nasty foreign regimes like China? Political pressure? Possible retribution from half a world away? Money? If the threat is more immediate and plausible, or the money better would they whore themselves again for the Fatherland, and be happy to keep it secret?

I'd say it wouldn't be difficult at all for our government to compromise the availability of information. Letting users do it for themselves seems less far fetched. I kind of wonder if tailored news would really make a big hit. People are already dissatistifed with the various slants, perceived and real.

At least it is still easy to google for articles about google prostituting themselves to repressive regimes.

A final thought. well two. It is widely held that information is power. For the ruling classes the currently expanding access to information must be alarming.

Second, there are documented cases of dissidents being jailed using the information Yahoo gladly supplied. Do you suppose there are any unpublicized cases where the 'suspect' was shot in the back of the head and left in the gutter? Or would it make more sense to say, "Do you suppose there are any unpublicized cases where the 'suspect' was NOT shot in the back of the head...?"

Thank you yahoo.

B.D. said...


I think you misunderstood my comment about the video being "alarmist". Perhaps not. My feeling about it is that newspapers are doing a fine job on their own not adapting to the internet's impact on their business model. Google, Yacrewed, MSN, Craig's List, Slahdot, Digg, etc are all contributing to the demise. Still, many of these competitors to the Fourth Estate wouldn't have content without the aid of the NY Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, etc.

And let's not forget the companies that employ real journalists that are surviving that do get the economics of the Internet:, The Huffington Post, the BBC, etc. Even the Libertarian magazine, Reason, has a web component that is profitable (and helps support the print version). Reason was featured in the video.

So the economics are changing and the Fourth Estate is slow to adapt resulting in a shake down in the industry. Is this something to be concerned about? Definitely. But the video really hammers that point hard and in a simplistic manner.

The greater point you and the video raise is the privacy concerns. On this point we agree. I've drummed on long and hard about how I think we need new legislative protections that provide us a measure of control over our digital profiles AND a means of retribution (monetary and criminal) when that data is abused. Currently, no such legislation exists. Fatherland security is trying to take advantage of that loophole by outsourcing the gathering of our profiles to private companies that take advantage of the loophole. I suspect that there would be a strong backlash to such legislation in the states.

We also don't have a Supreme Court that is likely to protect our rights in this area. One of the most overlooked, but alarming positions of Alito is his disregard for privacy rights. Oh, to be sure, people focused on abortion, but the abortion decision was made based on privacy rights that many conservatives think are not inherent in the Constitution (and they make a good case from a strict reading). This goes way beyond abortion and into your medical records, your digital profile, conversations with your lawyers and your clergy, etc. I've called for a new amendment to the Constitution to explicitly insert privacy rights into the document, thereby putting abortion and loads of other rights back on firm ground.

You raise an interesting point about the ruling classes. I hadn't thought of that before. Of course, they'll just buy the information as needed or the companies that control it. It seems to me that they find this less alarming until it hits them. It reminds me of the case in Canada where some MPs were told by journalists there that their cell phone records could be bought on line for a nominal fee. In the States, we acted like it was our story, but it was The Fifth Estate (CBC) that broke it and it was Canadian MPs that carried the fight to our media. In fact, it's still poorly covered and the telecoms themselves are suing the other companies. It took leaders/ruling classes to be hit with the issue before it became a problem. This might be the case in loads of other areas for the wealthy and it will take a while for it to reach critical mass. The Reason cover (with location of each subscriber's home and personal data on them) woke many up to the issue.

I agree that lives may already have been lost thanks to YaScrewed and friend's actions. Hm, perhaps I should change that to a more German spelling: Ja, Screwed?