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Friday, 04 November 2011 08:20

Search 'bend over a barrel': Google


The Huffington Post is this morning calling the Google 'do a barrel roll' stunt the coolest thing the search and fancy-pants behemoth has ever done. And it sure is cool!

And it's hard not to be impressed. I mean, here I am, making a benign search of some anonymous datacentre a bazillion miles away, and Hey Presto! The image on my computer rolls over.

Cool!! I love it when my computer does unexpected things.

And I am never happier than when those unexpected things are done at the request of some faraway corporation. It fills my heart with the lightness of youth! (Although I sort of hope Google never asks my computer to play dead.)

Actually, what I really hope - and this is shooting for the stars, I know - is that Google never asks the world to search "Bend Over a Barrel." Because that might not be as much fun as it sounds.

Oh wait! They already did that when they turned my computer into an automatic teller machine that dispenses marketing information 24/7.

Yes, the barrel roll thingy was cool, and despite the on-set of middle age and extreme grumpiness, I am not the fun police. Or even anti-fun, for that matter. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Bing and every other friendly corporate giant that's been stalking me online are free to do all the barrel rolls they like on their own dime.

But hey, if I'm going to be bent over a barrel, I can do without the inside jokes, Ok? I do not care if  "z or r twice" is a tribute to a supercool Nintendo game that no-one played. No, I do not. And no, I don't want to dress up as a StormTrooper and walk across the continent, either.

The way these companies rape and pillage my computer for every free morsel of - ahem - "anonymised" data brings to mind the Aaron Altman character from the classic 80's Rob Reimer film Broadcast News.

Altman, a journo who sweats a lot, is pontificating about the nature of the Devil:

"What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing... he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance... Just a tiny bit."

I'm not saying Google or any of its Silicon Valley mates is evil. But these companies, who live and breathe on the content produced by others, bit by little bit are lowering our own standards of what's ok. (And if I were looking for a pointy red tail, I might just start in Mountain View.)

The barrel roll stunt was hubris.

The broad public debate on privacy and on information sharing in the age of the internet and social networks has not yet happened.

Privacy is one of those issues doomed by its "importance." The "importance" label is the kiss of death. No-one wants to talk about it for fear of death by boredom. And besides, we trust these people. I wonder if we would be so free with the information we give these corporations if they were based in Guangzhou, or Kiev.

Consider this though. The Senate is expected next week to pass new cybercrime legislation put up by the Attorney General that dramatically broadens the ability of law enforcement to follow your every keystroke. And forces telecommunications companies to hoover up and store the deep, deep, detail of your internet travels.

The Opposition will vote with Government to give law enforcement these new powers. The bill has already passed through the house.

AND ANOTHER THING: I had a look at the latest blog on the Google.com site this morning which made me laugh. Written by an engineer, it began with the words: "Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven ..." Cool, eh?!


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