Throughout the 21st century Google has substantially expanded itself globally– becoming “king of the internet.” In class we discussed how Google has proved to be a form of online power by not only becoming a dynamic search engine but also owning a vast majority of the global search market, advertising market, and the global consumer tech market. With all of the advantages Google can offer to its online users by making its data universally accessible, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Arthur of The Googlization of Everything, points out certain red flags about Google’s power, specifically with storing people’s online property, and other concerns about free-riding on the web, while also discussing Google’s benefits.
According to Vaidhyanathan, one of the major benefits of Google is that it’s trustworthy. “Google has endured that the Web is a calmer, friendlier, less controversial and frightening medium – as long as one uses Google to navigate it” (Vaidhyanathan, 14). Google keeps online users away from malware, triggering people to gravitate more toward the Web. Before the birth of Google everything online was very fragmented and difficult to find and now Google helps users to search for specific key words more easily. Google also has expanded its multinational corporation in recent years by developing a video system for Internet users to share their personal stories online which makes Google more appealing and relatable to people. Google’s purchase of YouTube and hosting short videos contributed by users makes Google the top of the hierarchy for the Web.
Aside from the many pros of Google, it can be argued that this corporation has some flaws that can’t go unnoticed. Even though anyone can have the advantage to freely post blogs, submit reviews of products, upload photos, and share videos on Google, there is a problem of “free-riding.” According to Vaidhyanathan, Google “copies whatever it finds. All search engines must make a “cache” copy of material they find so that their computers can conduct a search…places revenue-generating advertisements on the margins of the search results through its Ad Words auction program” (30). Essentially, Google is profiting (without any contract) from its ability to connect people to the resources it provides online in exchange for the content people can post as they wish online.
This free-riding problem leads to ethical issues of keeping record of people’s property online. According to Omer Tene’s article, What Google Knows: Privacy and Internet Search Engines, Google retains a wide range of people’s content (political, social, medical, entertainment, etc.) for their search engine for an unknown timeframe. Google accesses people’s property without “formal permission,” as a means of no actual contract in place for users to allow the corporation to use and hold their content for eternity (Tene, 41-42). By pointing out Tene’s question of what personal data should Google be allowed to retain and for how long, I believe there should be a law minimizing the amount of years Google can store people’s creative content online as well as a law specifying how Google can use people’s property. For example, it would be reasonable for Google to store my personal information I post on the Web, i.e., photos educational information, etc. for approximately ten years but not hold it forever. I also wouldn’t want Google to have the freedom to use my personal content for other purposes like advertisements and other commercial-related functions without my permission. I believe it’s necessary for the government to regulate Google, specifically focusing on time frames Google can have to preserve personal content and regulate the specific ways Google can use user-generated content for their personal use by implementing consent forms between Internet users and Google.
Siva Vaidhyanathan. (2011). The Googleization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Read chapter one online at: http:/ http://www.ucpress.edu/excerpt.php?isbn=9780520258822&ref=nf
Tene, Omer. “What Google knows: Privacy and internet search engines.” Utah Law Review, Forthcoming (2007).