Google as Big Brother
February 18, 2003 12:47 PM   Subscribe

A Google boondoggle? Does Google deserve your nomination for Big Brother of the Year? Nine points from the previously mentioned folks at Google Watch. (via the Disinformation Newsletter)
posted by boost ventilator (26 comments total)
Guess I'd better get a new tinfoil hat!

More clearly (and in order): 1. delete the file/do not accept permanent cookies. 2. Gee, doesn't your server log? 3. citations? 4. misdirection 5. unsubstantiated 6. Shouldn'ta installed the damned thing 7. two words: "robots.txt" 8. repeat "it's a business". 9. Where's my tinfoil hat?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:02 PM on February 18, 2003

Er, also would have been via /. if I had of checked there earlier.
posted by boost ventilator at 1:02 PM on February 18, 2003

The folks at Slashdot have pretty much bah-humbugged the Google-as-Big Brother argument.

The previous discussion here that you linked to was generally pretty skeptical of this Google Watch guy. As the Salon article that provoked the original discussion points out:
Brandt is not a disinterested party; the dispute between Daniel Brandt and Google is personal. He has spent thousands of hours building a Web site that he believes is both useful and important, and Google, in its algorithmic blindness, has given Brandt a lower page rank than he thinks he's entitled to. Brandt finds it genuinely hard to believe -- and even personally insulting -- that Google won't give him more credit.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:05 PM on February 18, 2003

That site is full as full of crap as those "your computer is broadcasting an IP address" ads.

How, exactly, are you supposed to form a connection to the webserver without giving it your IP number? So, let's see, they get it once because the have to, and twice because google gives it to them. Whoopity-do.

Second, if you have a problem with the referrer's line, then it's _your_ job to use a web browser that suits your needs. The fact that your browser is standards compliant and therefore sends a true referrer string is _not_ google's fault. Next thing you know I'll be blaming my local shop for knowing what brand of credit card I have after I've swiped it at their terminal.

Even without using the top level country domain, it's even simpler than trivial to find out someone's geographical location on the internet. Just use traceroute (or "tracert" on micros~1 window~1).

No wonder their site's ugly... No self respecting web designer would help out a bunch of crazy fear-mongers! Yeesh! And they want me to trust their anonymous proxy with my info. No way in hell I'd do that. I'd rather install Xupiter first.
posted by shepd at 1:27 PM on February 18, 2003

I'm thinking of starting a paypal fund so that the site in question can afford a tenth item for their list. That damn David Letterman has created such unreachable expectations.
posted by machaus at 1:30 PM on February 18, 2003

That site is full as full of crap as those "your computer is broadcasting an IP address" ads.
posted by quonsar at 1:53 PM on February 18, 2003

Where's my tinfoil hat?

posted by soundofsuburbia at 1:55 PM on February 18, 2003

If you're still skeptical about Google as big brother, feel free to use other "quality" search engines like (sorry, I won't even post a link to them).
posted by whatzit at 1:57 PM on February 18, 2003

Young, stupid script kiddies and many bloggers still think Google is "way kool," so by now Google enjoys a 75 percent monopoly for all external referrals to most websites.

Ergo, 75% of everyone that uses the internet is a script kiddy or blogger. Well, that is assuming that everyone that uses the internet has used a search engine and doesn't get that "internet handbook" that was in vogue during 1996-1997.

Do I have that right? That 100 million Americans are either bad-ass hax0rz or mathowie? And that worldwide there's about 1 billion people in this group?

Is that what you meant, because if it is, wow, check yourself in for some paranoia treatment.
posted by shepd at 2:09 PM on February 18, 2003

That list is full of shite.
posted by ed\26h at 2:23 PM on February 18, 2003

No webmaster can avoid seeking Google's approval these days, assuming he wants to increase traffic to his site. If he tries to take advantage of some of the known weaknesses in Google's semi-secret algorithms, he may find himself penalized by Google, and his traffic disappears.

This is my favorite complaint. He's saying that if you try to cheat the system so that Google sends more traffic to you than you deserve, and they catch you doing it, you get in trouble. Well damn!
posted by Hildago at 2:23 PM on February 18, 2003

The guy is a link farmer, a search engine scammer. Case closed.
posted by mathowie at 2:30 PM on February 18, 2003

yah. he could just be a jerk on mefi and get plenty of hits!
posted by quonsar at 2:37 PM on February 18, 2003

works for me!
posted by quonsar at 2:38 PM on February 18, 2003

Do I have that right? That 100 million Americans are either bad-ass hax0rz or mathowie? And that worldwide there's about 1 billion people in this group?

They're also people who use the phrase "way kool". So that limits them to marketing executives and anthropomorphic drink containers.
posted by Gary at 2:43 PM on February 18, 2003

I cannot tell you how many times I've seen this show up in email and on livejournal. Sheesh, I swear, some people. Is it too much to ask that they understand a computer and how a network operates before they start frothing off at the mouth? Good lord.
posted by dejah420 at 2:48 PM on February 18, 2003

Mmm, GoogleOS.
posted by aaronshaf at 3:22 PM on February 18, 2003

I love Google. If they want my IP address, they can have it.
posted by SweetJesus at 3:40 PM on February 18, 2003

The mentioned information collection seems relatively tame. If it's really a problem, you can use a proxy or Orangatango or what have you. Deny cookies. Perfect online privacy is nigh impossible, but pretty good isn't that hard.

Google: the thing with them is they very nearly own search. That's somewhat frightening, and means they should expect scrutiny. From my point of view, they've always acted in a very principled manner, from the way they've constructed their pages and kept them uncluttered, to the up front manner in which they label sponsored links, to their refusal of advertising for products they don't like. But you never know... power at companies changes hands, principles shift, etc. It's worth keeping an eye on and asking questions once in a while.
posted by namespan at 3:50 PM on February 18, 2003

This guy is crazy. That list doesn't scare me in the least!
posted by tiamat at 3:51 PM on February 18, 2003

I love google too. I wish google was my dad.
posted by Samsonov14 at 3:52 PM on February 18, 2003

namespan, that's what happened to altavista. Remember how that was the most kickass search tool ever, especially when was it's primary address? Boolean search technology, quick, lots of pages, really good in general.

Then they added all sorts of crap, tried to become a portal, and ruined themselves as all their .

If google does that, I'm sure the same thing will happen to them (that is, their users will desert them).
posted by shepd at 4:09 PM on February 18, 2003

at, we not only collect IP addy's, but we resolve hostnames in real time using PHP [Privacy Heisting Program©], the pages you view, your browser and the referer[sic]. we time stamp your every click. and through the power of relational database technology® we can literally watch in real time (not affiliated with RealTime™, a registered trademark of Real Inc.) as you leap from page to page. we're sure this information has commercial value to some schmuck. but at, we just don't give a fuck. we guarantee it.
posted by quonsar at 4:55 PM on February 18, 2003

Anyone who doesn't love Google should try a search at Yahoo and remember what things were like in the "old days" when 50% of any search result was complete and utter crap that had been jammed full of meta tags and weird text designed to force higher search engine results.

Google is our friend.
posted by dg at 5:08 PM on February 18, 2003

Google is our friend.
I wish google was my dad.

Oh, jesus h. christ. What a disgusting display. The Cult of Google strikes again.

I've never seen as odious an assault of content-less dismissals dominate a thread as the crap above. Does anyone have an actual, you know, *argument* here? At least one or two of the points in the main link are at least worth a closer look.

In the Salon article folks cite approvingly, for instance, the reporter completely failed to follow up on important questions Google *still* has yet to answer. Does Google link information on searches to individual IP addresses? If so, why? If not, why won't it tell us?

When the New York Times (2002-11-28) asked Sergey Brin about whether Google ever gets subpoenaed for this information, he had no comment.

If Doubleclick tried that same move, I think a lot of MeFi'ers would be suspicious. But because it's Google, they get a pass? Yeah, whatever.
posted by mediareport at 7:23 PM on February 18, 2003

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