After William Gibson (@greatdismal) on Google’s Earth

Google is not ours. Which feels confusing, because we are its unpaid content-providers, in one way or another. We generate product for Google, our every search a minuscule contribution. Google is made of us, a sort of coral reef of human minds and their product.

In Google, we are at once the surveilled and the individual retinal cells of the surveillant, however many millions of us, constantly if unconsciously participatory…We’re citizens, but without rights.

The first extract above should be required learning for all Google Users who misunderstand the nature of Googles supposed ‘free’ services.

While Gibson’s reference in the second extract was to the Panopticon prison designs of the Victorian Era, the reference to being at once surveilled and being the surveillant immediately made me think of the regime in East Germany between 1946 and 1990.

The idea that everyone is watching and being watched at once was the mainstay of the fear which underpinned that state. If you follow Gibson’s analogy, you could say this is the basis of what Google now provides. Albeit supposedly with out any personal identification being stored.

The challenge is to ensure this data never makes that step to personal identification. If it does what is to stop the owners from moving beyond the Stasi state into the realms of George Orwell or Gibson’s own work?

A rather excellent article by a very clever writer. Which worked for me as all writing should, it made me think.


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