World Domination, Google Style

March 12th, 2006

GoogleUserfriendly is a tech-oriented web comic that I read daily. Over the last couple of weeks, it’s been spoofing Google, leading up to today’s (2/21/2006) strip, in which Illiad (the author) hits the nail dead center on the head. Go check out today’s strip, then read on for my commentary.

A company may have a certain culture/environment, a set of ethics, or a good privacy policy. Yet once it goes public, sooner or later, these things have a tendency to change. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, the mantra of “increased shareholder value” becomes the real priority. And when ethics, culture, or privacy policies get in the way of shareholder value, they go out the door.

Google has some really good services. This blog, for example, is generated and hosted by Google [update: not any more]. Their stated goal is to index all known data, and they expect this to take about 300 years. But now that Google is public, they’re not going to be able to justify indexing information unless they can make money from it.

So I suggest being cautious about how much personal information you give to Google.

By the way, if anyone wants a gmail invite, I have some available. :)

UPDATE: According to this article, the publicly-traded shares of Google do not, and never will, have the ability to control the company. So the two founders of Google have complete control over the the company’s direction. But I still say caution is warranted—what happens when they die, or if they decide to sell off some of that stock?

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