Say ‘Cheese!’ for Google

This morning’s Observer column — about Google Street View…

In a way the issue is not whether this Google innovation is permitted or not, but the general direction we’re headed and the role Google might play in our collective future. Last week I wrote about the legal ruling which compelled Google to hand over to Viacom its computer logs of every single viewing of a YouTube video, including those by UK residents. The privacy implications of that ruling have since been mitigated by agreement that the data can be ‘anonymised’ by Google before handover. But, again, the direction is towards a world in which everything we do is monitored and logged – mostly by one company.

Google’s mission, according to its corporate website, is ‘to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. What we perhaps haven’t fully realised is that these guys really mean it. Their ambition is at least as megalomaniacal as Bill Gates’s vision of a computer on every desk running Microsoft software. So it’s time we started thinking about what a world dominated by Google would be like. As it happens, some people have – and they’ve been publishing the results on YouTube. Have a look — and then pour yourself a stiff drink.