A great slideshow on all the privacy-related quote from the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, and I thought I was the one that can get caught for saying the ‘wrong thing’.  Coming from a Hong Kong Chinese background means that I am particularly sensitive to governmental access to personal data for the use of ‘security’ or censorship, or even just plain monitoring.  Hence page 7 of Schmidt’s quote,

“In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you,” Schmidt said at the 2010 Techonomy conference, arguing that there were dangers to having complete anonymity online and that governments may eventually put an end to anonymity. “We need a [verified] name service for people,” he said. “Governments will demand it.”

really made me jumped.  What would happen if user data is to be centralised and processed and used for ‘the greater good’?  Who would have access to these data?  How, as an individual, do we protect ourselves?  I wonder if any users ever imagine whether it is possible that a super admin who works for a big information corporation (be it Google, Facebook or mobile operators or even the company you work for) would have access to open your profile and go through what you’ve been through.   Perhaps the best way to handle this is for someone to never become famous, or ‘important’ enough that your personal information becomes valuable enough.

I had a discussion with my fellow researcher friends whose focus is on censorship in China and it’s Great ‘Fire Wall’ (a pun to the great wall).  I have heard numerous feedback that having a firewall that blocks access to certain ‘sensitive website’ is a disgrace.  I do not contest with that.  But I would challenge anyone that psuedo-openness is even more of a disgrace, to Boyd’s point,

The battle that is underway is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It’s a battle over choice and informed consent. It’s unfolding because people are being duped, tricked, coerced, and confused into doing things where they don’t understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely unfair. It gives users the illusion of choice and hides the details away from them “for their own good.”

We are keeping our eyes open while injecting lots of valuable user data into sites like Facebook.  What I like is the paradox that Facebook’s official line is about openness which is almost the polar opposite to the discourse of the Chinese Internet.  However I argue that at least in China, people are *aware* of censorship, and there workarounds.  As Andrew puts it,

“China’s users are too busy enjoying the Internet they have, rather than lamenting the one they don’t.”

Welcome to moral dilemmas of the twenty first century.

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4 Responses to Dear Google, why do you want me to be scared of you?

  1. mwiththeat says:

    Reading thing makes me think of a Google paranoia story I read a while back. Couldn’t find it in my inbox, but Google threw it up quite quickly…

    It provides a shocking vision of what could happen if it all goes wrong!


  2. cathyma says:

    This reminds me of the EPIC video made by the Museum of Media History – http://epic.makingithappen.co.uk/ saw it for the first time almost 10 years ago that sent me shiver down the spine as well as goose pumps. Note that it’s been made almost 10 years ago so all the google grids/ Googlezon ideas were speculative. Funny enough though it pointed out NYTimes would put itself behind the paywall but it was the Times (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/nov/02/paywalls-newsinternational) – which was scarily accurate at this point. But this video also missed Facebook, which has recently be valuated at $15 billion (to put things in perspective – Google is valuated about 10 times more than that, though it doesn’t meant that Facebook isn’t a force to be reckoned with). Ain’t it exciting to live in the current age!

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