A painful shot to Google's private parts

Scott Feschuk on Google's potentially apocalyptic path to all-knowing corporate dictatorship

A painful shot to Google's private parts

Getty Images; Photo Illustration by Liz Sullivan

Google is taking heat these days for its new privacy code, which the company describes as “enhancing the user experience” and critics describe as another terrifying step along an apocalyptic path toward an all-knowing, all-seeing corporate dictatorship and the utter annihilation of human identity. (I’m paraphrasing.)

Beginning March 1, the company will bring together and analyze the things you search for on the Web, discuss in your email, watch on YouTube, type into your calendar—and combine all that information into a single user profile. This will enable Google to a) better tailor the ads you see on your computer screen, and b) nothing sinister. WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT SINISTERNESS?

There’s one thing that Google executives and their critics agree on: the debate over privacy is only going to intensify as the company grows in size, influence and—especially—ambition. Here’s a calendar of milestones to expect in the months and years ahead:

Spring 2013: Watch for the launch of Google Career, a proprietary real-time system that lets us know precisely which career options we’ve scuttled by posting lurid details of our drunken antics on Facebook and Google+. Today, a young woman can only guess at the occupational repercussions of an iPhone video of her tabletop striptease. But soon, thanks to Google Career, she’ll be empowered to instantly learn that she’ll never crack a Fortune 500 company, earn more than $45,000 a year or regain the love of her father.

Fall 2013: A few years ago, many experts believed that consumers would resist sharing their personal files and information with a massive and mysterious central computer system beyond their understanding. But then someone came up with the term “cloud,” and suddenly everyone was cool with it. Clouds are so fluffy and nice! Surely no soft white cloud would ever steal my identity! With this in mind, Google is expected to brand its intrusive and excruciatingly painful new mind probe as Google Bunny Rabbit.

December 2013: Just in time for the holidays, watch for the rollout of Google Psych, an online therapist to whom we will be encouraged to reveal our innermost thoughts, fears and credit card numbers. Complex algorithms will calculate exactly which YouTube video of kittens will make us feel better.

Summer 2014: In the span of a few months, the informal but long-standing Google corporate motto—“Don’t Be Evil”—will be subtly tweaked to “Don’t Be Too Evil,” “Don’t Be Always Evil” and, finally, “MWAHAHAHA!”

June 2015: This marks the next anticipated updating of the Google privacy code. Under the new terms of use, the company will combine and market the information that users reveal through the full range of Google services, and also in our tax returns and bedside diaries. This will improve Google’s ability to ensure the advertisements it implants in our dreams are as relevant and persuasive as possible.

July 2015: Addressing concerns about the amount of information it is amassing, Google will remind users that it is easy to avoid having your personal data collected and repurposed. All you need to do is get rid of your personal computer, mobile phone, electronic devices, forearm implants, gold fillings and pubic hair (you don’t want to know why). Those who do so will have but one remaining gadget at their disposal—the Etch-A-Sketch. And bad news: the porn on that thing is pretty primitive in that the boobs always wind up kinda square.

2016: The company bails out the U.S. government, saving it from bankruptcy in exchange for naming rights. God bless the United Googles of Google!

2017: Expected date on which users can configure a Google Alert that will recount all instances in which they come up in other people’s daydreams. Google Alert! Steve from accounting just imagined hitting you on the forehead with a hammer!

2018: Until this day, you had to actively think about golf in order for Google to deliver ads directly to your brain stem from online vendors of golf clubs. Now, thanks to Google Subconscious, all you need to do is think about thinking about golf. Rest assured your innermost feelings, preferences and desires are safe and will never be sold by Google to a third party, unless it’s a really good offer.

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