Beware of Google’s Intentions

Journalist Susan Crawford takes a critical look at Quayside, Google’s Sidewalk Labs’ project in Toronto:

The situation appears messy: The details of the arrangement are not public, the planning process is being paid for by Google, and Google won’t continue funding that process unless government authorities promise they’ll reach a final agreement that aligns with Google’s interests. There are civil servants in every city, I’m willing to bet, who are deeply worried about massive IoT deals by their cities with companies like Google. It is likely that the burdens of these arrangements, over the decades to come, may outweigh whatever short-term benefits the city obtains. In partnering with local governments to create infrastructure, Alphabet says it is only trying to help. Local governments shouldn’t believe it.

Source: WIRED

David Kirkpatrick: Nightmare Net Scenario ‘Already Happening’

Facebook’s Newsfeed and Google’s search results are the two most central sources of digital information for the world. For each of them, all decisions about what information is given priority and visibility are made by one commercial company whose primary goal is ad revenue and profit. There is no consultation with the public, no regulatory oversight, and no recourse for errors or distortions.

The least neutral places on the internet are the Newsfeed and Google search. There are no such mechanisms that might deter, regulate, or formally disclose distortions that arise from the Newsfeed and Google search. No credible proposals are being discussed anywhere that would address the absolute control these still-growing net colossi have over the public dialogue.

Source: David Kirkpatrick via Techonomy

Public Company or Public Enemy?

The people who run Amazon, Facebook, and Google are generally good people, with honorable intentions. The problem is that once they became public companies, responsible to shareholders, their freedom of action was radically curtailed.

However much “creating community” they want to do for the world has to happen under scrutiny from shareholders, who want the share price high and rising. To do the right thing morally and ethically can easily require cutting into profits.

Policing hate speech and reducing anti-community behavior on Facebook inevitably will involve shutting down accounts, preventing posts, and in general pushing people and content off the site. That will reduce page views, the engine for ad sales. That, in turn, could cut into Facebook’s astonishingly high earnings.

Source: David Kirkpatrick via Techonomy