Why Google had to make this about China
There’s a lot of disucssion rattling around about Google’s new anti-censorship stance in China. Are they right? Should other companies be doing the same? Several commentators have asked why Google chooses to do this now; it seems a somewhat odd reaction to being hacked. There are widely-held suspicions that the ‘very sophisticated’ hack was sponsored by the Chinese government.
All of this plays right into Google’s hands. Their real purpose in refusing to play the censorship game any more? To make this about censorship and about China, every pundit’s favourite topics, and to disguise the truth they’re most afraid of gaining column inches: Google was hacked. Google lost data. Google is not 100% secure. Our data is not safe with Google.
As a company whose stated mission is ‘to look after the world’s data’, their greatest weakness is that this requires us to trust them with our data. They know as well as you or I that the more data they control, the more valuable a target they are to hackers, that the best way to data security is never to put all your eggs in one basket. But the information they can extract from our data is so valuable that they’re desperate to hide this for as long as possible.
Whatever the ultimate cost they may have to pay for their heroesque stand in China it pales into insignificance compared to the potential cost of a world of internet users starting to question whether they really can trust Google to look after all their data, or whether it wouldn’t be smarter to look after it themselves, or split it amongst several parties.
Besides, public opinion has already been turning against Google, with their “Do No Evil” looking more tarnished and cynical with every month, their once-proud war cry reduced to a “mumble mumble Evil”. Be sure they’ll milk their great ‘sacrifice’ for all the PR they can get, and while they do so take note: nobody’s asking whether giving all your data to Google is a good idea.
But if these hackers can steal data from Google’s servers, so can others. Maybe next time it’ll be my data that gets sold on the criminal markets to the highest bidders. Maybe it’ll be yours.
They’ll still have to pry my Gmail account out of my cold, dead fingers. Curse you and your seductively useful and innovative free services, Google!