230 online
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 27 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 8/7/14

Is Google the New Sheriff in Town?

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   3 comments
Message Thom Hartmann
Become a Fan
  (139 fans)

Cross-posted from Smirking Chimp

Google Secrets
Copyrighted Image? DMCA

First there was Google Maps, then there was Google Books, and then there was Google Glass. Now, apparently, there's Google Cops.

Last Wednesday, police in Houston, Texas announced the arrest of 41-year-old John Henry Skillern on the charges of possessing child pornography.

How the police found out about what Skillern was up to might surprise you. Google, using one of its many algorithms, discovered that he was using Gmail to send child porn to friends. The company then alerted the cops, who got a warrant, found the porn on Skillern's computer, and arrested him.

Now, there's no question that what John Henry Skillern is accused of doing is disgusting, immoral, and very, very illegal. If he's found guilty, he deserves whatever punishment the court sees fit to give him.

But still, the fact that Google acted essentially as an arm of law enforcement here is pretty disturbing, and it raises some big questions about privacy and security in a world where pretty much everyone communicates on some sort of digital platform.

After all, while we can all agree that child porn is a bad thing, what would we say if Google tipped off the cops that Skillern was cheating on his wife?

Believe it or not, adultery is still technically illegal, as in "against the law," in 23 states, including liberal ones like Massachusetts and New York. In Idaho and Oklahoma, adultery is actually considered a felony.

Of course, the idea that Google could soon start calling the cops on cheating spouses does sound a little ridiculous. But who's to say, now that Google has become an arm of law enforcement, how long that arm will reach? I mean, can we really trust a giant transnational corporation to have our best interests at heart?

Think of it this way. If Google is reading your email to see if you're sending child porn, what's to stop it from also reading your email to see if you're doing something that's much more morally ambiguous, something like buying and selling marijuana?

And what's to stop it from reading your email to see if you're organizing a protest against Wall Street bankers, and then tipping off the cops about that protest?

The technical capability is there for Google to do both of those things, and once you open the door to it or any other internet company acting like law enforcement, anything is possible.

When it comes to child porn and terrorism, most people are pretty willing to throw constitutional or privacy concerns out the window. Whether that's a good or a bad thing is open to debate, and but it's still a debate we should be having.

In today's brave new world of instant communication and digital connection, there's a huge potential for good. There's also a huge potential for bad.

Products created by companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are a boon to anyone looking to organize, protest, or do any of the things that keep our democracy healthy.

Ultimately, however, companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are looking out only for themselves and their shareholders, not "We the People."

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Thom Hartmann Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

S&P Blames Republicans, Mainstream Media Fails to Report It

Globalization Is Killing The Globe: Return to Local Economies

The Uncanny, Frightening Ways That Trump's America Mirrors Hitler's Germany

The Great Tax Con Job

The Truth about the Trust Fund-- Destroying Social Security to Destroy the Two Party System

The Deciding Moment: The Theft of Human Right

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend