Monday, July 30, 2007

ImageAmerica Goobled, But Why Does Google Need Six Inch Resolution?

Ever decided to sun-tan in your back yard so you could have some privacy? Have you ever put a fence up or enjoyed a fence between you and your neighbors? These luxuries may soon be a thing of the past.

Google's recent acquisition of ImageAmerica, a leading orthoimagery provider puts the tiny details of your home in it's sight. Prior to it being 'Goobled up' (a term I just made up for another company being Gobbled up by Google) ImageAmerica already had the capability to take aerial digital photographs with six-inch resolution. Such resolution is extremely close-up and personal. Such resolution is tight enough, not only to be able to tell how many people are in your jacuzzi, but where they are sitting and what color their hair is. That is very, very detailed information.

What's more, the details of this capability are somewhat dated and current capability and information is unavailable as ImageAmerica's web site has too, been Goobled. So at the very least, Google now possesses the ability to spot you picking your nose behind the house, and may be approaching the ability to be able to tell what you found.

Now if I really wanted the intimate details of what goes on in my back yard revealed to the public, would I not just tear down the fences? Is there a reason that Google needs six-inch OR LESS resolution peeking into my house? It's not that I have anything to hide, necessarily, but if I wanted all my business to be viewed by the general public, I'd go live under a bridge by the freeway. Where is Google thinking that they now get such a right to get that up-close and personal? Are they just going to assume that they have the right to take detailed pictures of everybody's property and slam it up on Google Earth?

What's more, what if I was a criminal and was looking for the details of how your back yard was laid out for easy, clandestine access, or was looking for a vulnerable place on the roof of a business building to gain access? Is this the type of element we want available to all-comers? Is there a reason that the general public needs this type of power?

Do you remember when your first saw your house on Google Earth and marveled that you could see your car in your driveway? Well now imagine you can read the license plate. That is a little too close for comfort for me. Certainly the map-reliability aspects of such resolution would be great, but civilians do not possess an inherent right to be able to look into everybody else's personal business. Neither do terrorists.

And how soon before they bust out the infrared lens and then put it in real time? I'm just saying there has to be limits at some point in time and Google has not yet demonstrated an interest in such limits. Their direction at every step, as it relates to Google Earth, seems to be aimed at more and more exposure and less and less personal privacy. Where is the line going to be drawn and who is going to draw it? Do we want to leave it to Google to define what is appropriate and what is invasive? Dirty Harry said,"A man's got to know his limitations." So does a corporation.

Friday, July 27, 2007

What's Google Doing Out of the Kiddie Pool?

Google's own blog, the Public Policy Blog has described this summer for Google brass as a 'Summer of Public Policy'. No joke. The guys who write an algorithm are attending meetings with dignitaries and politicians around the country, getting on the platform and addressing such topics as 'health care, patent reform, immigration, privacy and consumer issues.'

Go ahead and call me stupid, but what does a building full of math geniuses know about health care? And immigration? And who is the 'presumer' who presumed that these people had any authority whatsoever to address such issues?

For me, the charade that pushed me over the edge was when Google's CEO spoke at the National Governor's Association meeting in Michigan last week. He got on the stage and told our nation's governors that, "education must evolve to teach students how to research and access information instead of memorizing facts". Wow. Mr. Google is an expert on education. Mr. Google has such a solid understanding of education and the entire learning process that he can summarize all of education as simply, "memorizing facts," and pontificate what would be a better educational model for the kids in this country.

Pardon me for one moment while I hurl.....

OK. Feeling better now. But isn't that kind of summary of education just a little, um, convenient for Google? Not only has education been reduced to 'memorizing facts' but lo and behold, the solution lies in the hands of search, and ergo, Google, the search super-hero! How lucky those governors were to be present when this enlightenment was unveiled!

And as much as I know Google has Big Brother ambitions, but is still lacking a few shock troops to be able to pull that off yet, I just do not remember them ever being in any of the classrooms I taught in (in my other life) for them to actually know what is going on in education. Yet they want to give direction on education to governors. I think Google just wandered out of the kiddie pool and in to the deep end. Loaded diaper and all.

Another incredulous 'public policy' adventure was when a Google VP testified before a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration last month. The VP said that, "due to limits on the number of H-1B visas, Google is regularly unable to pursue highly qualified candidates." Google cannot pursue highly qualified candidates? What happened to the recent graduates of colleges and universities in, let's say, the United States? (Or, maybe US students were all too busy, um, searching and weren't paying attention to their studies...?!) Oh, but that's right, Google's stated hiring qualifications are that the ideal candidate has graduated from a 'top-tier college or university.' That's right, this is the Stanford & Associates club. So maybe Google cannot pursue highly qualified candidates because they are unwilling to look at US students other than those from the 'top-tier' schools...Doesn't sound like an immigration problem to me. Sounds pretty much like old-fashioned arrogance!

Google's Public Policy Blog also reported that the VP also "encouraged Congress to significantly increase the annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, and urged them to address the backlog of employment-based green cards for highly-skilled workers." Now is that the immigration policy that you feel comfortable with? Are you thinking we should add to the number of people coming in to this country? Me either. So if Google is not speaking for you, and it is not speaking for me, then who is Google speaking for? Well, the answer, of course, is Google.

Look at where they are pushing. We all know that immigration is out of control. Yet Google, because of arrogance or whatever you call it that rejects normal American students, want us to increase immigration rather than placing more restrictions on it. Is this "public policy" what is best for America and Americans? Clearly not. It is Google Policy. Self-serving corporate ambition. Not to be confused with American policy. And, frankly, I have no desire to be Stanfordized. Sure, they can do the math, but their football team bites! Always has. I'll pass on the Stanford culture.

So lest we begin to think that Google has any authority to speak on current issues because Mr. Google is showing up in political places and a microphone is thrust before him, let us remember that Google isn't interested in national public policy, Google is interested in manipulating national public policy so that it lines up with Google Policy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An Open Appeal to Bill Gates About Google Buying Bandwidth

Dear Mr. Gates,

Well, it looks like things have come full-circle. Not long ago, some of us were grumbling about your company acting like a monopoly (well, not me, actually, but certainly others). And now looming ahead of us is a scenario that makes your smack-down of some Silicon Valley rivals look like Little League play.

Of course I am referring to a recent announcement by Google that it intended to bid a minimum amount of $4.6 billion for a what-was-the-FCC-thinking bandwidth auction for 700 mhz bandwidth. That is a hefty pile of cash. Not that you don't have a bigger one. But for many of us, that kind of money is, well, prohibitive.

Now Google is not at fault for pushing the technological envelope. Neither are they wrong for their innovations and business ambitions. I don't think Google is sinister or underhanded in this.

But what is harrowing about this situation is this: So Google wins the auction for the bandwidth. Then they offer free wireless service to everybody with a Google phone, or G-phone or whatever. Instant hit. Everybody loves free. Now all of that is not bothersome. Google has always found ways to redefine things and their ideas have benefited many.

But what if they took that information from the cell phones and integrated it with Google Earth? I mean you can already go on Google Earth and see where people's web cams are located and other shared information. Now imagine what a cell phone's global positioning system information would look like combined with Google Earth!! Want to know where I am? Just type in my cell phone number. There you can see exactly on the planet where my coordinates were as of a few seconds ago. (And so can a stalker!) The implications of this are profound.

Now this is great from an information perspective, but this could certainly become an international human tracking system which is a monster we DO NOT want to create. Sure it would be great for security purposes. Yes, you could know where your child was (or at least his/her cell phone.) Yes, you could monitor employees and people flow and all kinds of snappy things. But regardless of promises and security measures, having any one enterprise be able to track not only where you are but where you have been, regardless of motive and benefit, is most certainly Big Brother. And such a thing clearly needs to be prevented from unfolding! I mean, do you want the public to be able to know where you have been? Frankly, it's nobody's business but your own.

So why do we come to you? Well, you and I are in a position to keep this from happening. Why you and I? Well, we are a lot alike. You invented the computer and I use a computer. You are prominent and popular and I know who you are. You started Microsoft and I pay Microsoft. You live in Washington and I rooted for the Washington State Huskies one year when they were in the Orange Bowl. You have about $50 billion and I have about $50. We are the same. (Though I may be a little bit more of a gentleman for allowing you to be the front man in this episode.)

You see, there is a way that you, Mr. Gates, could step in and secure not only your company's future, but you could add some paragraphs to history's expanding pages about you. Google's stack of cash is big; but we all know yours is bigger. Google cannot out bid you, Mr. Gates. And if you won that auction, you could design parameters of separation between personal gps information on a cell phone level, a corporate ability to gather that data, and a public ability to view that information. You could dictate things within the company that could ensure responsible use of that bandwidth. You could bind your company to ethical use of it.

Furthermore, your company, Microsoft, could once again be in the driver's seat for the road ahead. In possession of the bandwidth, you would have a certain amount of leverage to have a say in how things play out for the next 20 years. Microsoft is no stranger to leading. I think its time to grab the reins once again.

And for our part, that is, the mass of humanity, we sincerely repent from our former actions of occasionally installing your software on a computer or two beyond what was exactly legal at the time (with an understanding, of course, that that was before registration of the product was mandatory and that we are living clean now, and have been for some time...). We also confess that we were secretly pleased when the government handed down some rather nasty penalties against Microsoft (though just parts of us were pleased, not all of our beings, just like maybe a few sections of the brain. Or something. And, in hindsight, those were rather flimsy charges that were brought up and quite an insensitive penalty they handed down....ya know. )

So the appeal is this: Mr. Gates, would you please investigate the ramifications as mentioned above and consult your fellow smart-guys up there in Redmond and look at how a 'little investment' might be in the best interests of Microsoft? And then would you be courageous enough to have the boys in the warehouse bring that wallet of yours over on a pallet so that you could crack it open a little to see how small you think you can make Google's $4.6 billion look?

We've come to love you, Mr. Gates. We know that you built and own the computer world, but you know what? It's a good world. We love what we can do because you have standardized so many things. We know you and we love you. You have been a good regent. (On the other hand, Google, doesn't even have a face.) And now its time to take care of your children and protect them from a big brother; from who's clutches we may not be able to escape. Do the right thing, Mr. Gates. Stop the madness for us. Will you, ....Daddy?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Google at 700 Mhz...Think About It...

It was just announced today that Google sent an open letter to the FCC announcing that they intend to bid over $4 billion, minimum, for the upcoming bandwidth auction. Which also announces to everybody else who had planned on bidding had better bring deep pockets. It seems as if Google could win this one without a fight. Of course their plan is to wipe iPhones and all other wireless phone systems off the map with the yet-to-be-announced Google phone, G-phone or whatever it is called when it evolves.

As I was sitting there thinking about this, I happened to go to Google Earth to check something out. Then all of a sudden it hit me......Google phone combined with Google Earth....oh my goodness what kind of a creature would this combination create? I mean, imagine integrating cell phones (read: gps systems) with Google Earth...! Would this not basically be an international tracking system?? You want to see where I am on the planet? Just type my G-phone number in...and there, exact coordinates...! I mean this is fine from an information perspective, but from a security perspective or a privacy perspective, this is a nightmare!

So even if there are security procedures and a stalker cannot find you based on your cell phone number, Google would know.... and not only would Google know where you live, but they would know where you have been! And say there was a crime in your city and the police subpoena all the G-phone gps records and says you are a suspect because you were in the neighborhood...

Or how about Google notifying a politician that they know his whereabouts during such and such a time....

There are MANY horrifying implications of a marriage between cell phones and Google Earth. I think we are going to need Arnold the Terminator to come back in time and thwart Google's bid attempt to buy this bandwidth!! More later....