Your new government knows everything about you.
It knows who your friends and family are.
It knows where you are at all times, where you’re going, and where you’ve been.
It knows what you read, what you watch, and what you listen to.
It knows what you’re looking for.
Your new government reads your email and listens to all of your telephone calls. It reads the documents you write.
Your new government tracks everything you buy, the news you read, the medicines you use, and the food you eat.
It knows what you’re going to do before even you do.
Soon it will own your DNA.
This is life under the Google Regime, an emerging era in which privately-managed corporations replace elected bodies as our central governing agencies.
In Canada, our old government recently cancelled the mandatory long census.
The foolhardiness of this decision is easily recognizable when one considers Google’s unquenchable thirst for data about every aspect of every person’s life.
It’s so odd. Our government has relinquished knowledge of its people to a foreign agency.
Information is power, and Google is harvesting it like hay under an eternally sunny sky.
On one level, Google uses the information it collects to improve the services it delivers to us. That’s the company’s feel-good explanation, anyway.
Ultimately, though, Google uses this information to generate profit and to exert control over us and the organizations we interact with.
Forget that old mandatory census that rolled around every half decade.
Daily, directly and indirectly, we willingly provide Google with data about our interests, whereabouts, activities, family, work, plans, dreams, medical conditions, and habits.
All of this represents a shift of control away from our cherished democratic society and puts power in the hands of private industry.
Why it’s happening really boils down to a question of trust, a fact that reveals one of the great paradoxes of our age.
We trust politicians less than used car salespeople, despite the fact they are directly answerable to us. After all, we put their silver tongues in positions of power through an open and transparent electoral process.
(In theory, anyway. Hardly anyone actually votes any more.)
Not so corporations. Their board members are generally appointed or elected by very small groups of investors and they don’t owe the average joe the time of day.
Alarmingly, in the case of Google, almost all power rests in the hands of just three men: the company’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, and the two founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
They own a majority of the controlling shares of Google. Their positions are virtually unassailable.
Yet we trust these untouchables more than the people we elect into government.
During his keynote at a recent conference, Schmidt was challenged on the volume and scope of information that Google collected and held.
The CEO retorted: “Is there a government that you would prefer to be in charge of this?”
The packed conference hall erupted in applause.
So the simple answer is almost certainly no, we wouldn’t trust any government with the data that Google collects.
Just stop for a minute and think about this: if it existed, would you use “Cmail,” a free email system hosted by the Canadian government?
Didn’t think so.
It’s a terrifying irony, and one that undermines the very foundation of society as we think we understand it.
More alarmingly, even as Google reaches a point of near total control over all of our information, it strives to own and control so much more.
The company regularly invests in and purchases medical service companies, media companies, power infrastructure companies, and transportation providers.
These are the things that nations were built on.
These are the things that contemporary governments are ever-more disinterested in and ceding to private corporations like Google.
Imagine a world in which Google has full awareness of every aspect of our lives, based on the information we have freely given the company.
That nearly exists.
Now imagine that Google is also a key provider of health care, energy, transportation, and media.
That is the direction that the company is moving.
Google recognizes that the 20th Century transformed us all from citizens into consumers, and it is carefully crafting a new era in which geography and nations matter less than products and services.
If the company isn’t our new government already, it soon will be.
And if the story so far is any indication, we won’t mind that a bit.
It seems we’ll do anything for free email.
Andrew Robulack is a Whitehorse-based freelance writer and communications technology consultant specializing in the internet and mobile devices. Read his blog online at http://www.geeklife.ca.
Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, September 3, 2010.