If you’re familiar with Hollywood dystopian sci-fi movies, you’ll know that at their heart they typically have an obviously evil mega-corporation that is developing technology to do obviously evil things – like creating a Robocop or a bug-like killer drone. In real life, we have Google.
Hollywood would never dare convey that kind of banal reality. It has no interest in alerting us to the fact that we choose to conspire with evil corporations, consenting to our own surveillance, and handing over intimate secrets. We are not simply letting corporations into our living rooms, as this chilling extract from Julian Assange’s new book, When Google Met Wikileaks, makes clear. When we welcome in Google, we are welcoming in the government. And as Google takes over ever more channels of communication, from the internet to mobile phones, the government’s reach extends ever deeper into our private lives
Following the NSA revelations of Edward Snowden, the image of Google was of a well-meaning company forced to do bad things against its will by the nasty US security state. In fact, Assange makes an absolutely convincing case that Google is simply another arm of the security state, one carefully crafted by its CEO, Eric Schimdt, to conceal the fact through its mantra of “Don’t be evil” and its playschool-style logo.
According to confidential emails between the NSA and Schmidt, Google is referred to as part of the “Defense Industrial Base”. Its job is to provide “products and services that are essential to mobilize, deploy, and sustain military operations.”
Whether it is being just a company or “more than just a company,” Google’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly enmeshed within the foreign-policy agenda of the world’s largest superpower. As Google’s search and Internet service monopoly grows, and as it enlarges its industrial surveillance cone to cover the majority of the world’s population, rapidly dominating the mobile phone market and racing to extend Internet access in the global south, Google is steadily becoming the Internet for many people. Its influence on the choices and behavior of the totality of individual human beings translates to real power to influence the course of history.
If the future of the Internet is to be Google, that should be of serious concern to people all over the world—in Latin America, East and Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, the former Soviet Union and even in Europe—for whom the Internet embodies the promise of an alternative to U.S. cultural, economic, and strategic hegemony.
A “don’t be evil” empire is still an empire.