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July 12, 2006

Google - Behind The Screen

A wonderful documentary (47 mins) created by Ijsbrand van Veelen features some interesting discussions with Marissa Mayer, Vint Cerf, Ian Brown (Open Rights Group), Brewster Kahle (founder of Internet Archive) and some Google engineers. They talk about PageRank, targeted advertising, life at Google, user privacy, machine translation, the story of "Don't be evil", book search, the danger of Google's monopoly, Google Earth. The video is really well-made, it tries to be objective by showing different opinions on the same subject, even though it's more inclined towards conspiracy theories.

Marissa Mayer says Google collects information about users' activity to improve the quality of search results, not to create a profile for each user. They need to store it for an indefinite period of time as there are services that require a huge quantity of data to process, like the spell checking feature on Google Search.

The documentary puts tough questions like: "How can you convince people that Google isn't a Big Brother company?", "Can we see how do you scan the books?", "Should the digitization of books be made by a company like Google who may require fees to query the database for a research project?", "What happens if a search engine becomes dominant?".

The conclusion of the documentary? Google shouldn't be let to become a monopoly, they shouldn't be the only source of information, they shouldn't become the Ministry of Truth. Although Google's neutrality and unbiased results are a proof that it deserves our trust, it's always the best to diversify the sources of information.

And here's the full video:


  1. you need to get a life and quit worrying about your worthless privacy. If you're not breaking the law, WHO CARES IF GOOGLE KNOWS!!

  2. hey anonymous, do you have primary school diploma? I doubt that.. and if privacy was already myth you wouldn't call yourself anonymous.

  3. This is worth to be repeated 10 times: "if privacy was already myth you wouldn't call yourself anonymous" x10!

    I read the video. I heard a term "big brother" and I wasn't understand this term. I searched it on wiki, and a HUGE SUDDEN fear came straight to me. "The big brother is watching me"

    I use gmail, google search, its calendar, and sometime its maps. I don't think Google is doing anything evil, but the huge sudden fear was so strong to me that I can't forget it.

    As long as Google is "just another company", how can it keep its purity throughout its or my lifetime?

    A story is always exciting when it is developing. Changes come one after another, and the story keep going toward its goal. But once it goes enough far away from its start, we may simply say the happiest time is the past. I guess most love stories follow the same patern, may so do the love with Google :P

  4. Thats like saying give up freedom for liberty. Orwels 84... Double think.

    Watch... Read... Learn...

  5. the cutie blonde VP of Google is worth watching the whole thing

  6. If you appreciate power of data mining, and existence of google docs, google calender, gmail, and the fact from the google privacy policy statement "your data may reside on a server which is outside your country"........

  7. "By their fruits ye shall know them"

    So far so good with Google as far as I am concerned - I've used Google search, Gmail, GCal, GReader, GMaps, YouTube, & other Google products daily for upwards of 12 years. I also use the AdBlock Plus & CustomizeGoogle Firefox extensions to remove all Google ads & increase my privacy (amongst other reasons). Privacy International, who is featured in this documentary, doesn't mention CustomizeGoogle on their website. Even though Google has apparently conducted a smear campaign against Privacy International, I found the report where Google is literally blacklisted as the first result when searching "privacy international internet company report". This report has been online for a year and a half. I just deleted the links when searching "truth about holocaust" using SearchWiki, which has been implemented by Google since this documentary was produced. I hide SearchWiki on Google web search using the No SearchWiki GreaseMonkey script because, as with ads, I prefer not to have this visual clutter on my screen. GreaseMonkey was created by a developer who now works for Google.

    The makers of this documentary don't seem to understand that everything that Google has done and is doing is building on open standards and open source software, such as HTML and Linux. Google does create proprietary technology on top of these open tools, as does Apple, but again, so far so good with my experience of using Google's products (and Apple's for that matter). If Google does turn to shit then I'll use something else for web search and e-mail etc. If Apple turns to shit then I'll use Ubuntu instead of Mac OS X. The recent experience of Microsoft's monopolistic dominance and pathological behaviour in the IT industry (which is now waning) inevitably leads to paranoia of any another company that comes along, so it is unsurprising to see this tone in a documentary about Google. However I for one would prefer to see a more nuanced approach with more perspectives and more background material to that taken in this documentary, but that nuance would not be possible in a one hour TV show. Luckily we now have other types of media with which to increase our understanding and awareness, via the net. Google (or Microsoft or Apple or any other corporation) are not inherently good, but they are not inherently evil either. They are comprised of human beings who, like you and me, are not inherently good nor inherently evil, I believe. Reality is more subtle than that. Perhaps we should look at the truth as the authority rather than any particular authority as the truth.

    "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free"

  8. From my honest point of view "WE ALL HATE GOOGLE,but CANN'T LIVE WITHOUT IT"

  9. Google is an amazing search engine, we all hate it BECAUSE there's no privacy but we definately need it.
    Not only that, but Google knows about it, the government knows about it.. ANYONE can see where you've been.
    "If it is manmade, then man is who is watching."

    ~Katie C. -A High School student.


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