Eeky Geeky: Weekly Peeky at the Freaky – 4/15/04

Carl Brooks

This week, I add to my burden of shame as a lousy columnist and haul out the tired old trope, “first of a two part series!” on mighty Google, king of our jungle. And the lion, he does not sleep tonight, oh no. This week: birth of a Google Nation. Next week, a survey on Google’s effectiveness as a search engine, which promises to be informative, useful and trustworthy. I’d like to apologize in advance for that. I’m sorry.

But first, the news, and in my sporadic attempts to make this column slightly useful, a tip. If your hard drive is hot to the touch, that means you’re pushing it pretty hard. Get a fan, dummy. If it is too hot to touch, it is time you backed up anything you wanted to keep toot sweet. Trust me on this.

There’s a new wormsky, called Netsky that infects yousky throughsky yoursky e-mail attachmentskys. Yawn, although I was really touched by the virused e-mail I got, to wit “I cannot forget you! your big love, ;-).” That makes me feel so warm inside…

And, apparently the RIAA is just so not happy with songs going for $.99 online. They want to bump it up to $2.50. There might be something funny to be said about that, but I’m busy vomiting from sheer frustration into my tiny, plastic trashcan.

Far, far more interesting news, and less gag-inducing, and, hurrah, on topic, Arizona Libertarian and candidate for U.S. House of Representatives Mark Yannone has dramatically raised his profile, from flatter than a dead mouse on the anvil face of a 4-ton hydraulic shop press to about four inches off the mass media’s sea level, by accusing Google News of censoring a press release. Leaving aside the desperately humorous irony of finding this out by searching Google News, Yannone claims that Google removed a news release titled, “Investigation Proves Federal Felonies By EEOC In Government Reverse Discrimination Case,” which was authored by Apache Junction resident Lee Kent Hempfling, and published on his website, The longs and shorts of the story are confusing, and mostly involve wacky people being wacky. If you really care, figure it out yourself.

The point is that Google is under attack, vigorously and often. An enterprising fella, Bob Massa, tried to sue Google when his webpage and ad traffic business tanked; that was a year ago or more, after the now infamous algorithm changes. A nebbishy accountant sued for libel after googling himself, arguing, with some constancy, that Google is a de facto media outlet, because of it’s size and ubiquity, and therefore has the same responsibility for what people find on there. A high-minded crusader wants Google to censor itself because the first result on searching for “Jew” is an anti-Jewish website.

And now, privacy advocates are caterwauling and dancing about in agony over Gmail, Google’s new 1 gig e-mail service that will hopefully put the final nail in Hotmail’s coffin (you read it here first, folks) and scare the living daylights out of Yahoo!. The new service indexes your email and makes it searchable by keyword, which is handy with 1 gigabyte of e-mails to look through.

This bad because Google will then display ads to you based on that index. Your e-mail is about how much your boss looks like a monkey; you see text ads for simian hygiene products. Or something. Yes, that may seem creepy, and it is, but Google assures us that the process is blind, automated, and no one would even dream of oh, say, hooking up your personal information, e-mail keywords, and selling it to the highest bidder or turning it over to Homeland Security.

Larry Page, geek god, seems startled and hurt that now that Google has reached windmill size, people are tilting at it. He shouldn’t be; he should be fighting desperately to make sure that the service he created retains its independence and objectivity, but we all know that in the world of business, integrity takes a back seat to cash, and when you are beholden to your stockholders, you don’t get to do what you want anymore. Still want that IPO, Mr. Page?

Tune in next week for part 2 of “Is Google the next Evil Empire?”