John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

God-Google-Satan: The Oneness

“Everyone loves Google.” So began a 2001 Wired profile of the company and its “resolutely uncommercial” path to success.

Everyone loves Google. Sounds like so much hyperbole now, but at the time it was essentially a truism.

Eight years later, that’s no longer really the case. Today, Google seems a distorted reflection of the ideals that made it so beloved. Google’s enormous success and relentless pursuit of new markets have inspired some to take an evil-empire view of the company. And Google (GOOG), by virtue of its protean business model and the arrogant righteousness with which it executes on it, perpetuates that view–although the company likely considers those who hold it to be Luddites.

Sure, everyone loved Google in 2001. But in 2008 they fear it. The Google of 2001 was a fascinating corporate anomaly, a company known for its colorful campus, lunar exploration grants and a cafeteria so good it was profiled in Food & Wine. The Google of 2008 is a different beast entirely. It’s a company accused of privacy violations in the states and abroad. It’s a company whose fast-broadening reach has given it unchecked power. And, it’s a company that last month came within three hours of a Department of Justice antitrust suit.

No wonder it’s fallen off the TRUSTe/Ponemon Institute’s list of the top 20 most trusted companies in the United States.

And it’s quite a tumble Google’s taken. The company ranked 10th in the Ponemon opinion surveys conducted in 2006 and 2007. This year it didn’t even merit a ranking. Quite a blow for a company for whom user trust is critical. But then consumer perception is a fickle animal, as Google founder Sergey Brin once noted. “Some say Google is God,” Brin said back in 2003. “Others say Google is Satan.”

Seems the latter camp’s picked up quite a few new members in the ensuing years….

[Image Credit: Google Blogoscoped]

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik