Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

At Sundance, This Year’s Big Bad Evil Movie Villain Is Google

Two films that premiered in Park City, Utah, this week take a critical look at an emerging villain of our time: Google and its insatiable hunger for our data.

Judging by its trailer, Sundance’s “Google and the World Brain” is a documentary with thriller music that depicts the vast and sinister ambitions of Google’s book-scanning efforts.

As one professor/librarian/expert dude puts it in the trailer, “The Google book-scanning project is clearly the most ambitious, swell-brained scheme that has ever been invented.”

Here’s the Hollywood Reporter’s review from Sundance.

Meanwhile, a film about the perils of online data collection called “Terms and Conditions May Apply” premiered at Slamdance, an independent film festival adjacent to Sundance, this week.

As Casey Newton’s CNET piece puts it, “The film provides special scrutiny of Google, and argues that the company bowed to advertiser pressure by removing language from its privacy policy promising users anonymity unless they willingly gave it up.”

You can view the TACMA Preview from Hyrax Films Private on Vimeo.

At a surface glance, at least, the films have a lot in common: They take a possibly valid but very negative slant on interesting issues; Google didn’t agree to participate in either movie, and they both feature shots of the company’s employees milling about its central courtyard in Mountain View.

I’ll leave you with the words of international privacy expert Moby (the same guy who wants to take you to the south side), via the TACMA trailer:

“Anything that’s been digitized is not private, and that is terrifying.”

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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