Google: Behind the Screen

Google: Behind the Screen

2006, Technology  -   22 Comments
Ratings: 6.58/10 from 26 users.

Google DocumentaryWhat if all the information in the world was categorized and easily searchable? What if all the news from around the world, all books, written texts, photos and videos that exist on a place in the world would be collected, and would be available everywhere? That is precisely the goal of Google and it will not be long for it to be realized. Through the well-known search engine, Google Earth, where all information is classified by geographical location, along with Google Books, a project where Google digitizes complete libraries.

Tegenlicht visits the head office of Google in Mountain View, California and spoke with Vint Cerf, who commissioned by the American army is the forerunner of the developed Internet. Cert now works at Google, where he helps to create and develop new possibilities for the Internet. How does he see the development of the Internet, and the role that Google plays?

Google grows like a cabbage and they continue to hire more and more smart people in order to achieve their company goal faster. But is the company itself also aware of the dangers and the consequences which it has as the organizer of of all the information in the world? Is Google like the new library of Alexandria, but far-faster and skilful information tool? The intentions of Google seem well, given the company motto ' Don' t be evil'.

But in China to cooperate in censorship, Google have lost a lot of confidence. For who insures us that Google will not do this elsewhere? In addition to the millions of daily users grateful for Google's attempts in increasing information flows in the right direction, there are more and more people who see Google as a new Big Brother, which not only determines what information is available, but also who, what, and when the information has been searched.

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
11 years ago

On 11 April 2006, PBS (Public Broadcasting Service in the USA) broadcast a documentary named, 'The Tank Man'. It was about that infamous man who stood in front of, and stopped, a series of tanks from entering Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. If you are outside China reading this, you can google 'tank man 1989' and you will see the image results come up. The PBS documentary shows that no such results come up if the google search is done within China. The PBS documentary shows that this went to the United States Congress where all Google could say was "it was done with difficulty and consternation" or something along those lines. The PBS documentary is on this website (i.e. 'Top Documentary Films' which you and I are on now). Google, presumably in order to dominate market share in China, actively censores news about a major, major time in Chinese history from the entire Chinese population.

If I leave the above aside for a moment though, isn't it a positive thing to have a variety of information sources? Why, for example, has Google purchased one website: YouTube? Before Google purchased YouTube, YouTube could release videos as *it* saw fit - which was different to how Google would have seen it. Emails coming in from users would have been dealt differently by YouTube administrators than what they are by employees at Google. It does not require Google to be out and out evil for a monopoly on information distribution to be bad.

I own three completely separate English language dictionaries. Definitions for each word vary, even if just a little (and occasionally a fair amount), from one dictionary to the next. No one dictionary is perfect - and that is just the point. By having three and, when I want to, looking all three up, I can deepen my understanding of any given word. I, for one, consider that to be a good thing and I'm happy to go to the time and expense of continuing the way I have been. The only thing I don't want is one dictionary publisher to take over others. In addition, by doing this, I provide the world with a service - an awareness which is unique to me and my personal interpretations. I receive peace of mind in that regard and that peace of mind is also of benefit to the world. Diversity is something which makes the whole darn lot of us stronger. I don't want to be the sole arbiter on what words mean or on anything else; I want to be authentic within myself that my perceptions match the person that I am on the inside. It'd be nice if others did the exact same thing and, taken all together, life itself could then be enriched and broadened for each one of us.

It is worth noting that each dictionary has an entry for the word 'google' which refers to searching the internet (i.e. as well as the number). I even used it in my first paragraph above. That is one mother of a powerful company. Recently, I read an academic paper stating that paper based libraries are emptying themselves of books which are not being borrowed much. It is being done because of this all pervasive dogma regarding cost efficiency. What about the non-financial costs of losing access to knowledge? By sheer chance at a second hand bookstore, I once found a 1979 book on gardening. It is useful to have these things out there precisely because they are *not* current. It can be useful to know how we came to be where we are today by having access to material written decades ago. If a book is unpopular in terms of being borrowed, it can be all the more important to have it available. What happens if Google digitises all the information? It is a company. The interests of companies differ from the interests of society all the fricking time! All the time. If manufacturers can get away with disposing toxic chemicals in a river for no financial cost, many would do it. Many have done it.

Finally, this point about having "don't be evil" as a mission statement. First, it points to just how much power Google, as a company, has amassed. Second, it is a mistake to have such a thing in your mind, let alone as a mission statement. I was talking to my sister once, years ago now. It was one of many discussions we have had about dealing in the world. For the first (and I hope the last) time, I blurted out "basically, don't be a f*cktard". It sounds brilliant in the first instance. It cuts through all the malarkey in the world and presents the whole thing in "beautiful", plain, simple and basic words. If this is what you live by though, it eats away at you. You start thinking about it. You would probably wind up doing evil because you are so fixated on not doing it. I, for one, realised this as soon as it had come out of my mouth and I pretty much backed away from having said it straight away. Anyway, my sister and I are definitely cool but the point I am making is that, especially as mission statements go, it is best if you have them framed in a positive way i.e. what to *do* rather than what *not* to do.

Those are my thoughts. This documentary has its value (and, I might add, an enormous volume of it) in the fact that it explores an issue which is not often explored. I like to think that I am a very well read and knowledgeable person. People who know me seem to think so. I haven't watched, read or even seen anything else which broaches the subject of Google's effective monopoly within the world of searching the web. The documentary maker could have done a better job. Flatly telling someone that s/he is naive is not going to get them to open up or co-operate with you. If he wanted to present his own view so much, he could have done so away from any interviewee with just him in front of the camera. I have seen a wide variety of documentary-makers do this. In any case, I forgive him because, as I said, the documentary brings out an important issue and one which is seldom considered.

(email censored) by moderator, no personal emails, street address, phone numbers Tom.

11 years ago

google censored ED from its search results for a time in australia at the request of the government because of an article about aboriginials made as a joke that the government took too seriously.

11 years ago

Queued up for later.

11 years ago

i love using Google for everything thank you Google

11 years ago

"Can you ever really trust a profit oriented company?"

After watching some of Adam Curtis' docs (on this spectacular site - TDF), specifically ' The Trap', I don't think any companies truly care if you do. The economy was developed on the idea that we are selfish, constantly calculate and scheme against one another, and so we participate in the economy with these motivations.

This is a narrow minded view of the human being, no one is any one thing. The want to do good and to do well can coexist. It seems like the economy is slowly starting to accept this, and Google is a good example of it. I want to trust, so cautiously I do trust that they are legitimately trying to do no evil.

Bungie (the developers of Halo) is the only other company I have a similar feeling toward. Any one who knows of them probably knows what I mean.

I am a life like distruster of capitalism, but I am finding myself slowly changing my tune. I hope this is not too naive.

anmol shrivastava
11 years ago

a must watch documentry

11 years ago

what Google is doing is inevitable.If Google doesn't do it some other company will.Because the good old book(Bible) says in Daniel 12:4 "..and knowledge shall be increased " in the end times.Right now Google is still dealing with 'information' but we are transiting from an 'Information Age' to a 'Knowledge Age'. In which everyone will know the Truth.

12 years ago

A very interesting documentary. Like many people, I first tried Google when I heard that it was a good search engine. Before that I had been using Lycos, Altavista, Expedia, etc. Since I perceived it as being clearly superior, I switched to it almost exclusively. I still try others like Bing, for example, on occasion.
However, if I were to perceive that Google was trying to manipulate the information I receive, I would quickly seek alternatives, as I am sure would many others. Sadly this is not true generally as is made clear by the fact that of the earliest Internet adopters, namely the US, only 42% use Google. People as a whole don't like change, which explains many things from stereotyping to why people stick with the first thing they get; IE for example.
I can only applaud Google for their many innovations beyond that of being a mere search engine while at the same time abhorring any government that would pry into their database. Ultimately we all deserve what we get, because we vote for it as individuals on at a time.

12 years ago

critical thought is vital - today, more than ever ... the last interview was wise: all information contains a level of bias, including the statement itself ... what this video revealed, however, is that google is less like the serpent and more like eve in the information paradise ... our own ignorance is still the greatest threat to freedom, not google, and that's the thesis in this doc

12 years ago

I think of them like I think of walmart or microsoft. If you get too big for your britches and make too many demands on us, we will just stop using you. The same way that IE got shoved off the map and FF jumped in. I don't even feel bad when I make a site that IE doesn't like, it's a turd and it's their fault that they won't follow the standards.

Google is a monopoly whether they admit it or not, I have never been asked as a web dev to increase anyone's search results anywhere but on Google. That's who clients see as where they need to be. I won't say it won't be challenging to leave their search engine if they act up but that's what would be done, somehow I survived on the net before them.

What I foresee is that they will eventually spread themselves too far and lose that initial focus. The originators are all wealthy enough to walk away and wipe their hands of it. You can't really name anything on the net Google doesn't have it's fingers in and that's beginning to sicken me as much as I like other things about them. They keep pumping out free apps and nic nacs but isn't that what the pusher does... give you some hits for free to start? I try not to rely on all their gimicks as I invested in one (03d) just to have them pull the plug on it. My time is valuable to me, be straight with me about your intentions. They kept saying they would support it, I put time into helping them grow it, answering questions, making documents then poof - project is turning into an add-on to another product just like we said it wouldn't. Antics like that don't garner them trust.

Remember when adsense was pushed heavier than adwords? Now adsense is almost an instant inclusion on sites that have no business supporting them and someone pays for that. Namely my companies asking to be #1 on Google all the time. I know several small companies paying more in adwords than their payroll would be for another employee - is that right? I don't know how long Google can keep them convinced that it's paying off.

A. T. Heist
12 years ago

all govn'ts need to stay away from search because all they'll do is fucl< up the flow information.

12 years ago

Did microsoft pay for this?

12 years ago

Can you ever really trust a profit oriented company?

12 years ago

the amount of power google has with peoples daily lives and the internet, is quite scary honestly.

people don't realize it... but the old saying stays true, with power comes responsibility. can we all trust google to do the right thing in the masses best interests. i don't know.

12 years ago

This is a brilliant documentary and suggest the whole world must watch.

12 years ago

It is amusing that Google is being looked upon as being a "monopoly" since the meaning of this word has to do with products or services for sale. The fact that Google is rapidly becoming the search engine of choice is simply because they have come up with the best product. However their product for sale is ADVERTISING! Practically everything else they do is offered for FREE.

They certainly don't have a monopoly on advertising as that is a much larger field than Google can every monopolize.

As far as book scanning is concerned, they are doing the work and offering the results for free. They would be within their rights to sell the results, but they don't as it helps their saleability in advertising to attract users with a free service.

12 years ago

I want to work for Google!

13 years ago

Is that a Human League song that they keep playing?