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Google is a strategic weapon

Google LogoGoogle is taking heat for censoring search results in China. Congress is requesting hearings on the issue. As ususal, the blogosphere is in a tither.


I don’t like the idea of this happening in our own country (with a few exceptions most would agree with). But China is not our own country and if you want to do business there you need to follow local laws. Americans like to think their laws follow them wherever they travel but (unfortunately) that’s not the case. Americans also expect their tastes (food, language, cold beverages, seat belts in taxis) to follow them everywhere (particularly in Paris during the summer) but that’s another post.

It is in the best interest of America to allow Google (and Yahoo) to gain a strong foothold in China and other countries. As I talked about in “I am spying on you” having the ability to monitor and understand search results is a powerful strategic weapon – in essence a 21st century wiretap. If Google takes a leadership position for search in China, it will give our national organizations an effective overseas intelligence capability. Not to mention enhance the economic performance of our economy- But everyone already knew that. Realpolitik dictates that the downside of engaging in un-American business behavior is exceeded by the strategic and economic asset we will gain from penetrating their information infrastructure.

That might explain why the EU has recently kicked off an effort to build a search engine run exclusively from within the EU. They want some way to search without a US national company seeing the request.

Update [2 February 06]: Just coined a new word. Searchtaps. Def: To engage in concealed observation of search queries.

Discussion

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  1. The EU’s motives for building a search engine aren’t militarily founded. Remember the Pulp Fiction scene about what the French call a Big Mac? There’s a reason it’s not called a Big Mac and that’s because the French government goes to special lengths to stop English/American words being absorbed directly into their language.

    Why? Because they understand that globalisation leads to homogenisation of cultures. So they defend their words, and they also defend their literature (e.g. France announcing they would do the same as Google and scan/digitise loads of books).

    This same vein carries through to the EU (because France is quite powerful within the EU and the mindset isn’t unique to France in Europe) – they want to defend their culture against its Americanisation.

    Google’s control over what information a person is exposed to is a powerful cultural force. The EU wants to have that power because it doesn’t want an American company to have that influence over their culture.

    It is a very American perspective to see things in terms of weapons, but that’s really not the case here. Europe is a war-wearied continent, after the first half of the 20th Century, and simply doesn’t look at things from that point of view.

    Posted by SpiderMonkey | January 27, 2006, 7:41 PM