Google: Behind the screens is a documentary about Google’s goals and how Google does its business. I watched this film thinking that it would be an in depth view on Google’s architecture and a glimpse of its culture and technologies. However after the brief introduction filled with modern rock style music, it quickly became apparent that this film was not about seeing what Google is all about, but was made to try and raise fears and concerns about Google’s objectivity regarding its search results and question whether or not Google was trying to form a search engine monopoly over the internet. Essentially, this film was a basically a giant conspiracy theory about how Google’s going to take over the world with its superior search results and innovative projects. To make matters worse, the major opponents of Google’s surge in activity were people who obviously wet themselves at the idea of someone making everything free. Not only that, but those people had something to lose if Google did make that particular resource free. In all, this is probably one of the worst conspiracy theories I have ever heard of, second only to the 9/11 conspiracy.
Google: Behind the screens starts off with a video of Google earth panning into an overhead view of the Google campus. This is highly ironic considering the true subject of the video, but at this point the viewer doesn’t know where this film is going. While this transition is going on, lively modern rock music is enthusiastically playing the background lulling the viewer into a sort of relaxed state as the Google employees talk about how great Google is and how innovative their projects are. All the while, sections of lively music are played to pans of the Google campus. Then, the mood of the video changes, the questions begin to be more pointed, aiming for a particular type of response to the accusatory nature. Even the music changes to something you’d hear in a suspense movie where the antagonist is unknown. Finally, windchimes are introduced, with increasingly regular pictures of the Google campus under a cloudy sky. Using these subtle visual and auditory cues, the editor was able to make Google seem like a dark and ominous place, in an attempt to make the audience fear and therefore dislike Google.
The next and probably worst part of this video, were the arguments made by the opposition of Google. There were three main arguments; Is Google’s search results unbiased? Monopoly concerns. And Privacy concerns about Google’s indexing of personal information. The first claim, that Google’s search results are biased in some way, is just about the stupidest thing I’ve heard short of the kid hacking into, and wiping the hard drives of 127.0.0.1. Vint Cerf, Google’s VP explained that Google’s search results are based on a page’s rank on the internet. The rank is determined by how many links to that page are distributed across the internet. If the page is very popular or insightful, there will be far more links to it. In contrast, a page that isn’t very popular will naturally not have as many links pointing to it as a popular website. So basically, search results are results based on the people browsing the internet. Not what Google thinks is the right result. So essentially, the entire argument of Google’s search results being biased is void because Vint explained from the beginning that Google has little to do with the search results, and that the only thing Google facilitates is the algorithms that make it possible. Yet, they continue to hammer on this subject, even though it was explained in the beginning. Next, the conspiracy experts say that Google is trying to create an internet monopoly. Google is just a search engine. All Google can do to the internet, is index it, and provide a means for people to get to certain websites. That’s it. Google can’t influence what websites post or how they do business. So the entire idea of a monopoly is crazy. Personally, I believe that the monopoly concerns were brought up on the spot by the conspiracy experts because they have competing projects that Google is currently facilitating. For example Brewster Kahle was working on an open library project which Google is just so happening to be working on as well. The difference? Google’s using a robot that does the job far more efficiently and faster than the one man hand job done by Kahle. So obviously, Kahle has something to lose if Google completes the project first. The final claim, Google’s indexing creates privacy breaches. My favorite character of this entire film is Ian Brown, who I can tell, is a manly man. His best argument during the entire film was him worrying that Google’s storage of his e-mails is a threat to his privacy. Funny. Last time I checked that information had to be stored somewhere so you could have access to it. What does he expect Google to do? Delete all of the e-mails and then magically pull them out of their asses when he wants them? Never mind the endless firewalls and encryption Google uses to try and keep their mail servers as secure as possible, and god help us for the anti-bruteforcing algorithms they came up with to keep hackers from getting passwords by bruteforcing. Obviously a mail provider storing your undeleted e-mails is more dangerous to me than a 15 year old hacker with Brutus. Ian made a total ass of himself by basically moaning about every little thing Google needs to do in order to make stuff work. Had it not been for Ian, this video would have been watchable at least.
So Google: Behind the screens is basically a giant conspiracy theory, ripe with accusations of Bias, Monopolies, and failure to care about privacy. However, like all conspiracy theories, it kindly leaves out the facts about how websites are run, and had an ironically biased view toward Google. As a web developer, I know how to run a medium sized website, and Google’s going everything a good web developer should do. As a matter of fact, the only thing Google is doing wrong is not moving as fast as I would like them to. Google is an innovative company who is doing something that is unheard of, and that is offering business grade services for free. What Google is doing, is costing a lot of people money, so naturally there is going to be a lot of opposition them. This video was a poor attempt by some company to try and make Google look bad to some people, but really, it’s just another terrible conspiracy theory with no basis in fact. I’m glad this terrible ordeal is over so I can go back to my life; maybe Google will know of a good way to wipe a section of time from my memory…