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A View from David Appell

Google's Wi-Fi

There are rumors about that Google is going into the Wi-Fi business, such as this FAQ on what they call “Google Secure Access” software, which encrypts wireless Internet traffic that uses “Google WiFi”, presumably a hardware network that Google would…

  • September 21, 2005

There are rumors about that Google is going into the Wi-Fi business, such as this FAQ on what they call “Google Secure Access” software, which encrypts wireless Internet traffic that uses “Google WiFi”, presumably a hardware network that Google would like to establish. Some people think this is an excellent idea: “Someone has to do that big network,” says Dave Winer. But others aren’t so sure. The Motley Fool’s Seth Jayson is concerned (reg. req.) that it’s going to be very expensive for Google to roll out the magical “last mile” of the Internet (of course, Google has lots and lots of cash); but really his main concern is that he doesn’t trust Google:

However, I want to set aside that question for a moment to once more ask an uncomfortable question: How much of your life do you want to put at Google’s disposal?

I’ve already noted several times that Google primarily offers all this really cool free stuff in order to mine your hard drive for information and use it to sell ads. That’s why Google’s “Secure Access” program – the first bit of the WiFi strategy to hit the street – is such a spooky irony. It encrypts your WiFi data streams and filters your net experience through Google’s “secure” servers. Basically, Google is saying, “Use our encryption servers so no one will snoop on your data – except us.”

Indeed, I think it’s reasons like that that make people wonder whether Google, as it becomes ever larger, is moving away from its motto of “Don’t Be Evil”:
This worry shouldn’t just be limited to those of us who fear that the “don’t-be-evil” company is moving too quickly toward becoming an Orwellian Big Sibling. How else would you describe an advertising company that might have its Web-bots scanning everything on your hard drive, logging your Internet chats (and your VoIP phone conversations?), and taking a little peek at everything you send across the Internet? That kind of creepy can invite both public backlash and unwanted government regulation.

You do have to wonder how many more tentacles Google can get into the PC/Internet pie before users start to seriously question exactly what it is they’re up to and how much of your privacy you want to entrust to any one company.

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