Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Google- A Blessing or a Curse?

by Holly Govey

Constantly inundated by relentless emails, it is easy to become caught up in the epidemic of modern technology, but how dependent has society become on the availability of information?
Known by many as the most efficient, and reliable search engine, Google- which generates a few million results within a fraction of a second- developed from a rather more humble and discrete background. Originally known as BackRub, Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in a friend's garage while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University. It operated on Stanford University servers for more than a year but eventually took up too much bandwidth; so on 15th September 1997 was registered as a domain. It has since grown to become the world's biggest search engine, and the name Google has become synonymous with search.
The name originates from the word "googol," a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros which reflects Larry and Sergey's mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web; a fete which they have ultimately succeeded in accomplishing. However, this abundance of information has also facilitated a culture shrouded in technological dependence and invasions of privacy.
If you go to Google settings you are able to see all the interest categories that Google have put you in based on your search history and browsing behaviours. This has caused mass fear over internet safety and browsing privacy. Similarly, the Google search function elevates outdated or incorrect information about an individual to the top of the search results. This leakage of personal and private data can be damaging to reputations and lead to misguided conclusions about individuals which can have a significant impact on their daily lives and employment.
Following the European Court of Justice “right to be forgotten” EU ruling that people should be allowed to remove links on request, Google has created a webpage to receive request to remove irrelevant links and is currently receiving applications at a rate of ten per minute. Google says it’s had tens of thousands of requests from individuals keen to have embarrassing or misleading search results removed from its listings. These include a politician with a shady past, a convicted paedophile, a business with bad reviews and a tax-dodger.
Another potential invasion of privacy comes in the form of Google Glass, which is one of the newest technologies from the innovative computer company. This wearable computer allows users to interact with the company’s existing applications. The glasses have a built in camera that can also capture videos and instead of using headphones, it sends audio vibrations directly through the small bones in your ear, which you then hear as sound.
Although an exciting technological development, there are also disadvantages associated with this new product.
It doesn’t come cheaply and at $1,500 many people are questioning whether the product is worth the high price. It may also be seen as an invasion of privacy due to the potential to record witnessed events covertly and continuously, as discovered by One Directions members Zayn Malic and Louis Tomlinson who were recently caught smoking cannabis on the glasses. Finally, this blatant advertisement of wealth could be seen as facilitating theft and violence, as one man was mugged for the glasses last week. The mugger grabbed the glasses off the man’s face then smashed them and ran away.
A further technological development is seen in the release of the prototype of a driverless vehicle, which Google unveiled last week, at a technology conference in California. This two-seater with no steering wheel or other driver controls has the potential to be enormously attractive, for a number of reasons. For instance: the possibility for making our roads and highways much safer, for dealing with growing demand and the environment, and for freeing up current drivers' time to do more productive things. However, this new technology will also mean a loss in individual freedom as people will lose the ability to move without others watching and storing their data, due to the driverless cars tracking system.
Overall, through existing technology as well as new developments, Google continues to form an integral part of our daily lives. Positively, it contributes to a greater understanding of the world, enabling us to be more efficient and aware of what happens around us. However, conversely, this reliance on technology can have a detrimental effect on our communication within society. It also leads to a loss of individual privacy and freedom of thought due to the availability of public information which is instantly searchable on Google. The Internet never forgets, and all it takes is one Google search to be reminded of a mistake you’d like to control-alt-delete.


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