Mohammad Atta must be rolling over in his virgins. All that hard work -- the planning, the money, the trips back and for the to our country of the infidels. If only he had planned 9/11 in 2006 instead of 2001, it would have been so much easier. He could have had Google Earth!
While the government and Google are battling in the court room regarding disclosing searches, I wonder whether anyone other than those who have looked at their potential home prices on Zillow.com has taken the time to actually look at this application. You get to fly on a magic carpet ride, pin-pointing any address and see photographic and topographic views of every street corner and mountain. They've knitted together all the satellite images formerly tucked onto Satellite Imagery hard drives somewhere and voila! The Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, maps of nuclear power plants, all yours to hover around in your very own fabulous Google Earth flight simulator. It's the coolest wildest thing you've ever seen.
Currently, you need to have a PC, to download the application (free) and then it launches. The interface is a little hard to figure out, but it's just a matter of time before when you google your name, you will see a link to pictures of your house or apartment, where you back gate is, if you have a pool, what kind of roof you have and what car is in the driveway. But, wait a sec, is this all a good thing all the time?
Don't get me wrong. I love google. How else could I unearth (pun intended) obscure images or information that strike my fancy at 1:32 am? or find out everything I wanted to know about somebody before I met them for a meal?... If I google someone and he doesn't come up on the first two pages, do they exist? Does it mean they're less important or can they hide behind multitudes of like-named souls? If you google me, you'll have to decide whether it's Kimberly Brooks the new media artist (me) or a sexy black actress (my alter ego, that's another post...) or someone arrested in Virginia.
The real question is just how much faith should we have in one company? Are our searches really safe? Our documents? The newest version of their free application that lets you search for files on your hard drive remotely gets to be copied on the Google server too. If a federal agent wanted to see those documents and they were on your hard drive they would need a warrant. But if they're on Google's server, then all they need is the much lower barrier of a subpeona. Limiting access to Google Earth is as futile as John Ashcroft covering the breasts of the statues at the state department. But that's not the point. Rather, in this age, when one company, gets to know sooo much about us -- what we're interested in, what we want to buy, what our dreams are, our floor plans -- is a "don't be evil" motto enough to protect us?
A few weeks ago Time Magazine noted that "It's part of the Google ethos to pretend, at least, not to care about the share price or let it affect strategy." Too often companies have shown that being profitable to investors trumps the greater good. If this collective brain we're building is not ahead of our individual moral capacity, it might be for a large corporation. We should pause the music occasionally, lift our needle heads out of the record groove, and look up.