Google has given itself a very important mission: Do no evil. I suppose doctors have a “Do no harm” thing, but is there any other organization with “Do no evil” as a stated purpose? And, yet, in Google’s quest to become all things internet to all people, they have stepped on a lot of toes, particularly in the realm of privacy and security. However, regardless of the ultimate motivations, they have also stood up to China and their web censorship.
Google has developed a new encrypted search that privacy and security advocates are applauding. The search parameters and results are essentially scrambled so that upstream content filters do not know what is being passed one way or the other. It thwarts would-be snoops from totalitarian regimes from monitoring or censoring search results. However, Google has inadvertently run afoul of the totalitarian regime that I might also call the American People’s Republic of Children.
The problem is the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). In the ever-growing web of laws that makes up the legal fiction we know as childhood and adolescence, a very important consideration is the mitigation of liability for the caretaking institutions. “The Children” must be shielded from questionable material—a lot of which, potential complainants, who care deeply about “The Children,” will know when they see it. So, it is best to block large swaths of content based on things like “adult language” or anything with “porn” in the title. Non-compliance means a lack of funding.
Only, Google’s new encrypted search can sidestep filtering software looking for the non-encrypted search terms and results over the network. The solution is to…block Google from schools and libraries? Yeah, that is pretty much it. A popular filtering company is suggesting that search results be filtered through totalitarian-regime-friendly rivals Yahoo or Bing. And, regrettably, other Google services like Google Docs or Gmail would be blocked as well.
At the very least, this would be a good opportunity for Google to note the irony involved: Develop an encrypted search that gets around totalitarian regimes in China or Iran, only to run afoul of “The Children.” Actually, “The Children” have very few freedoms—at least in schools—all those other countries seem to hate us for. Free speech? Ha! Bearing arms? Are you kidding!? Illegal search and seizure? Please! Assembly? Only when one is called, right? Privacy?
Is it possible for any of that stuff to enter the popular public discourse? Ha! Please! Are you kidding!?
There is nothing wrong with Larry Page and Sergey Brin or a company like Google throwing its weight around when it comes to “The Children.” It has been happening since…the beginning of American Public Education. Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the National Education Association (NEA) owe a significant debt to Carnegie and Rockefeller endowments. And today, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, along with ETS, are influencing Education in the most positive way imaginable—by pushing for two fewer years (as long as students test out, certainly).
Google, of course, is working on the encryption issue. I wish they would not.