Google’s China Dilemma Is Ours as Well

Views: 708

It now seems unlikely that Google will be proceeding anytime soon with their highly controversial “Dragonfly” project to provide Chinese government-controlled censored search services in China. The project has become politically radioactive — odds are that any attempt to move forward would result in overwhelming bipartisan blocking actions by Congress.

But this doesn’t mean that Google can — or that they should — leave China. About 20% of the global population is within Chinese territorial boundaries, well over a billion human beings. Even if it were financially practical to do so (which it isn’t), we cannot ethically abandon them.

Our ethical concerns with China are not with the Chinese people, they’re with the oppressive, dictatorial Chinese government.

In fact, if you ever deal directly with Chinese individuals, you’ll generally find them to be among the greatest folks you’ve ever encountered. Even if your experience is only with the multitude of Chinese-operated stores on eBay, it’s routine to receive superb customer service that puts many U.S.-based firms to shame.

So the dilemma — not just for Google but for all of us in dealing with China — is how to best serve the people of China, without directly supporting China’s totalitarian regime and their escalating and serious mass human rights abuses.

Obviously, it’s impossible to completely compartmentalize these two aspects of the problem, but there are some fairly obvious guidelines that we can apply.

Joint research projects with China — for example, in areas such as machine learning and artificial intelligence — is one category that will generally make sense to pursue, even though we realize that the fruits of such work can be used in negative ways.

But realistically, this is true of most research by humankind throughout history, and joint research projects can at the very least provide valuable insight into important work that might not otherwise be surfaced to domestic researchers.

On the other hand, participation in operational Chinese systems that wage war and/or directly further the oppression of the Chinese people should be absolutely off the table. This is the dangerous category into which Dragonfly would ultimately have resided, because the Chinese government’s vast censorship apparatus is a foundational and crucial aspect of their maintaining oppressive control over their population.

The fact that the vast majority of common queries under Dragonfly might not have been censored is irrelevant to the concerns at hand. It’s those crucial other Dragonfly queries —- censored by order of the Chinese dictators — that would drag this concept deep into an unacceptable ethical minefield.

These are but two examples from a complex array of situations relating to China. Neither Google nor the rest of us can or should disengage from China. But the specific ways in which we choose to work with China are paramount, and it is incumbent on us to assure that such projects always pass reasonable ethical muster.

As usual with so much in life, as the old saying goes (and the Chinese probably said it first) — the devil is in the details.

–Lauren–

A Terrible and All Too Common YouTube Abuse Story

Views: 785

If you’re a regular reader of my missives, you know that one of my continuing gripes with Google — going back many years — relates to their continuing failures to devise a system to deal appropriately with user problems in need of support escalation.

I have enormous respect for Google — a great company — but their bullheaded refusal to consider solutions that so many firms have found useful in these regards, such as ombudspersons and user advocates, is a source of continuing deep disappointment.

I’ve written about these issues so very many times over the years that I’m not going to repeat myself here, beyond saying that the usual excuse one hears — that people using free services should expect to get the level of service that they’re paying for — is not an acceptable one for services that have become so integral to so many people’s lives.

But it goes way beyond this. Escalation failures are common even with users of Google’s paid business services, and for major YouTube creators in monetary relationships with Google.

In fact, YouTube-related problems are near the top of the list of why users come to me asking for help with Google issues. Sometimes I can help them, sometimes I can’t. Either way, this isn’t something I should need to be doing from the outside of Google! Google needs to have dedicated employee roles for these escalation tasks.

I won’t here plow again over the ground that I’ve covered in the past regarding YouTube problems with Content ID and false ownership claims, and the desperation of honest YouTube creators who get crunched between the gears of YouTube’s claim/counterclaim machinery.

Rather, I’ll point to a particularly vivid very recent story of a YouTube creator who had his video (monetized with over 47 million views), ripped out from under him by someone with no actual ownership rights, and the Kafkaesque failures of Google to deal with the situation appropriately.

This case is all the more painful since this creator had enough subscribers that he had a YouTube “liaison” (something most YouTube creators don’t have, of course), but YouTube’s procedures failed so badly that even this didn’t help him. I recommend that you watch his video explaining the situation (posted just five days ago, it already has over two million views):

“How my video with 47 million views was stolen on YouTube” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4AeoAWGJBw 

And keep in mind, as he points out himself, this is far from an isolated kind of case.

Google knows what’s necessary to fix these kinds of situations. You start by hiring an ombudsperson, user advocate, or create some similar dedicated roles with genuine responsibility within the firm.

Google continues to fight these concepts, and the longer that they do so, the more that they risk trust in Google being further diminished and eventually decimated.

–Lauren–

Why I No Longer Recommend Google for Many Serious Business Applications

Views: 1695

Recently in “Can We Trust Google?” (https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/12/10/can-we-trust-google), I explored the question of whether Google should be considered to be a reliable partner to consumers or businesses, given the manner in which Google all too frequently makes significant changes to their products without documenting associated user interface and other related issues appropriately.

Even worse, Google has a long history of leaving users out in the cold when Google abruptly decides to kill products, often with inadequate or questionable claimed justifications.

Google has taken such actions again and again, most recently with the consumer version of Google+ — whose users represent among Google’s most loyal fans. Today, Google announced that G+ APIs will start to break in January — causing vast numbers of active sites and archives which depend on them for various display elements (including some of my own sites) to turn into graphical garbage without significant and time-consuming modifications.

Meanwhile, Google is speeding ahead with their total shutdown of consumer G+, on their new accelerated schedule that suddenly took months off of their originally announced rapid shutdown timetable.

If this all isn’t enough of a kick in the teeth to Google fans, Google continues extolling the virtues of the new G+ features that they plan for enterprises — for businesses — which apparently will be continuing and expanding even as the consumer side is liquidated.

But I wonder how long enterprise G+ will actually last? So many business people have contacted me noting that they no longer are willing to entrust long-term or mission critical applications to Google, because they just don’t trust that Google can be depended upon to maintain products into the foreseeable future. These entrepreneurs fear that they’re going to end up being ground up in the garbage disposal just like Google’s consumer users so often are, when Google products are pulled out from under them.

This goes far beyond Google+. These issues permeate the way Google treats both consumer and business users — very much as if they were disposable commodities, where only the largest demographic groups mattered at all.

I am a tremendous fan of Google and Googlers. But I’m forced to agree that at present it’s difficult to recommend Google as a stable resource for businesses that need to plan further than relatively short periods into the future. 

For business planning purposes, all of that great Google technology is effectively worthless if you can’t depend on it being stable and still being available even a few short years from now. 

For all the many faults of firms like Microsoft and Amazon — and I’m no friend of either — both of them seem to have learned that businesses need stability above all — a lesson that Google still doesn’t seem to have really internalized.

Both Amazon and Microsoft seem to understand that the ways in which you treat the users of your consumer products will reflect mightily on business’ decisions about adopting your enterprise products and services. For all of their vast technological expertise, Google seems utterly clueless regarding this important fact.

When I mentioned recently that I still believed it possible for Google to turn this situation around, I received a bunch of responses from readers suggesting that I was wrong, that Google will never make the kinds of changes that would truly be necessary.

I will continue to try help folks with Google-related issues to the maximal extent that I can. But I sure hope that my optimistic view regarding Google’s ability to change isn’t proven to be painfully incorrect in the end.

–Lauren–

The Terrifying Moment at the Congressional Google Hearing Today

Views: 1372

During a radio interview a few minutes ago, I was asked for my opinion regarding Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s hearing at Congress today. 

There’s a lot that can be said about this hearing. Sundar confirmed that Google does not plan to go ahead with a Chinese government censored search engine — right now. 

Most of the hearing involved the ridiculous, false continuing charges that Google’s search results are politically biased — they’re not.

But relating to that second topic, I heard one of the scariest demands ever uttered by a member of the U.S. Congress.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) wants Google to hand over to Congress the identities of the Googlers whose work relates to search algorithms. King made it clear that he wants to examine these private individuals’ personal social media postings, his direct implication being that showing a political orientation in your personal postings would mean that you’d be incapable of doing your work on search in an unbiased manner.

This is worse than wrong, worse than stupid, worse than lunacy — it’s outright dangerous McCarthyism of the first order.

Everything else that occurred in that hearing pales into insignificance compared with King’s statement.

King continued by threatening Google with various punitive actions if Google refuses to agree to his demand regarding Google employees, and also to turn over the details of how the Google search algorithms are designed — which of course Congress would leak — setting the stage for search to be gamed and ruined by every tech-savvy wacko and crook.

Steve King has a long history of crazy, racist remarks, so it’s no surprise that he also rants into straitjacket territory when it comes to Google as well.

But his remarks today regarding Google were absolutely chilling, and they need to be widely and vigorously condemned in no uncertain terms.

–Lauren–

Recent Google Posts

Views: 546

Can We Trust Google?
https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/12/10/can-we-trust-google

The DATA Says: Google’s “Dragonfly” Chinese Search Is Doomed
https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/11/28/the-data-says-googles-dragonfly-chinese-search-is-doomed

Save Google — but Let Facebook Die
https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/11/22/save-google-but-let-facebook-die

After the Walkout, Google’s Moment of Truth
https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/11/03/after-the-walkout-googles-moment-of-truth

Beware of “Self-Selected” Surveys of Google Employees
https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/10/30/beware-of-self-selected-surveys-of-google-employees

Why Internet Tech Employees Are Rebelling Against Military Contracts
https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/10/15/why-internet-tech-employees-are-rebelling-against-military-contracts

The Death of Google
https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/10/08/the-death-of-google

–Lauren–