Silicon Valley is not your friend. They never were. We were promised transformational moonshots around the turn of the century and all we got were a bunch of companies with NSA-like spying powers who subsist entirely off of telling advertisers what we do online. America’s tech sector seems to be following the same path as Wall Street, as the 1980s were all about trusting the Gordon Gekkos of the world, while the decades following it were defined by using Gordon Gekko as an avatar for sleaziness.
Which brings me to Google. A company that began as a search company has now become something like the fictional Skynet from Terminator. Their evil is so brazen and transparent that a Republican Senator was able to absolutely flambé them. The crux of Senator Josh Hawley’s interrogation is that Google is incredibly disingenuous when it tells us what personal data they do and do not sell, especially when it comes to tracking our location. Watch all these clips.
Game. Set. Match. Since I presume most weren't able to watch the Senate hearing on privacy this morning, you should know that Republicans and Democrats were very much aligned, collaborative, and very much on to Google's business model.— Jason Kint (@jason_kint) March 12, 2019
Google is so obviously disingenuous that they actually helped deliver a bipartisan consensus to Washington. You can see the value of having younger folks in this exchange. Google’s lawyer kept responding with “phones are complicated!” to broad questions, hoping for responses to come his way like Lindsey Graham’s “how does sweeping up information help provide value.” Instead, he ran into Josh Hawley, who very clearly understands the game being played with location services, and the GOP Senator asked a series of questions that revealed Google’s grift for every informed observer to see.
You cannot turn off location services on your phone. Period. You will always be tracked by the makers of your phone. Always.
Google’s lawyer would like you to think that this is of vital importance to maps and phone calls (notice how those were the only two examples he repeatedly pulled up), but if you’re turning off location services, odds are good you’re not trying to use a map since we all have a basic understanding of how GPS works. That just leaves phone calls, and our phones have evolved to a point where that is not the primary usage of them. Google’s lawyer was arguing that they need to track your location even when you don’t want your location tracked, and the fact that this data has value is supposedly secondary to the good folks at Google who simply just want to make your phone work as best they can. Silicon Valley titans like Google and Facebook may want to take a step back and think about how the public really views them, given that their intrinsic evil is so shameless that it makes GOP Senators look like paragons of virtue by comparison.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.