While traveling, I found myself incredibly appreciative of Google’s map and navigation services on my phone. Trying to find and reach a location in a city that was unknown to me, Google saved my butt numerous times. The Maps app gave me excellent walking or bus travel instructions, including the bus number. Many times I walked the streets of Sydney holding the phone in my hand, feeling it vibrate every time an important turn was coming up. “Turn left in 300 meters. Fouveax Street.”
I also had a paper map. I could have stopped, unfolded it, found my coordinates, looked at street address numbers, etc. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I asked people. But Google was my premiere route finder that only failed when my phone battery ran down.
At those crucial, “Help me, Google” times I could feel the trade happening. They get information about me – where I go, what I search on, who I email (I use gmail) – and in turn, I get the help I need. A time may come when I hate Google for sharing my information with other companies or some other egregious use of my data, but not yet.
Here’s what I curse Google for: its monetary involvement with groups like Heritage Action and especially its membership in ALEC. I know all large corporations today sprinkle dollars on both sides of the political spectrum. After all, we live in a plutocracy, right? Google supports both liberal and conservative causes. But Heritage Action was a primary driver behind the push to shut the government down to stave off the Affordable Care Act. Had the nation defaulted on its debt and plunged into economic chaos, we could have said thank you to Google and other Heritage Action supporters.
Giving Google the largest benefit of the doubt possible here, and saying that it’s only looking out for its interests on both left and right, what can we say about its membership in ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council? When that organization does its best to promote voter ID laws to make it harder for millions of Americans to vote, I don’t call that legitimate political maneuvering, I call it anti-democratic. Win your battle in the marketplace of ideas, not by going after a non-existent voter fraud problem that is actually designed to disenfranchise the elderly, the poor, and minorities.
Google – why are you lending your name and support to this organization? What is it about democracy that bothers you? Among the companies that seem to have decided to no longer deal with ALEC – Dell, Bank of America, Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, HP, Intuit, McDonalds, and even Wal-Mart. Google? “Don’t be evil”? Really?