A heated debate surrounds search engine innovators such as Google to hand over its data to the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The debate pits Google against the DOJ as an innovator that ought to be more cooperative and socially responsible with regard to handing over trade secrets to authorities in hopes of assisting them in the areas of monitoring the activities of child pornography offenders, as well as monitoring any/all activities related to homeland security and terrorism.
I think what this recent so-called "defiance" of social responsibility is bringing into the search technology discourse is this fundamental division of interests, and this notion of intrusion which appears to be looming like a dark cloud over innovators of search technology.
What's interesting about the debate surrounding search technology in current times is the duality of interests, as the technology is looked at both with enthusiasm and condemnation.
Enthusiasm on the level of possibilities it can provide in areas such as homeland security and monitoring/tracking the activities of sexual predators, just to name a few. Until now, enforcement authorities have had to use hit-and-miss methods such as cyberbaiting to track these forms of criminal activity. The problem is that cyberbaiting on the web is a lot like trolling the vast open sea with a 10-foot fishing boat.
It is no coincidence that when the US Department of Justice asked Google to hand over "trade secrets" on its search engine technology, that behind its "good-will" nature of seeking "cooperation" was this imperative seeking their aid on security matters. This idea of using search technology to combat such things as child pornography as well as the possibility of intercepting communications between terrorist groups were initiatives that could assist governments in areas it was ill-equipped in handling using their current methods.
But its the same courts, lawmakers and enforcers of law that are also pointing their fingers at companies like Google, condemning such search engine innovators of digging-up information that is infringing on copyright, peoples privacy and a wide number of other levels of personal, corporate and government intrusion. A number of these cases are in the courts, and will be for some time, and it is doing nothing more than creating an obstacle for innovators to take search technology to the next level.
Here's how I see it. The days of innovators such as Tessla are long gone. His was a form of pure innovation, driven by passion, and less to do with the commercial viability of their contributions. And in a way, its a good thing that innovators are taking what they can get nowadays. The legacy of squatting on innovations for the almighty dollar are happening less and less because innovators are not so quick to give away their work.
Cases such as Tessla's inform us of the shrewd and sometimes dehumanizing approaches of governments and corporations to snatch away innovation for their own greed and self-interested purposes, with little or no acknowledgement at all to the people who first put things down on paper and made them reality.
So while the military were the first to bring the web to life, I'm certain that they are biting their tongues over the fact that they weren't able to be the principle innovators of search technology. I also think that because search technology is primarily in private ownership, its created a sense of insecurity and and an air of mistrust that I believe might not have existed at all if search technology ownership was in government hands.
And as governments and their officials push search engine innovators to a point where they are demanding search engine companies to "cooperate", their demands are being made at the expense of intruding on the intellectual property of the search engine technology owners. A demand that stands to do nothing more than disturb the waters of future innovation in combating such things as child pornography and homeland security.
The main problem with the bullying approach being used by governments is that there isn't a large supply of developers in the area of search engine technology. You upset the few that are in the know, and you throw away the opportunity of ever getting them to assist in combating criminal activity that occurs online.
I think the real question to be posed: who is actually doing the intruding, the innovator or the followers of the innovation?
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Below are some links to product or company mentions in mainstream media:
Protecting the firm’s name on the web | Law Times
Safeguard Your Brand Reputation Online | Inc. Technology
They’ve got their eyes on you—are your ears burning? | ComputerWorld Canada
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | CNW Group
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | PR Newswire
Tips on Safeguarding Your Online Reputation | WSJ Startup Journal