The problem here comes from multiple directions. If your iPhone or Android phone (or Mac, or Windows PC, or Chromebook, or Linux PC) is on, then it’s likely you’re being tracked by someone. Guess who doesn’t know that? Elected officials.
Google Hot Seat
I’ve long held the belief that the real problem with elected officials does not lie in the officials themselves, but in the voters who elect them. Or, worse, in the voters who don’t bother to keep such candidates from getting elected. Think 2016, please.
Google CEO and major geek, Sundar Pichai, was called to testify before Congress. That’s good news and bad news. It’s good news for Apple and Facebook as they’re off the hook. For now. It’s bad news for congressmen because it took little time for them to make themselves look like idiots. It’s good news for anyone who understand the technology involved in the hearings, because now you know who not to vote for. It’s bad news for students of government because it just shows how lame politicians can be.
A good example is Congressman Steve King of Iowa. He had a few questions for Google’s Pichai:
I have a seven-year-old granddaughter who picked up her phone during the election, and she’s playing a little game, the kind of game a kid would play… And up on there pops a picture of her grandfather. And I’m not going to say into the record what kind of language was used around that picture of her grandfather, but I’d ask you: how does that show up on a seven-year-old’s iPhone, who’s playing a kid’s game?
Google makes Pixel smartphones. Apple makes iPhones. It’s likely that King knows that but does not know exactly what smartphone his granddaughter has because, to many folks of King’s ilk, all of them are iPhones.
Congressman, the iPhone is made by a different company. And so, you know, I mean…
Let the silly season begin. Even if the little girl’s smartphone was a Samsung Galaxy-whatever, the answer would very quickly get long and involved. It’s not an easy answer to a question that should not have been asked.
Even Google executives are well trained in PR Speak:
You know, I’m happy to follow up when I understand the specifics. There may be an application which was being used which had a notification. But I’m happy to understand it better and clarify it for you.
What about this one from Representative Zoe Lofgren:
Right now, if you Google the word idiot, under an image search, a picture of Donald Trump shows up. How does that happen?
Would you not like to have both Sundar Pichai and Tim Cook give separate answers at the same time? To be fair, Pichai has plenty to defend and Congress has plenty of questions to ask, but the real problem is more political than corporate.
Congressman Ted Lieu, one of the few politicians who has a grasp on the technology and its impact, countered the idiot conversation by Googling a few of his fellow members of Congress.
If you want obvious search results. Do positive things. If you don’t want negative search results, don’t do negative things. To some of my colleagues across the aisle, if you’re getting negative search results, don’t blame Google or Facebook … consider blaming yourselves
Much of what rises to the top in Google search results is negative in nature, particularly if it involves politics. Or, Apple. What we see in Pichai’s answers is an attempt to explain that which cannot easily be explained in a minute or two, and definitely cannot adequately be explained to elected officials who have no idea how the technology works or what impact it has on society or their voters.
What I see is more problematic. Too many of the wrong kinds of people– on both sides of the aisle– are getting elected again and again, and that tells me where the real problem lies. Voters. And voters, it appears, all have the same perspective.
My candidate is good. Your candidate is corrupt.