Larry Page: Don't fret over privacy, love Google

In an interview with The New York Times, Google's CEO says we should focus on the potential benefits of technology.

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"Trust me, I care about you." ZeitgeistMinds/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

One often gets the impression that, in Googleworld, technology comes first and people come, well, a little later. There's the feeling that the company will do something because it can, not because it truly benefits sentient beings.

However, Google CEO Larry Page firmly believes that he and his fellow engineers exist to make people's lives better.

In an interview with The New York Times' Farhad Manjoo, Page was at pains to remind people how fickle they are.

Yes, we whine about privacy, but once we see what technology can do for us, we just don't care about exposing ourselves. Look at Google Street View, he said, people used to call that intrusive. Now, it's just useful.

"It doesn't really change your privacy that much," he said. "A lot of these things are like that."

A lot of technology is like that. You give a little and before you realize it, you've given it all away. People are weak, superficial, thoughtless, and endlessly delighted by the apparently entertaining. Who could blame any company for taking advantage of that?

Page, though, seems to believe that any potential benefit of a technology naturally outweighs any incursion into human privacy. Of healthcare, he said: "Right now we don't data-mine health care data. If we did we'd probably save 100,000 lives next year."

It's tempting to see his words as those of a world leader, rather than the head of an advertising company -- one that couches its profits in a world view.

At Wednesday's I/O developers conference, Google unveiled a cheap AndroidOne phone, the idea being to put phones in the hands of as many people in the world. But, just like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, it's inevitable to muse that Page's global view happens to coincide with what's best for his companies' profits.

In a week in which the Supreme Court has only begun to grapple with the notion of what is private and what technology can make public (especially if it falls into the wrong hands), Page only has eyes for the possibilities.

Speaking of the new, multi-screen world, he told the Times: "Everyone can tell that their lives are going to be affected, but we don't quite know how yet, because we're not using these things -- and because of that there's a lot of uncertainty."

Might it be, though, that there's a lot of uncertainty because our new world involves putting more trust than ever in those who hold political and economic power?

Among these is a company that puts technology above everything else, a company called Google.

 

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