Is Google Finally Evil?

April 2, 2007

Conspiracy theories and general outrage are still floating around the net about Google’s decision to “update” the New Orleans map data with pre-Katrina imagery. While they’ve since mended their ways and have re-loaded more recent high-res data, there’s still some things to take care of: like responding to demands (pdf) by a congressional subcommittee that they explain their actions. Reading this letter, I was struck by the paranoia and contempt for Google by the chair of this committee. There’s a sense that a bit of a witch hunt is going on, when he asks in the letter if FEMA, the USGS or any other governmental organization was in touch with Google about the changes. Then he tosses in this little shot:

Digital technology has any number of benefits, as Google’s healthy balance sheet demonstrates.

This sort of comment is just antagonistic, and reveals far more about the author than I think he realizes.

Most interesting in this whole drama, though, is how we get a very clear view of how public reaction in our online world can reverse the actions of a huge organization. News spreads quickly and momentum builds and a company not paying attention, or able to respond quickly, can find itself in serious trouble before they even know what happened. Also noteworthy is how Google used its official blog to respond to critics. They calmly spelled out their response and told the world their side of the story.