What’s Wrong with a Googlified Government?

Google Public Sector

Google Public Sector

I am all for smaller, leaner, more efficient government. But don’t classify me as a right-winger just yet. I just don’t like wasteful spending and excess “bloat”, especially when tax dollars are stretched tighter than ever before.

So you could assume that I would be in favor of Google’s recent announcement of “Google for the Public Sector“, a “one-stop shop of tools and tips that local, state and federal government officials can use to help promote transparency and increase citizen participation.”

According to CNN, this “government app store” could save a portion of the $75 billion (with a “B”) that the government spends on data storage each year and help “bring government up to speed in terms of computing.”

But there are some serious questions that I haven’t been able to find answers for yet. Hopefully somebody can steer me in the right direction on some of these and I will post updates as I find them.

Questions About the Google/Fed Partnership

  1. Why Google? Just Google? Were other service providers considered? If so, what were the selection criteria? When/how will the partnership(s) be reviewed?
  2. Who will “own” the data in the “Dedicated Google cloud for government“? Will this include any of the government’s personal information about private citizens? Is there a precedent for this type of public/private partnership?
  3. What happens if/when the government is forced to investigate Google in future antitrust or monopoly cases? Will these partnerships and integrations be considered conflicts of interest?
  4. Were these decisions and partnerships influenced by any of the ex-Googlers joining or advising the Obama administration in tech-related roles?
    1. Sonal Shah, former head of global development at Google.org, the search-engine company’s philanthropic arm, is head of the new White House Office of Social Innovation. (philanthropy.com)
    2. Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s former head of global public policy, left the company to join the Obama administration as Deputy Chief Technology Officer. (NYT.com)
    3. Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, has been a close adviser to President Obama’s transition team and is now a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
    4. Katie Stanton, a former Google project manager, joined the White House as its director of citizen participation.
  5. Does it make sense to have so much government data consolidated under one company, especially one that already has a lot of information about each of its users?

What’s the Point?

Get out your tinfoil hats...

I'm not paranoid, I'm not paranoid...

Sure, you can argue that government data is stored on Sun servers and Cisco routers too, but those companies aren’t in the advertising business. But don’t get out your tinfoil hats just yet.

And yes, I still like Google’s commitment to its customers (advertisers and searchers) and appreciate their contributions to the internet and technology. Heck, I even make a living advising companies how to rank better on Google.

But I still can’t put a finger on the cause of the queasy feeling I get when reading about the partnership between Google and the government without seeing all of the facts out in the open. Maybe I’m just being paranoid. but then again, maybe not…


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