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TECHNOLOGY

With 1 Simple Move, Google Showed Yet Again Why It’s Not the Company You Thought It Was

The times are changing. But is Google?

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 18 Nov 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

 

Tech companies love to make large promises.

They hope, though, that you don't notice when those promises become, well, a little diluted over time.

It's the thought that counts, after all.

One thought offered by Google when it committed itself to your health was that Deep Mind, its profound subsidiary that uses AI to help solve health problems, was that its "data will never be connected to Google accounts or services."

Cut to not very long at all and Deep Mind was last week rolled into, oh, Google.

In an odd coincidence, this move also necessitated that an independent review board, there to check on Deep Mind's work with healthcare professionals, was disappeared.

This caused those who keep a careful eye on Google -- such as NYU research fellow Julia Powles -- to gently point out the company's sleight of mouth.

Powles offered on Twitter:

This is TOTALLY unacceptable. DeepMind repeatedly, unconditionally promised to *never* connect people's intimate, identifiable health data to Google. Now it's announced...exactly that. This isn't transparency, it's trust demolition.

This is, though, the problem with tech companies.

We looked at them as if they were run by wizards doing things we could never understand.

Any time we became even slightly suspicious, the tech companies murmured that we should trust them. Because, well, we really didn't understand what sort of world they were building.

Now, we're living in it. A world where everything is tradable and hackable and nothing is sacred.

A world where the most common headlines about the company seem to begin: Google fined..

I asked Google whether it understood the reaction to its latest Oh, you caught us, yes, we're going to do things differently now move.

The company referred me to a blog post it wrote explaining its actions.

In it, Google uses phrases like major milestone and words like excited.

It also offered me these words from Dr. Dominic King a former UK National Health Service surgeon and researcher who will be leading the Deep Mind Streams team:

The public is rightly concerned about what happens with patient data. I want to be totally clear. This data is not DeepMind's or Google's - it belongs to our partners, whether the NHS or internationally. We process it according to their instructions - nothing more.

King added:

At this stage our contracts have not moved across to Google and will not without our partners' consent. The same applies to the data that we process under these contracts.

At this stage.

Oh, but you know how creepily the online world works.

You know, for example, that advertising keeps popping up at the strangest times and for the strangest things.

Why, a few weeks ago I was in a Verizon store, enjoying some considerable entertainment, while looking at Google's new Pixel 3 phone.

Within minutes, certain apps on my phone were full of ads for Google's new Pixel 3 phone. Which I could buy most easily, said the ads, at a Verizon store.

Who would be surprised, then, if personal health data began to be linked with other Google services, such as advertising?

Too many tech companies know only one way to do business -- to grow and wrap their tentacles around every last aspect of human life.

Why, look at the mess the excessively-sized Facebook was in last week.

The likes of Google operate on a basis of a FOMO paranoia that even teens and millennials might envy.

They need to know everything about you, in case they miss out on an advertising opportunity.

You are not a number. You are a lot of numbers.

And your numbers help Google make even bigger numbers.

Will that ever change? Probably not.

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