In a disturbing internal video created by Google’s Nick Foster who is head of design at X (formerly known as Google X), Google speculates on how it can use total data collection to start to drive human behavior more in line with the company’s own policies and beliefs.
The video from 2016, shared and first reported by The Verge, is titled “The Selfish Ledger” and shows how Google can use intrusive data collection to start to drive human behavior by subtle cues and hints the user is not aware of. All in an attempt to make users behave in a way that is in line with Google’s belief system.
What is even more disturbing is the reply from Google to the leaked video where they try to pretend that that they are as shocked as we all are, as if they are exploring these dystopian possibilities so they can find ways to avoid it, even though we all know that’s not the case at all.
The Google reply to the leaked video reads:
“We understand if this is disturbing — it is designed to be. This is a thought-experiment by the Design team from years ago that uses a technique known as ‘speculative design’ to explore uncomfortable ideas and concepts in order to provoke discussion and debate. It’s not related to any current or future products.”
One disturbing part of the video suggest that the if the “ledger” does not have enough info on you, it will suggest you buy or use items that it can then harvest information from to learn what it needs. For example, if it doesn’t know your weight, it may show ads for suggestions for a bathroom scale that it can communicate with.
Overall, the ideas and concepts behind the video are completely self-explanatory. There is no reason to even entertain the absurd argument that Google is not specifically envisioning this type of future. Companies don’t produce videos about things they are NOT going to do. Not once in the entire video is the issue of privacy brought up. Instead, it suggest in the future people will be more open to this sort of invasion and intrusive technology, making it more possible.
But one must wonder, is this “leaked” video truly the work of a whistle-blower or is Google trying to ease us all into accepting such a future by letting us see glimpses of it now. In the video they already say they are interested in controlling behavior, so a planned leak to help get people ready for such intrusive technology isn’t beyond reason.
You can read the full article from The Verge here as well as watch the video itself.
One must wonder exactly what are Google’s corporate beliefs after the wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former employee James Damore. In court filings related to the suit, it shows that high level Google employees would brainstorm on ways to disrupt the Trump 2016 campaign, either by “bricking” staff member’s phones or deleting staffers Gmail accounts.