Google’s Eavesdropping

ThinkingShift’s post on Google’s eavesdropping ~ Accidental Spies ~ has made me wonder why people accept Google’s excuse that this was ‘accidental’. I prefer to call this eavesdropping because that describes what happened more accurately than hacking or spying. Where is the ‘accident‘? Careless may be a better word. It points up some of the problems with project management at Google and possibly elsewhere.

Google’s Street View program was a big effort involving many highly skilled information engineers who would have followed the tried and true plan, develop, prototype and then move to production. There would have been many layers of testing and confirmation throughout this process. Still, if we actually believe Google’s management, a process was put into place to scan, capture and store wirelessly transmitted data in Street View cars and then upload it to Google servers. No-one on the Street View project ever asked ‘why are we doing this?’

Project management is supposed to help us achieve the goal by staying focused, meeting deadlines, assigning people, their time and resources they need to get the job done. At Google do they manage their projects in some other unique way? Google doesn’t care about staying focused on the goal? Information engineers are doing what they like and see as interesting and no-one takes the time to see if it is worthwhile to be part of the project’s goal? I find this a bit hard to believe. However, I’ve worked on some big technical information projects where it was surprising to find a large amounts of time and effort being devoted to sideline activities.

Google has the reputation of running a free-flowing open-space manage-yourself work environment. I’m sure it is true to some extent. I’ve also read that the Google work atmosphere is not that different from other places but there are more toys and better food. Work environment is important and does set the tone and pattern of a whole lot of what gets done in the workplace. Google’s work environment may need some adjustments to keep its workers focused on its motto of ‘ Don’t be evil‘.

By the way, I’m a big user of Google’s products and services.

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