“Don’t be evil”

I gave a private Bad Monkeys reading at Google’s Kirkland offices this week. It was a fun gig—nice crowd, including some video-conferencers dialing in to listen from another site (Boulder, I think). The reading and Q&A session were videotaped, and should eventually show up on YouTube.

Lisa and I also got taken to lunch in the Google cafeteria, a Las Vegas-caliber* all-you-can-eat buffet that has got to be one of the nicer perks of working there. In between trips to the carving station (mmm, roast lamb), we had an interesting, Bad Monkeys-inspired conversation about the potential (ab)use of search engines as intelligence-gathering tools. Among the things I took away from the discussion:

(a) Google’s internal culture is open enough that in order to turn the company into an arm of Homeland Security, you’d either have to corrupt the majority of the employees, or be a lot cleverer than the U.S. government has shown itself to be lately.

(b) Notwithstanding (a), it’s actually very difficult to strip out all identifying information from search records. So…

(c) When researching your world domination plan, you probably don’t want to be Googling reviews of your latest novel during the same session you look up the death ray schematics.

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*No Keno runners at the Google buffet, but that just shows they understand probability.