Stop Calling Google 'Big Brother'

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the course of my Sears Holdings (SHLD) coverage (the biggest bombshell was dropped Tuesday, by the way), I have had a handful of people basically refer to me as an unpatriotic communist for, as one emailer put it, "filleting" Sears.

The way people sort -- or not -- their ideals sometimes baffles me.

It's somehow unAmerican to call out an American company that, whether intentional or not, shows outright disdain and complete disregard for the communities it operates in, but it's perfectly fine for the corporation to give up on the American people, their employees and themselves.

I'll never be able to comprehend that miscarriage of logic.

I agree with what TheStreet's Jim Cramer said on Twitter (TWTR): Shame these retailers into shaping up. This is a bigger deal than it might appear on the surface. I'll flesh that angle out in an article later this week on TheStreet.

But on the miscarriage of logic -- the same Americans who have an issue with me trashing retailers (who have already trashed and disgraced themselves) seem to have no problem taking shots at Starbucks (SBUX), Amazon.com (AMZNApple (AAPL) and other tech names. And they're perfectly fine making the absurd accusation that, on the basis of its acquisition of Nest, Google (GOOG) further assumes the role of a menacing "big brother."

Here's a societal ideal I do understand -- many Americans tend to have a predisposition to support the underdog, even indefensible ones such as Sears, and tear down the successful. In one breath, we cry about losing our edge to foreign countries, but we're at the ready to take down the nation's most innovative and game-changing names. Even if these companies -- Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, Google -- impact our lives, profoundly, every minute of every day.

We want them to service us, but we're just as willing to take them for granted and, in some cases, cut them up.

To refer to Google as "big brother" is an insult. And it shows ignorance. It also misuses the term.

I've been through the rebellious college phase. And I still fully understand the notion that the moment you fall asleep at the wheel and allow power to concentrate in a handful of places, you become increasingly vulnerable. But the notion that Google is erecting an empire so it can access our "private" information and watch over us for sinister purposes is just absurd.

Because that's the connotation that goes part and parcel with the notion of "big brother," isn't it?

I mean I think I have reread George Orwell enough times to fully understand what he was getting at. Or is "big brother" just another construct we have hijacked and dummied down into an improperly used, casually tossed around catchphrase?

If you have ever met people who actually work at Google or any of the millions of likeminded souls who work in innovative tech and I would argue share the broad ideals Google embodies, you likely agree -- it's absurd to make the charge that Google is or even has an interest in being "big brother."

Makes a seemingly great headline, but it's idiotic.

Most folks I know in tech have a genuine drive to positively impact the world. They want to make people's lives better in whatever way they are best positioned to. In fact, sometimes when I consider the impact they say they want to have and/or think they have had, I feel like some egos have grown a bit too large. But it's all good because their intentions are good.

Cats who work at Google or Apple or Amazon or Starbucks or another equally-as-successful, household name technology company have no interest in amassing power to spy on you and somehow hurt you physically, emotionally, financially or otherwise. They simply want to make a difference in your life and in the world within the context of their ability to do so.

We're too damn lazy, collectively, as a society to read the privacy notices these companies send out. We just click agree and move on because we want what we want and we want it now. We want Google and Apple and Amazon and Starbucks to make our lives better. In fact, many of us wouldn't know what to do without their minute-by-minute presences.

Our laziness morphs into intellectual stupor.

We make serious accusations -- that Google wants to be or is about to become "big brother" without a) even considering how damn off base the accusation is and b) stopping to understand the culture that drives the people who work at these companies. They're not evil. They're not waiting for us to become complacent (because, newsflash, they actually don't have anything to wait for!). They mean no harm. And anybody who claims that they do is just trying to make something out of nothing.

But that's the world we roll in -- we hate tech even though we couldn't live without it. We hate that people in tech are rich and dynamic and successful. That's why we saw more outcry over a relatively small glitch with Yahoo! (YHOO) Mail and nary a comparative peep over what's going on at Target (TGT).

(And don't tell me you're worried that what happened at Target will happen at Google, Apple, Amazon or Starbucks because, if you were, you wouldn't be lazy and click "I agree" on every privacy notice and attendant disclaimer that comes across your screen).

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks. Rocco Pendola is a columnist for TheStreet. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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