Ex-Chief Executive of Google, Eric Schmidt, once told the media that Google goes “right up to the creepy line and [doesn’t] cross it.” What Schmidt was referring to was the line at which Google can or should involve itself in the public’s private life via data mining strategies and the like. The line comment really caught on and showed just how fearful the public was of boundary oversteps from companies such as Google. A website has even launched, thecreepyline.com, that can pinpoint just what Google and Facebook know about its users.
The Creepy Line
Going even further than a mere website, a documentary, tentative titled “The Creepy Line,” has been released that asks the question “what if your whole life was taken over, analyzed, and exploited, and you signed up for it?” The documentary has interviews with several high-profile public figures, including Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, who explains how these tech giants hold a great power that threatens the fabric of society.
Others interviewed in the ominous trailer warn that “Facebook constantly manipulates their users. They do it by the things they insert into the news feeds and they do it by the types of posts they allow their users to see.”
“They don’t sell you anything. They sell you,” still another voice said.
“The Creepy Line” film is the brainchild of journalist Peter Schweizer, who believes that technology companies have a profound and pervasive role in censoring the news. The critique from conservatives casts the big tech companies as censorious and oppressive, all too eager to stifle right-wing content. Many have accused social media platforms of delisting their videos or stripping them of advertising. Such charges have long been staples of far-right online discourse, especially among YouTubers, but Schweizer’s project is poised to bring such arguments to a new — and potentially larger — audience.
Even former President Barack Obama said at an off-the-record conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last month that he worried Americans were living in “entirely different realities” and that large tech companies like Facebook were “not just an invisible platform, they’re shaping our culture in powerful ways.”
The question of whether Google, Facebook and their ilk are truly censorious oppressors is a question that has yet to be answered. Neither has it been universally agreed upon that Google nor any other company in the industry has crossed the “creepy line.” Perhaps the documentary will shed some light, for better or for worse. This is what ex-CEO Schmidt said in 2010: ”“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” The documentary was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May and will be re-released on Sept. 17 in New York City, according to an event description.
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