What’s the difference between Google and law enforcement? Not much, apparently.
Like an overbearing, clueless cousin, Google is putting itself into the fight to disrupt global drug cartels with a two-day summit in Los Angeles. The summit, “Illicit Networks: Forces In Opposition,” is put on by Google Ideas, the company’s “think/do tank,” and is part of the company’s effort to “answer humanity’s most intractable problems.”
Do you see the problem here? Anybody who pisses off government officials can be declared “illicit” and Google’s all-too-willing help could turn it into yet another technological tool of the all-seeing Surveillance State.
The discussion, which will explore how technology can impact the secretive world of drug smugglers and money launderers, is an unusual topic for the search giant, reports Jessica Guynn at the Los Angeles Times.
Sylvia Longmire, a longtime analyst whose book Cartel examines the War On Drugs at the blood-soaked U.S./Mexican border, said Google asked her to take part in the summit after a company staffer read a piece she wrote on whether lifting gun ownership restrictions on Mexican citizens would make a difference in the Drug War.
“To me the idea was totally strange, totally new, and at first I thought it was totally out there,” Longmire said of the summit, which is co-sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (yeah) and the Tribeca Film Festival.
Longmire will share the podium with a former arms broker and a former child soldier from Uganda.
|Sylvia Longmire: “It’s not that far-fetched to think that Google would have an interest in helping technology disrupt these networks”|
More than 50,000 lives have been lost in the Mexican Drug War over the past five years. According to Longmire, Google could make a difference in the fight to expose and stop the cartels.
Mexican government officials are participating in the summit, and a breakout session will give Longmire a rare opportunity to swap information with others on the hunt for digital tools to take on illicit smuggling networks.
“The more I found out about it, I thought, ‘You know, this could be pretty special,’ ” Longmire said. “It’s not that far-fetched to think that Google would have an interest in helping technology disrupt these networks.”
Unfortunately, it’s also “not that far-fetched” to imagine repressive governments using Google as a tool of repression in tracking and apprehending, ahem, “smugglers,” i.e., anybody whose freedom happens to be inconvenient to the existing power structure.
Will Google allow itself to be turned into a law enforcement tool in the name of the War On Drugs?