I just read on thew news: Report: Insurgents Using Google Earth to Hit Coalition Bases in Iraq; it saddened me and reminded my of an Engineering Ethics class I took back in college. As engineers, we get so caught up in delivering “cool” technology that we often just don’t think about what evil we may be enabling. I realize this is a slippery slope and I’m not hitting on Google specifically (sounds like Google wants to cooperate to fix it). Next I’m waiting for CNN to report “Insurgents use Microsoft Word to organize attack plans”.
I was at an intern BBQ at Bill Gates house back in the the 90s when the “Microsoft is Evil” mantra seemed to be at its height and somebody asked Bill if Microsoft had too much control. Bill had a great reply. He said (paraphrased to the best of my memory) “Microsoft had very little control. You can open up Microsoft Word and type ‘Microsoft Sucks’ and we can’t stop you.”
I’ll leave it to others to sort out whether Google used the right amount of commen sense here or not. I’m not trying to comment on this incident specifically. I’m just lamenting that in general, it’s tough to just enable the good guys.