On Google, I just typed in “top races Republican,” and the word “races” got a squiggly underline suggesting I had misspelled the word. Beneath it ran Google’s helpful correction: “top racist Republican.” With “top races Democrat,” no such veering into the gutter. No squiggly line. The word “racist” did not insinuate itself into my field of vision. Oh, and before I completed the phrase, with just “top races Democrat,” two lines below ran the following little hint: “best Democratic races to donate to.” Huh? Who said anything about donating? I’ve never donated to a political candidate in my life, and if I did, I wouldn’t donate to Democrats. Again, no parallel on the Republican side. No steering me to fundraisers.
How is that going so far? The Creepy Line, a terrifying and important 80-minute documentary now streaming on Amazon Prime, is an attempt to answer that question.
Google, noticing that people would leave the search engine to roam the Internet, came up with a browser, Chrome. Now everything you do online through Chrome is logged by Google. But Google wants to know what you’re doing even when you’re not online. Hence: Android. As soon as you log on, Android uploads a complete picture of everywhere your phone has been that day. “These are all free services but obviously they’re not,” notes professor Jordan Peterson, another talking head in the doc. It’s a surveillance business model. Google Maps, Google Docs, Gmail . . . Google knows more about you than your spouse does. It even has drafts of emails you didn’t send. Oh, and they have the power to block information from reaching you too. Just by bumping undesirable stuff to the second page of a search, Google can more or less make it disappear. Hey, good thing Google doesn’t have any overt political or cultural preferences you might not agree with, right? Peterson says Google shut off access to his Gmail and his YouTube channel when the corporation decided it didn’t like what he was saying. Ten minutes into the movie, you’ll pause it and switch all of your devices to non-Google search engines. (Try DuckDuckGo, which vows not to track you and also promises unbiased search results.)
“If they have this kind of power then democracy is an illusion,” says Epstein (who describes himself as apolitical but allows that he thought Clinton was a more qualified presidential candidate than Donald Trump). “There have to be in place numerous safeguards to make sure not only that they don’t exercise these powers but that they can’t exercise these powers.” Adds Schweizer, “These tech giants have a level of control and an ability to manipulate us that Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and Mussolini could only have dreamed of.”