Google Seeks to Exploit Sony Cyberattack for Its Own Self-Interest
The Sony cyberattack – apparently state-sponsored – obviously raises solemn concerns, including national security and the very safety of American citizens.
Accordingly, immediate public discussion should focus primarily upon the gravity of the attack and how the Internet, one of the most transformative and beneficial innovations in human history, can sometimes become a tool for those with destructive and even deadly intent. While Sony Pictures, its employees, and its customers were the immediate victims this time, the reality is that this could happen to anyone and any enterprise. In fact, such attacks on other companies and individuals occur at an alarmingly accelerating pace.
Leave it to Google, however, to attempt to profit from the attack and leverage it on behalf of its own self-interest.
Instead of joining the rest of the responsible online community in addressing the important issues of cybersecurity and the way in which the Internet is increasingly exploited to invade privacy, commit theft, sabotage and even terrorize, Google seeks to malign a very serious investigation into its own questionable Internet conduct. Specifically, it remains under scrutiny by federal and state authorities for years of alleged anticompetitive conduct and invasion of privacy, as well as for potentially facilitating theft, fraud, illicit sale of drugs and even human trafficking. The allegations are obviously serious, and Google is even more obviously worried enough about them to exploit the Sony cyberattack for its benefit.
Google even resurrected the SOPA corpse, which in its case is an acronym not for the Stop Online Piracy Act, but rather Same Old Predictable Arguments. And rather than adhering to its self-proclaimed motto “Don’t Be Evil,” acting like a responsible participant in the Internet ecosystem and joining the condemnation and fight against cyberthreats, it is instead attempting some sleight of hand by highlighting materials leaked in the Sony attack to trot out stale arguments about “censorship across the web” and somehow breaking the Internet to obfuscate ongoing investigations into its behavior. For instance, it highlights documents apparently stolen from Sony’s network and purportedly relating to internal strategy discussions among movie studios regarding how judicial remedies under current law might be employed to target websites trafficking in stolen content and operating illegal businesses that profit from the work of others.
That sort of strategy would actually be the polar opposite of SOPA, which was new federal legislation to change the law in order to more effectively target online piracy. In contrast, discussions focused upon existing judicial remedies to “follow the money” to curb online content theft are precisely what the critics of SOPA argued the studios should pursue. More broadly, the ongoing investigations into Google, and the judicial strategies the studios appear to have been considering are not about “regulating the Internet” or changing the way it operates. Rather, they are about applying existing law to rightfully combat illegal conduct that happens to occur on the Internet. The fact that it is occurring online doesn’t make it any more legal or sympathetic than if it was occurring in the physical realm.
Oddly, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt even made a puzzling trip to North Korea in 2013 over the objections of the State Department, which labeled it unhelpful and “ill-timed.” Schmidt encouraged North Korea to more actively embrace the Internet, but perhaps he should’ve followed the adage, “be careful what you wish for.”
Regardless, whether one favored or opposed SOPA – and we detailed at the time how the criticisms were largely uninformed or flatly dishonest – Google shouldn’t be trying to pull a fast one. We should instead transcend its transparent rhetoric and focus on the important issue at hand: What responsible Internet stakeholders should be doing to strengthen our bulwarks against cyberattack, and to avoid facilitating illicit behavior on the Internet.