Cascading Failure (the "often unseen power" of Google)

I’m caching up after the end-of-term grading crunch, spending a few weeks taking care of my wife (she had a minor surgery), and family trip for my nephew’s baptism. I just got back from the train station about a half hour ahead of some huge thunderstorms, and now I’m unable to sleep because I’m heading to the airport again in a couple of hours (for my first visit to Computers & Writing).

Anyway, this is old news, but I’m blogging it for future reference. When Ian Bogost’s site got hacked, Google flagged his site as a source of malware, and Twitter banned him based on Google’s report.

The particular sort of cascading failure sheds light on an often unseen power Google holds, one that extends far beyond privacy and personal information. Web browsers and services like Twitter trust Google’s reports of online danger implicitly. Yet, Google’s system makes no distinction between people who have malsites and people who get hacked and then fix their sites. Neither Google nor Twitter notified me at all, despite the fact that both have my email address via my respective accounts at those services, nor did they give me any fair warning to remedy the problem before they took action. Instead, they just treated me like a cybercriminal. — Ian Bogost (See also Liz Losh.)

Since my school is testing the waters for outsourcing its e-mail and other core services to Google, I’m naturally interested in this sort of thing.