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If Google kills penguins, is it doing evil?

Earth Day disclosure

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Comment Killing penguins might be evil. I'm not 100 per cent sure. I've never thrown one to a killer whale and then decided how I felt about it.

Google might want to buy some penguins and start chucking. The company needs to confront how it feels about penguin murder. And you need to decide if Google should keep you up-to-date on its possible penguin killing.

The ad broker builds a ton of data centers – some of the biggest data centers in the world. According to a recent study, the power needed to run and cool all of the data centers in the US equals the amount of energy needed to keep our color televisions glowing. It takes about five 1000MW power plants to fuel those servers here and 14 similar plans to power servers worldwide.

So, if you're one of those types who believes in global warming, believes that humans have played a role in global warming, believes that global warming has contributed to the decline in penguins and thinks penguin murder is evil, then you might think Google evil – something the company tries not to be, according to its website.

Google drew our attention away from its penguin killing on Earth Day – 22 April – by linking to Earth Day related sites. It provided the links from behind one of its modified logos, which this time depicted a Google glacier that appeared to be melting. Click on the logo, and you get the Earth Day homepage, a quiz, and the US government's Earth Day portal as the top three sites.

You also get an ad for Earth Day supplies from Oriental Trading Co. I'm not sure how many penguins died so we could buy a Tissue Paper Earth Craft Kit, Globe Stress Ball, or Inflatable Valentine's Day Guitar, but I'm sure it was worth it. The Oriental Trading Co even sells 62 penguin items, so you can remember the cute little suckers after they're long gone.

If you're waiting for a point, you're in luck. I think one is on the way.

Word broke this month that Google has purchased 800 acres of land in Pryor, Oklahoma. The company has yet to confirm plans for the site, but I'm betting on a new data center rather than an amusement park (in all fairness, you can never tell with this bunch – Ed).

Google's glacial Earth Day logo

Google Goes Glacial. Shhhh.

Oklahoma proves a handy spot to have a data center since the state's Governor signed a new law that affords the largest corporate energy users the right to keep their power consumption figures a secret.

Governor Brad Henry signed the energy law (House Bill 1038) just a couple of days after news of Google's land purchase reached the local newspapers. Coincidence? Sure.

The lawmakers behind the bill denied having chats with Google around any legislation. People familiar with the matter, however, did note that the law proves convenient for an entity such as Google that likes to keep as much information secret as possible.

If you're a demanding type who needs evidence of Google's secret ways, have a listen to head of strategic development Rhett Weiss. He presided over a party celebrating yet another Google data center in South Carolina. When asked about Google's water and power usage, Weiss confessed: "We're in a highly competitive industry and, frankly, one or two little pieces of information like that in the hands of our competitors can do us considerable damage. So we can't discuss it."

While still playing with Google's colored balls, the South Carolina state legislature tweaked the state tax code to make sure that webby service providers don't have to face taxes on electricity and capital investments in equipment when building large data centers. That's the same type of exemption afforded manufacturing companies. Of course, it will take all of 200 workers to slave away on the text ads that bring Google more money than God. The sweaty locals are sure to understand what I'm missing.

Does Google kill more penguins than, say, Exxon? Probably not.

I think, however, we should demand a bit from our service providers, server makers, and consulting giants who have all jumped on the save energy bandwagon with such force.

No company on the planet makes greater claims to moral superiority than Google. It pursues a "don't be evil" policy, while ensuring staff eat, commute, exercise, and work under an umbrella of happiness.

Such a friendly, righteous presence should have no problems revealing its energy consumption to the citizens of the world.

Google, at best, provides a useful search service. At worst, it's an ad pusher with a money-losing side business in videos of fake, bad actors pretending to be real. No such company can with a straight face claim that its energy consumption is a proprietary secret in this day and age (I doubt a rival could do much with the energy info anyway without knowing more details about a given data center). Our most demanding energy eaters should disclose their toll on the environment.

The penguins deserve such transparency, and so do you. ®

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