11 February 2014
Last summer Edward Snowden leaked NSA memos that stated that the US government had "direct access" to Google's data centres. Google strongly denied that they granted any access (other than individual files required by court orders). Given that there was no reason to distrust the NSA's statements on their internal documents, most people logically concluded that Google was lying.
Months later, further NSA leaks revealed the truth. The NSA had been tapping Google's private fiber, siphoning data that was flowing between data centres. Looking back at the earlier logical conflict, it turns out that Google was being completely honest (and Google immediately encrypted their private fiber).
But the interesting thing is that public perception continues to view Google as an NSA collaborator, despite the fact that it was proven not to be. When a base assumption is called into question, it is extraordinarily difficult for people to unwind all the incorrect deductions and emotional dependencies that followed. Sometimes (as in the case of Google) an undeserved bad reputation is acquired. Sometimes (as in the case of Edison) an undeserved good reputation is acquired.
Each of us has to be careful about what we are basing our opinions on. I've been privileged to witness a couple of occasions when someone recognises an unsafe assumption, then proceeds to unwind their derived world-view accordingly. It is a rare and wonderful thing to watch.
[Disclaimer: This is an entirely personal post. I am not speaking on behalf of my employer.]