Still, there's no doubting their pulling power. Few speakers can attract an audience of hundreds at 8am on the second day of the conference as Winkler did yesterday
His talk was a sustained rant on whether the data holding behemoth that Google has become potentially a very bad thing for the world. It was mixture of admiration for the business skills of Google ("they took a bunch of crap and turned it into billions dollars" - how's that as a mission statement?) and concern that we are all too readily helping it to know everything about our lives, tastes, perversions and spending habits. His point was that if the US Govt or NSA did what Google does the US public wouldn't stand for it. In fact they'd go ape. Well he's right there.
As for actual examples of Google evildoing, there wasn't much. Apart from the blacklisting of CNET reporters in 2005 (google it); that you can't find much information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt on er, Google. And Street View is potentially the best tool that stalkers and other social criminals have ever had.
"Too many people are giving their lives to the internet!" he wailed near the end. It's a nice phrase but we do it voluntarily. No-one has to use Google or any of its myriad tools or any other internet application if they don't want to - you can live your life without.
At the end I suspect Winkler was expecting an avalanche of questions from an audience suitably frothed up by his apocalyptic words but there was only one. Perhaps it was the early hour and the lack of caffeine but it may be that no-on really cares. Perhaps we really do love Big Google.
*I see that the ICO today threw out UK based Privacy International's case against Google over Street View. None of its complaints were upheld -- as predicted by the Security Cats