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Selective diversity

Technology | Google devotes itself to worldwide homosexual rights, ignores persecution of other minorities

Issue: "Praying for rain," Aug. 11, 2012

Internet giant Google Inc. stepped up its advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights on July 7 with the launch of a "Legalize Love" campaign, timed to coincide with an annual gay-pride procession in London.

Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, Google's European diversity chief, told a London audience his company would partner with organizations around the world to promote equal rights for gays and oppose laws against homosexuality. To begin, the campaign will focus on Singapore, where Google last year became the first organization openly supporting the LGBT community. In Poland, a predominantly Roman Catholic nation that doesn't legally recognize same-sex couples, Google staff hosted a meeting with a Polish politician to discuss civil-union laws.

The campaign isn't specifically intended to promote gay marriage, although in 2008 Google publicly opposed California's (now overturned) Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage. "Legalize Love is our call to decriminalize homosexuality and eliminate homophobia around the world," states a campaign page on the company's website (google.com/diversity/legalise-love.html). In 2010 Google began offering fertility treatment assistance to its gay U.S. employees, and gave domestic partners health benefits equal to that of heterosexual couples. It promotes gay employee camaraderie through "Gayglers" networks in its offices around the world.

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A short Google-produced video caused a stir this Valentine's Day when it showed cartoon couples holding hands: a princess and frog, a dog and cat, a boy and girl, and two men in tuxedos.

Google is hot for homosexual rights, but where's the global campaign to support Christians, who are persecuted in dozens of countries? Google's 2011 "Diversity and Inclusion" report dedicated five of 84 pages to the company's efforts to support the LGBT community. It didn't mention "religion" or "faith" once.

Pre-fighting crime

Handout photo

Can a computer predict burglaries and other crimes? Police in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, Calif., say it can. Last year they began testing "predictive policing" software, which is designed around a common-sense principle: Criminals are most likely to strike neighborhoods they've visited before. By plugging reports of thefts and break-ins into the software, police created a district map overlaid with red squares indicating where crime, statistically, is most likely to occur again.

In a six-month pilot program, an L.A. district saw a 13 percent drop in crime after police began routing their patrols through areas marked by the red squares. The software, developed by a Santa Cruz startup called PredPol, predicted crime better than human analysts. It will likely roll out to other cities soon. -Daniel James Devine

Cell snoops

Photo by Ministry of Justice

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and six other cell phone carriers reported a steep rise in law enforcement requests for user data over the past five years. In response to an inquiry by Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., the companies admitted they fielded thousands of requests each day-at least 1.3 million last year-from federal and local officials to locate and track cell phone subscribers, tap phone conversations, reveal text messages, or turn over billing invoices. Sometimes police obtained information without a warrant, claiming emergency situations. Last year, AT&T turned over information on nearly one in 400 subscribers, although it denied 965 requests out of 260,400. -Daniel James Devine

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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