The Seventh Annual Gibbs Golden Turkey Awards

Gibbs again highlights the best of the worst.

Well, it's that time of the year again … yes folks, it's time for the Seventh Annual Gibbs Golden Turkey Awards which recognize those individuals, companies or entities that don't, won't, or can't come to grips with reality, maturity, ethical behavior, and or social responsibility because of their blindness, self-imposed ignorance, thinly veiled political agenda, rapaciousness and greed, or their blatant desire to return us to the Dark Ages.

Top IT turkeys of 2010

And this year we have a staggering number of nominees. Yes, 2010 has been an outstanding year for the wackos, the foolish, the misguided, and the downright venal.

Where to start? Well, the politicians have had a field day over the last year. Obviously the issue of net neutrality, meaning service providers treat all traffic equally and even refrain from giving priority to their own offerings, has been huge.

While it might seem that the Federal Communications Commission should be a leading candidate for a good thrashing on the issue, it is by no means the most deserving GGTA nominee. Even so, we award the FCC a TGT (a tiny golden turkey) all the same. The commission's heart seems to be in the right place, but it didn't man up to see it through.

Nope, when it comes to an award for a ridiculous stance on net neutrality my vote goes to Google and Verizon for their horribly ill-conceived proposal that would bar wired ISPs from messing with the data they transport while allowing cellular service providers to shape traffic to their heart's content. This proposal is so stupid as to deserve a special category of its own.

Worse still, by putting this forward with Google's name on it, the dastardly duo (a marriage that could only have been made in one of the darker corners of Hell) managed to muddy the debate rather than bringing any new clarity to the discussion.

While we're on the subject of Google, the company's CEO, Eric Schmidt, deserves a special award for his declaration at around the same time as the joint net neutrality proposal, for opining that, "In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you."

I discussed this in a Backspin at the time and I think what most struck me was that Schmidt has given us a very clear and very worrisome vision of how Google will evolve. What Schmidt is arguing for is the end of any kind of anonymity online as a prerequisite for some kind of national security, whereas the real benefit will fall to Google and the other entities that see the hoi poli as fodder for the advertising canons. Its a disingenuous and self-serving ploy.

Some might say these positions were always in the cards for Google given that the company is a commercial entity in such a powerful position, but to have this so clearly underlined deserves all of the recognition and fame that goes with getting a GGTA.

My pick for an award for the most ill-conceived, dangerous tech-related political issue has got to be the "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act" (COICA), which gives the government the ability to shut down or, more accurately, censor, any Web site in the world if it is found to be "dedicated to infringing activities" – a wonderfully vague way of saying, "suspected of piracy in some way, shape, or form without due process."

I discussed this deeply flawed and dangerous bill a few weeks ago. It's a problem because the bill would trample over the first amendment and short-circuit due process. I suggested that, despite it being stalled due to the mid-term elections, it would resurface and, by the gods, it has with COICA being recently passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 19 to 0 vote!

The only thing in the way of the bill now is Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), who opposes it for being the "wrong medicine" for copyright infringement. Despite the good senator's stand, COICA isn't going away because there's too much money behind it being supplied by the entertainment industry.

Given the pantheon of perversity, the cavalcade of the clueless to choose from, these were, the judges felt, uniquely deserving of recognition. But as deserving as all of those are, I'm going to award this year's top Gibbs Golden Turkey to good old Microsoft.

Yep, Microsoft is nominated for perhaps the most self-serving, unenlightened corporate response to the marketplace's wild enthusiasm for one of its products we've ever seen. I speak, of course, about the recent release of the Kinect, Microsoft's controller that uses video and audio tracking to provide control input to games.

Within days of the Kinect's release, hackers lured in part by a $3,000 prize, in part by the fame and glory, but largely I suspect, by an overwhelming desire to "stick it to the man," created open source drivers for the Kinect and began to create novel user interfaces and new uses for it.

This was the result of hacking at its finest and demonstrated the huge excitement for the Kinect that should have had Microsoft out of its gourd over all the free publicity.

But no, that wasn't the case. What was Microsoft's official comment? "With Kinect, Microsoft built in numerous hardware and software safeguards designed to reduce the chances of product tampering. Microsoft will continue to make advances in these types of safeguards and work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant."

I don't have to dig deeper into why Microsoft is so wrong in its thinking over this, do I, dear reader? But what I have to do is award Microsoft the top prize for being more short-sighted and arrogant than anyone would ever have imagined. So, Mr. Ballmer, if you or one of your minions would care to step up to the stage, your Turkey D'Or awaits you.

Gibbs occasionally enjoys a drumstick in Ventura, Calif. Express your preference for light or dark meat to backspin@gibbs.com.

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