Google opens data centers for a virtual tour

Google has thrown open the virtual doors to its data centers, adding behind-the-scenes views of the sprawling, server-filled warehouses in a new "Where the Internet lives" feature. "Our first priority is the privacy and security of your data, and we go to great lengths to protect it, keeping our sites under close guard" the search giant says, but still allowed photographer Connie Zhou to wander the aisles snapping the hardware and the people responsible for it.

The digital walkthrough is split into three sections – tech, people, and places – and while there isn't a huge amount of technical detail, the photos are certainly eye-catching. Rack upon rack of caseless 'boards, with eye-catching loops of colored cabling splashed across them.

Meanwhile, Wired's Steven Levy got to go one better than browsing an online gallery, and walked through the hallowed data halls himself. Along the way he picked up a few details, such as how a massive room full of interlinked machines might not necessarily be the best way to serve up information.

"It would be slow and burdensome to have millions of people grabbing videos from Google's few data centers. So Google installs its own server racks in various outposts of its network—mini data centers, sometimes connected directly to ISPs like Comcast or AT&T—and stuffs them with popular videos. That means that if you stream, say, a Carly Rae Jepsen video, you probably aren't getting it from Lenoir or the Dalles but from some colo just a few miles from where you are" Steven Levy, Wired

Google's comments about the sanctity of user data come at a tricky time for the company. EU privacy regulators demanded yesterday that the company modify its privacy policies after the unified T&Cs came into effect earlier this year, arguing that the system was insufficiently clear to individual users as to how their data might be used or shared.