|University study: Google can 'extort and dominate' the world|
|An Austrian university study argues that Google is creating unacceptable monopolies that will allow it to control information flows and invade privacy. |
A research team led by Professor Hermann Maurer, chairman of Graz University's Institute for Information Systems and Computer Media, argues that Google is creating unacceptable monopolies in many areas of the worldwide web.
According to his research, around 61 billion internet searches are conducted each month. In the United States, on average 57 per cent of searches are conducted with Google, and up to 95 per cent of internet users use Google sometimes.
"It is dangerous enough that a single entity such as Google is dominant as a search engine," Maurer and his co-writers say, but the fact that Google is operating many other services and is probably colluding with other players was "unacceptable."
"Google is massively invading privacy," the study said, with the company able to access knowledge about individuals and companies, but not bound by national data protection laws.
...tell us somthing we don't allready know.
This kind of "study" bothers me a bit. It's really about what "might" happen, rather than what IS happening.
Google, as I see it, has one of the strongest track records for protecting individual privacy against abuses. They need world community support in their stance against invasive government requests, not fear tactics. The world community should begin to work out the very touchy details of how to balance privacy conacerns with the reality of personal data mining and surveillance.
Google is an ally in this important concern, and the problems come more from cross-country differences than Google. Many other online companies (e.g. Facebook's current Beacon fiasco) are a lot more "invasive" than Google who is pretty above board about what data they collect and letting an individual opt out.
It "bothers me" that you are bothered by the "study".
Do you know who it really "bothers" that Google is so arrogant and un-communicative. hint - it's NOT webmasters...
It bothers Wall Street and Main street.
It's Google's responsibility to be more open and honest about what they are doing and why -- in all facets of their business dealings.
People have a right to be "in fear" about a company like Google and their "near"-monopolistic control of information-control and information-retrieval.
Gee, it's not like the history of the world is littered with countless examples of companies, governments, etc abusing their power for less than noble purposes, err... i mean.. profits.
They should not need to be sued in court by foreign governments and privacy rights groups before changing "ambigious" policies.
Google should be tripping over themselves with openness and forthright explanations of how they will not go down the road that most companies do when given so much power.
Sure, it may not be Mr. Schmidt and MC today, but what about their successors?
What about 5 years from now when profits and stocks are down and investors are clamoring for better dividends?
There's a reason that Google made their motto (circa 2001) of "Do No Evil".
-- Because even the most non-conspiracy minded individual can predict what Google's power "might" lead to.
Much more noble companies with much more humanitarian "ideals" have proven the adage "Power corrupts..."
What's your assurance that Google won't do the same?
Because it's certainly not coming from Google in their day-to-day dealings with everyone from average surfers, to average webmasters, to average governments.
When I stop seeing FUD being used with webmasters and start seeing a mind-numbing pro-active attitude to allaying privacy fears, then I will give Goog the benefit of the doubt.
No thank you, but i'll err on the side of history and human nature and distrust every "motive" of Google.
[edited by: whitenight at 8:48 pm (utc) on Dec. 5, 2007]
I don't see it that way. In some industries it's difficult to avoid the holder of a monopoly. But in search engines if you don't like Google then MSN or Yahoo are nearly as good. And there are a thousand other search engines as well.
I suppose the worry is that at the moment we live in a relatively benign democracy (most of us), so at the moment Google and others can gather all the information they like about me and I don't care. What will they do with it that will affect me? More spam, I couldn't care less? But if circumstances change and democracy turns to a more threatening form of government, then maybe that information could be used against me.
I'm stopping here cause this whole subject is beginning to wind me up a treat and I can feel irrational thoughts infiltrating my mind!
I live in the UK.
Sure, Google "might" do almost anything in the future, as might Facebook or almost anyone with lots of computing power at their disposal. As I said, Facebook already went around the bend pretty far in my opinion. The apparent opt-out choice from their Beacon data-collection program out doesn't even really opt you out of the data collection. And their spokesman lied about it.
There IS a decades-long, screaming need for watch-dog organizations, treaties, agreements, laws and individual privacy protection. All well and good. Let's work this human rights situation out, or the data revolution COULD lead to a dark future. Not just Google, but data-driven technology altogether. I see Google as a potential ally here - helping to steer the information age into a more balanced privacy status.
Google did not create this landscape. The visionary ideal of personal privacy flew away decades ago and only now with Google being so visible is more of the world beginning to see the issue.
What bothers me is the tendency to paint Google with a black brush here, to make them the target as if they are the biggest privacy violator of all time. If we start seeing our potential allies as an enemies, then we are making the situation worse. This is not an academic study, it's fear-mongering.
First, let's deal in the "now" -- as you like to put it.
In no way is Facebook or any other company up to this period in history, even close to Google's power and control of the "flow" of global information. Period.
Let's compare apples to apples, shall we?
And the "track-record" of Google is NOT good.
It's average at best.
China will always a huge blackmark in Google's willingness to "do the right thing" as opposed to making future profits.
Cookies and personal data storage times?
These and several other issues were ample opportunities for Google to step up and do the right thing, waaaaay before any government, group, or individuals had to "remind" Google that they were on the "greyer" side of the law and privacy concerns.
Again, i repeat. Google's unwillingness to be brutally open with their day-to-day dealings - NOW - TODAY - with other businesses is what makes people uneasy.
It does not and has not ever indicated a "future" Google that will be looking to be "upright and above-board" with the use of their power
every other company that worries about power and profits NOW and only changes it's policies after lawsuits and government oversight is involved.
Are we talking about Google Search or Google, Inc.? (For a second I thought I'd wandered into the GOOG forum.)
|This kind of "study" bothers me a bit. It's really about what "might" happen, rather than what IS happening. |
Why Iraq was attacked? Why North Korea could be attacked? Why so many world conflicts have ever started? Because one party thought another party MIGHT be a threat in the future.
As I've previously stated, it is the European Union that has the power and smarts to do "something" about GOOG.
"[Google] can extort, control, and dominate the world at will."
This is so wrong it's laughable. Here's the problem: there is no lock-in with Google. It's the work of a moment to switch to any number of competing search engines and abandon Google forever. I don't see any way they can "extort" money out of businesses wishing to be listed without seriously damaging the integrity of their core product, thus setting the table for the NEXT Google to come along.
|"It's the work of a moment" |
But for Google:
A moment = 38 years... (until recently)
A moment = 2 years... (to be changed soon)
When you look at it, the Chinese censorship episode actually runs COUNTER to this article's main thesis. When push came to shove, Google could not control, "extort and dominate" China. That's just one example of why I think this so-called "study" is not worth much.
There is an issue here, and it is a big one. I don't want to make light of the potential for future privacy abuses - by Google or any other entity. All I'm saying is no one has practical answers right now, we've got work this out in the real world. There's not even agreement right now about what an ideal situation would be!
Moreso than many companies, the current incarnation of Google, at least, does care about individual privacy rights. Just look at the way Google protected Orkut user data. I'm not saying there's not a major issue to work out here. I am saying there's good reason not to beat up on Google about this, but rather to support the already strong stances they are taking and encourage them to go even further.
|"Google is massively invading privacy," the study said, with the company able to access knowledge about individuals and companies, but not bound by national data protection laws. |
Here lay the issue IMO. Simply switching a search engine doe’s not stop the (AS) tracking over millions of other web sites people visit...using looooooooong cookies expiry dates.
Maybe they (viewers) should switch them websites too ha?
The point this "research" is making is that you can not just switch search engines and stop the tracking. The monopolistic nature of this beast means it is almost everywhere you go on the internet nowadays....watching you, recording and storing the data for years to come.
[edited by: Web_speed at 12:42 am (utc) on Dec. 6, 2007]
|the current incarnation of Google, at least, does care about individual privacy rights |
No, the current incarnation of Google, understands that most of the world is focusing on their every move to make sure they are adhering to privacy rights, precisely because of who they are and what information they have access to.
You don't get a "gold star" and "smiley face" for following the rules and playing nice.
Thats basic business sense,
unless they want millions of citizens calling the lawmakers asking for real government oversight.
|beat up on Google about this, but rather to support the already strong stances they are taking and encourage them to take even more |
Again with the gold stars and smiley faces...
Is Google a small child learning the ABCs?
Multi-billion dollar companies don't get credit for not breaking the law and the accepted rules of global society!
Ok, here ya go, Goog.
Here's some "encouragement"
Be a good boy and you'll get a cookie:
* Stop "extorting" websites to place any type of unnatural notice on their links simply because your algo is 5 years out of date.
* Stop engaging in FUD campaigns with your information suppliers and figure out a system to communicate with them when they "upset your tummy"
* Start notifying - in a easy-to-find manner - all the "millions of average users" what exactly the TBPR green pixels indicate. Why? if it's up to date and/or accurate? and Why they should install your toolbar to see it.
* Start explaining exactly what you are doing with the billions of pieces of personal data you collect on surfers habits.
What, if any, safeguard are in place to ensure it isn't accidently place all over the public aka AOL.
What company policies are in your charter that ensures that data is used for only certain purposes?
What company policies are in place that require shareholders votes to change the use of privacy data, etc.
* I can think of a hundred more after Google is "encouraged" to put the above into effect and widely published by their PR department.
|Multi-billion dollar companies don't get credit for not breaking the law and the accepted rules of global society! |
And what globally accepted laws and rules are those, exactly? In the areas of data privacy, we don't have them, at least not yet.
When it comes to full disclosure on PR, algo details, and such, that's just not going to happen - and there's no way it should happen, IMO. That would be an invasion of Google's rights! But it's also not what this article is talking about.
Please stop muddying the issue. Goog does enough of that on their own
I didn't ask for full disclosure of PR.
I asked for full disclosure of TBPR
which has nothing to do with anything except for the "millions of average users"
that MC continually claims use it for "some" purpose.
And yes, there are laws in place for that. (See my debate with Adam L.)
Where did you read where I wrote that?!
There's a huge gap between intermittent "proclamations" on blogs and individual "SEO" sites and spelling out their entire algo.
Hi! meet the ongoing -950 penalty of "white hat" sites.
Colateral damage (aka "civilian casualties") without explanations does not gain one the "Merit Badge for Good Global Company"
|And what globally accepted laws and rules are those, exactly? |
Please see my earlier post.
Feel free to address those above privacy issues, and then we can talk.
Our opinions are not really as polarized as the posts so far might make a reader think we are. I like two of your suggestions for Google very much:
|What company policies are in your charter that ensures that data is used for only certain purposes? |
What company policies are in place that require shareholders votes to change the use of privacy data, etc.
I'm at PubCon right now and last night in the casino I was talking to Matt Cutts about Google and privacy. The current company policy (but it's not in their "Charter" as far as I know) is that they will only cooperate with a court order for a specifically identified, single user/incident, but not with a demand for a range of personal data that extends over many users. In fact, gMail does not automatically disclose the user's IP address. Many other webmail services do that by default.
I also would like to see more explicit and locked-in policies and accountablilty - and even international agreements and treaties (including non-governmental watchdog organizations) about privacy and data collection/use. I just see Google as already further along in this needed direction, and feel that the article's atitude of outrage and fear-mongering is not helpful. Even the headline and the url keywords are over the top.
Twenty five years ago I was in direct marketing and catalog sales. Ever then, the amount of personally identifiable private data that could be owned for a few dollars was enough to make me quite concerned. There IS a big deal here, and we're pretty late to the party. But let's not make a party into a war.
|I'm at PubCon right now and last night in the casino I was talking to Matt Cutts about Google and privacy. |
I'm sure MC is a good guy, but it's hard to believe he's able to change anything in that aspect.
Nice, private chat can only weaken one's perception of the significance of the problem and make one believe "the problems are being worked on."
But in reality we'll be having the same (most likely much more active) discussions about Google privacy issues or Google trying to dominate the world for the years to come.
Next year - how about meeting in Hawaii? In 10 years - maybe on the moon? In 50 years - on the Planet GOOG (previously called Earth).
|Sure, Google "might" do almost anything in the future, as might Facebook or almost anyone with lots of computing power at their disposal. |
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure.
If we didn't adopt preventative measures when entities appear to be forging in a direction that could infringe on our way of life, we would be in big trouble.
This case is no different.
I'll tell you power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely as fast as the next person, but what's the worst thing Google has done with all its power?
Microsoft became a giant and, shock, horror, it bundled Internet Explorer with Windows. Real scary stuff! What's Google going to do? Scan books? Offer GMail? Xdrive clone?
With fear and trembling,
P.S. When the SEs caved in to the U.S. govt's demands for "private" data, which SE was the only one to fight it?
The full 187-page report is available at google hyphen watch dot org slash gpower.html
If you look at the report, you can see it's clearly not a "study" at all but a kind of manifesto. The authors seem to fear Google because they are extremely credulous about some wildly overstated claims:
(This can really happen only if they read your Gmail, which would undoubtedly be very illegal and could also be done by any number of ISPs.)
|Google can use its almost universal knowledge of what is happening in the world to play the stock market without risk |
(This was a kind of a JOKE, duh. Obviously that is not an achievable goal to be feared. Not until the Singularity happens and we all upload ourselves onto supercomputers, anyway.)
|Google's open aim is to "know everything there is to know on Earth". It cannot be tolerated that a private company has that much power |
(There's also lots of information about the evil "Google-Wikipedia connection (GWC)".)
|most material that is written today is based on Google and Wikipedia |
(And this is different from OTHER advertising how?)
|Google is influencing economy by the way advertisements are ranked right now: the more a company pays, the more often will the add be visible. |
I agree there are (obviously) legitimate privacy concerns, but the authors seem to be in awe of the magnificence and omnipotence of "GOOGLE". What about the other search engines and the other ad networks and the mega-ISPs and sites like Facebook and phishing and spyware and zombie networks?
|What about the other search engines and the other ad networks and the mega-ISPs and sites like Facebook and phishing and spyware and zombie networks? |
While i agree large chunks of this "study" do sound like a manifesto, surly you cannot compare Google to the above quoted list in terms of mass reach.
When it comes to reach, Microsoft is the only company i would dare comparing to Google.
Fact: Microsoft has been put under legislator watchful eyes in recent years and for a darn good reason. Google should not be any different.
It is only a matter of time IMO...
[edited by: Web_speed at 12:08 am (utc) on Dec. 8, 2007]
|Fact: Microsoft has been put under legislator watchful eyes in recent years and for a darn good reason. Google should not be any different. |
Apples and oranges.
According to OneStat.com, Microsoft Windows had a 96.97% "global usage share" in 2006. That means that more than 95 out of 100 PCs and the application software on those PCs depend on Windows and Microsoft Corporation simply to function. Without Microsoft, the average PC would be a worthless box of hardware. Google doesn't have nearly that amount of power, even in the few countries where it has an overwhelming market share.
|Google doesn't have nearly that amount of power |
Almost any computer connected to the www (and used for surfing) has exposure to Google nowadays so here goes 80% of personal computers in the world i would say...regardless of country/market.
How? Once on the www, AdSense is almost everywhere (tracking and watching)...plus add all other countless Google services to the mix....not to mention search off course. In case you haven't noticed, Google is becoming the WEB.
Seems pretty darn (too!) powerful to me.
[edited by: Web_speed at 7:37 am (utc) on Dec. 8, 2007]
|Almost any computer connected to the www (and used for surfing) has exposure to Google nowadays so here goes 80% of personal computers in the world i would say...regardless of country/market. |
There's a huge difference between "having exposure to" (Google) and "being a useless hunk of hardware without" (Microsoft).
|There's a huge difference between "having exposure to" (Google) and "being a useless hunk of hardware without" (Microsoft). |
This topic is discussing "mass reach", "free/undeclared access to user private information and online behaviour", and major privacy concern as a result of. Nothing to do with hardware or useless boxes.
In terms of mass reach, access to very sensitive private information and major privacy concerns, Google are fast becoming second to Microsoft.
Want more? ... they now go Mobile, so add that one to your list as well.
[edited by: Web_speed at 11:37 pm (utc) on Dec. 8, 2007]
Seems like this study is right on the money!
First, the findings are nothing new, at least for those who actively think about Google.
Second, recently I have been thinking a lot about the massive knowledge Google has over businesses. This could actually kill them. Why? Think about someone at company XYZ doing research on a certain topic. Maybe over a period of time. If Google was interested to see upcoming product strategies at XYZ, a look into the search queries might provide valuable insights. I think, company IT administrators will see more requests (from their top management) to block access to Google in 2008 and 2009 (and it is OK that way).
Google is evil. Definitely.