EU Furthers Plans for Google Library Alternative

Source Title:
EU leader backs European digital library to ward off US dominance
Story Text:

I think it was fantomaster who recently broached the subject of Google dominance and what that could mean to the political landscape in a thread here. With that in mind, comes news of the EU backing a rival plan to counter US cultural dominance...

"We have to act," Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told a meeting of culture ministers and 800 artists and intellectuals in Paris who drew up a European charter for culture.

"That's why I say 'yes' to the initiative of the French president (Jacques Chirac) to launch a European digital library. I say 'yes' because Europe must not submit in the face of virulent attacks from others."

Seems to feel fairly passionate about it doesn't he?



Heh, I wouldn't call it an attack (okay the Mc Donald's and KFC expansion across the EU was but can't we just all get along?) but anything that encourages more free online libraries as a public trust is a good thing - even if that good thing is competition.

EU puts money behind it.

It seems that the EU are putting money behind it with €36 million for research and €60 million to go to digitization (digitisation).


Cultural imperialism is the technical term

and of course it's about "mindshare" - which, at the end of the day, is supposed to translate into political and everyday support or resistance.

Obviously, the administration's hype is about "saving the culture of the West" from various purported "attacks" - from Islam to the US of A.

But by way of a more sober take it's all too clear that the current EU administrations are anxious a) to gain at least as much control (or what they deem to be such) over their population as the US administration is - rightly or wrongly - perceived to have (arguably yet another, fairly long term consequence of Dubya's reelection, btw), and b) to position an alternative UI (= ideological filter) to global information not serving any US dominated cultural, political and economical agenda.

Let's not forget that whether it's Goo or Yahoo! or MSN that will stay or become the major of major players in future, from a European perspective they're all US based and, hence, by definition
"suspect", potentially "fifth column", etc.

And viewing the overt jingoism and braindead pro-administration opportunism & hysteria displayed by practically all supposedly
"independent" US mainstream media in the workup to the last Iraq war, who can blame the EU bureaurats being worried about a perpetually
"Googlified" world of search?

Of course, whether the chosen current approach will actually deliver the goods, is quite another story ...


It doesn't seem like Google has much to do with promoting Bush's policies. With a purported liberal bias, a "Googlified" online library might actually be palatable to EU leaders if they stopped to consider it.

Then again, I'm all for multiple world libraries. I am wondering how intellectual property rights will be protected in the process.


Nobody claimed that Goo was related in any way to Bush policies (though the traditional mainstream media self-admittedly were quite partial towards the Iraq invasion) - and in any case the jury's still very much out on the current buzz re their supposed liberal bias.

However, they do have a fairly long, ignominous track record of bending under adminstrative pressure, vide China, vide Scientology, etc. etc. So at the very best they constitute an unreliability factor.

Also, considerations such as this don't rely on conspiracy theory mechanics: there's actually no need for some clandestine cabal pulling the strings behind the scenes to perceive Goo (and the others) as avatars of US cultural values in general - which, again, influences
"mindshare", however you define it in detail.

As for copyright, that's indeed another major issue because while there are lots of international agreements, interpretation and everyday handling differ wildly between various jurisdictions. This hold true even for the EU itself, where UK copyright laws are quite different from the Continent's.

[Typos edited.]


In re. online libraries I think the two main points are copyright and putting too much control in the hands of any one company, regardless of nationality. I would hate to see 50% of the world's great digitized libraries under any one company's control.

Another point

Copyright, too much control, and one other point: Google will track and record what everyone is reading, to the maximum extent possible. They will do this for profiling purposes, and will be pleased to point out that they are preventing too much access to copyrighted material. Google has always tracked to the max, and saved all data.

However, there are no legal restrictions for non-U.S. citizens that would prevent the NSA from asking Google for a back-door feed to all these records, in the name of fighting terrorism, or whatever. Can you spell E-C-H-E-L-O-N ? If the NSA can spend billions for snooping satellites, why can't they spend thousands for a fiber optic cable into the Googleplex?

How would Google respond? A briefcase full of cash from the NSA's black budget, which even Congress is unable to itemize, should take care of any objections from the Googleplex.

Google spooks

Weren't the likes of Page, Brin and Cutts reported to hold security clearance for the NSA?

Don't want to wax ideological here, but what few people ever realized about Germany's leaning on Scientology to the extent that their non-profit status as a church was revoked and their
still being monitored round the clock by the home security services is the fact that
a) Scientology originally emerged from within the US intelligence community (Hubbard was a navy intelligence officer once - and common wisdom has it that you don't ever "quit" in such a job if your ringmasters continue to see some use to put you to),
b) it pursued a voracious data gobbling dossier building policy (esp. about celebs, politicians, etc.) quite comparable to present day Google's. (Their being blackmarked as a "cult" subscribing to all sorts of "nefarious practices" certainly helped but at the end of the day this constitutes little more than a red herring to divert the media hacks, IMV. There were - and are - far worse operations around getting away with it scot free. But then most if not all of them don't hold any clout in terms of info which could be employed for political and personal blackmail …)

What this goes to show is that Big Brother (EU) is pretty particular about Big Brother (US) encroaching on his territory.

And that, too, is where SEO is endowed with a political dimension few people in the industry would care to think about let alone cater to.

NSA connection

Matt Cutts used to work for NSA -- I got his resume off of the web before he took it down. I don't know about Brin and Page.

Keyhole, which Google acquired last year and which led to the satellite maps, was partially funded by the CIA's venture capital firm.

Google occasionally advertises for engineers with security clearances.

And I think the entire invitation thing with Gmail is one more way to collect data on who-knows-who.

the entire invitation thing with Gmail

is one more way to collect data on who-knows-who.

So is Blogger.

What most people don't seem to fathom is that these days surveillance isn't focused on individualized data at all. Sure, at the end of the feeding chain this is required, too, but before it finally gets to that it's all about pattern detection and matching.
(Very much like ranking algos, really.)

If nothing else, Gmail and Blogger data can be used to detect who's in cahoots with whom and when. We may not know whether it actually is being used in this manner, but there shouldn't be the least doubt that it's a very real possibility. So whoever gets hold of that data and knows what to make of it, has an incredibly gigantic advantage over all who can't. Which in the corporate world translates to competitors, in the world of spooks to competing foreign intelligence agencies.

So the more European (or Russian, or Chinese, etc., take your pick) traffic and online behavior they are able to monitor, the higher their value to the local BB outfits. Who would, in turn, be crazy not to fall for this (historically quite unique) opportunity hook, line and sinker.

Nor is this a merely theoretical, "conspiracy" based, concept: law enforcement agencies have been onto this kind of approach for decades and any professional skip tracer and tech savvy private eye can tell you horror stories no end about what's actually been possible even way before the Web explosion.

Germany implemented this data mining approach back in the 70s already to counter the Baader-Meinhof group's terrorist activities and Italy, France and the UK were fast to adopt it, too. Nowadays, it's standard practice within all of the EU and beyond.


if the US is anything like the UK a) you need security clearance for a load of stuff which really isn't very exciting and b) as a consequence there are a lot of people who hold some level of security approval.

I refuse to get wound up because a search engine might be supplying my searching/surfing details to the US government. Good luck to them if they want to make something of that - they already have details of every flight I take, fingerprints, retinal scans and who knows what else. The Government also have full powers to seize ISP records and listen to my phone calls -

Personally I'm much more concerned they'll sell that stuff to advertisers and I'll get inundated with promotions for stuff I researched three years ago and have never looked at since....

//added - wrote that, took a call, hit post and totally missed Fanto's comments in the middle so post is now not nearly as relevant as it was 20 minutes ago//

what other contracts does google have?

So, what job within google would need this?

what other contracts does google have?

Google occasionally advertises for engineers with security clearances.

So, what job within google would need this? The search appliance? The super search appliance?

This isn't the arena

to discuss fundamental issues re privacy, civil liberties, police state stuff, etc. etc. IMV. So while I don't agree with your take that corporate data scrapers and their promo tactics are the #1 issue involved here, there's no need to wax all alarmist about it either.
Let's agree on the simple observation that your privacy concerns, if any, may not be identical with mine or anybody else's for that matter, nor need they be.

What I feel is quite relevant to our context here, though, is that search engines aren't just your run-of-the-mill corporate entities dealing with any old information commodity. In times of transnational conflict (i. e. always, really) they're as political a tool - if not a weapon - as anything that lends itself to propaganda, disinformation, psyops, social engineering agendas, etc. - but of an immensely higher degree of sophistication and refinement/precision than we've ever seen before in history.

Like it or not, this is bound to affect the realm of SEO sooner or later. While it's probably too early to discern how exactly and to which degree this will come about, it's a fairly logical assumption to expect it to happen. The tracks and the indicators are all there for everyone to see, so much is for sure IMO.

modems and fido

Someday, people will be digging around for modems and trying to resurrect their knowledge of direct connections.

what job within google would need this?

if they tell you they'll have to kill you :)

Seriously, perhaps Google operate an internal search engine for the US government? Perhaps they've agreed to scan for documents on the web which are actually leaked security docs? Perhaps they need someone to teach Bush to Google?

Direct connections

is what P2P is all about, isn't it? But unless you're maintaining your own rogue satellite outfit (and an uncrackable one to boot, ha ha) even that approach is a no go.

Perhaps they need someone to teach Bush to Google?

Maybe it's more about to what extent Bush & company have been Googled already … :-)

all good points and all

But personally i tend to see Google as a private enterprise that is now building an "internet proxy", or a second version of the internet that lives on top of the real thing. Yes you may think AOL 2.

That proxy will keep getting better, and more fun features will be added - the latest is speed improvements over the real web. I'm not that concerned that a few years down the line that proxy will be on-demand and pay-to-use, i'm more concerned about what elements from the real internet won't make it to the proxy, or "mass media internet".

When it was just AOL, we could all lean back and think, "Well, that's just a US thing - convenience and consumerism rules over there. These people don't even mind that they don't get full access, they're even stupid enough to pay extra for it."

With Google it's a bit more worrying since (a) Google is everywhere, and (b) Google claims to index all pages, and (c) Google never shows everything. Claiming "everything" but showing "only some" - as in the difference from eight billion to one thousand. Is that credible? IMHO, not really. It's essentially "AOL on steroids" by now - or getting there quick.

Now, when it comes to our (as in "Europeans") cultural heritage in the form of books, this (Google) is just not the kind of fox that you would like in your henhouse. There are three sides to it:

1) What is left out,
2) What is included, and
3) What fraction of (2) you are able to find

Of course a Whitman may have been indexed by Google before a Sartre. Also, Google, being an US corporation, will never know the more narrow pieces of important literature in European languages. That will be the big thing in the press, as it's all about "cultural heritage", but it will be a small part of the real reason.

Most likely there are other types of emphasis as well as language. Probably there are several criteria, but these are Google's own. They are decided by Google, implemented by Google, and known only to Google. Google doesn't even have to tell anyone why. They have no public service obligations, so if they don't want to feature "Memoirs of Jacques Chiraq" (if such a title exists) then they don't have to.

Okay, that was fun. Chiraq (if he has ever written a book) can be left out. Also, of course there's only one original volume of "Theory of This or That", but is it significant enough to get included? And, if it's significant, does that also mean that it's true? Who, apart from scientists in the specific field can generally tell?

Now, what about, say, different texts on the same topic. Which ones should be included and which ones not? What about, say, history? People tend to write history books with different level of detail and accuracy at different places. Biology? Economics? Medicine? Politics?

What will get in, what will be left out? And, among what gets in: What will we be able to find?

Will conservatives be "sandboxed"? Democrats? Liberals? Christians? Nazis? Communists? Environmentalists? Fundamentalists? Anarchists? Scientologists? Is there a border line, and if so, exactly where is it, and how fixed is it? These are the questions that are really the motivation behind EULib (imho, fwiw, ymmv).

Two simple words: Editorial policy.

There's no collection of anything without one. Either implicit or explicit, public or hidden.

Excellent posting, claus

right on the money in every single point!

Now in view of Goo aiming to become the whole goddam planet's uberproxy ("all your bytes are belong to us" - and quite literally, too) what does that leave us with? We've seen what "do no evil" can actually mean in real life …

"Fox in the henhouse" sums it up very nicely. And the irony! First, it was "little Goo" against all the Big Bad Boys, then, only three years down the road, everybody was hoping that Microsoft of all unlikely candidates, that perennial pariah of the online world, would cut them down to size.

And now? Here we are having to rely on - equally unlikely - France and Germany, those somber beacons (if there is such a thing) of illiberalism, to muster the cojones to actually do something about that search kraken ...

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