Big Google Becomes Big Target


The thoughts that have been voiced on the web about Big G are slowly but surely appearing in main stream press. Today a NYT article is hard hitting on the theme of "All over the Web, anti-Google sentiment is on the rise." .

It suggests that new products like Google Base are meant to put a stranglehold on the Internet, and drive smaller operations like out of business. But product shortcomings could inhibit that game plan. Google Analytics delays are cited. Gmail privacy problems questioned.

They include a quote from David Vise (Washington Post reporter of "The Google Story" fame)

"Privacy advocates," he answered, "suggest that you would be wise to do Internet searches in one place, say Google, and have your e-mail accounts someplace else. Google, as a for-profit enterprise that is very data-driven, knows a lot more about you than you know about Google."

Basically as long as the share price continues skywards, G don't have to react, but there are a lot of markers being put down now drawing the wider world's attention to what is going on at G.

(you have to log on for NYT, but BugMeNot's current log on is "slashdotusers" and password is "newsfornerds")


Product complaints IMO

Product complaints IMO aren't really the issue - so long as Google offers these services as free, they can rightly claim you get what you pay for - no one has to use them, and nobody has paid for a contract of use.

Where I think the real issue lies is in privacy and Google - the more comprehensive Google's products become, the more comprehensively they can monetise user behaviour - and with it, the more acute privacy concerns have to become.

As a big company Google will come under a lot of unfair criticism simply for being big - but with respect to rights of privacy and intellectual ownership, I think Google are being blatantly irresponsible by not attempting to address these issues in a more upfront and professional matter.

Not addressing these issues properly does not make them go away - it allows them to simmer and grow and become more threatening.


The Dark Side of Google

"Rosy motives don't provide immunity from what has repeatedly been revealed to be Google's naive world view (particularly toward privacy -- and some would argue -- copyright issues) and the ways in which their vast machine could someday become an instrument of genuine repression despite Google's best intentions today."
December 16, 2004

quick question

Brian, what do you see as the main issues that are Google-specific (i.e. that wouldn't also apply to Y!, MSN, Ask, etc.)?


MrMackin - privacy officers and their advocates (such as Lauren you cited) are out on the far edge of the issues. Good to read, and perhaps thought-provoking, but nonetheless out there. A Google "privacy officer" position would be very high-profle and provide a boost to those pushing for widespread adoption of /recognition of such a position.

MrCutts - does it really matter if it also applies to Y! MSN Ask ? I understand Google comparing itself to other search engines, but one could also compare Google in this context to data brokers (e.g. Axciom) where the regulatory climate is less rosy but the "risks" may be approaching parity.


Out comes the new improved tinfoil hat (now lined with spray on Teflon and glitter)...

Google specific -
The close connection between google and the US federal government spy agency (CIA).

How many Search Engines have their own CIA agent on the ?executive payroll?

How many Search Engines have acquired a company that was started and funded by the CIA? (think Keyhole)

What do the CIA and google have in common?
They both collect and store VAST amounts of data - they both analyze the data they collect and use the results of analyzing this data to predict and follow the behivor of others. Google to get advertisers - The CIA to get the bad guys...

People don't like to be spyed on that is why no one likes the CIA (a ?necessary evil).

But, Google is not a necessary evil, so when google spys on people, people feel free to resent and detest google all they want...

As I have said many many times, google may understand mathmatics and search but they are sorely lacking when it comes to understanding people.


>>what do you see as the main issues that are Google-specific


No one expects much in the way of responsible behaviour from Y!, MSN, Ask, etc., standard corporate stuff is the bar they have up, you raised the bar on expectations and now want to lower it, quite disingenius, whats unnerving is that in many areas they have executed more responsibly than google in the area of publisher rights and respect and in the area of user privacy.

Google is a "hearts and minds" play, nothing more, your tech isn't better than anyone elses but your corporate buzz is, you blow it at your own risk. You can even win lawsuits with publishers but guess what? You already lost.

There is a difference between intellect and wisdom. You need to plug into the latter. You don't have to be a rocket surgeon to figure out its not the best idea to piss off every publisher and author on the planet, you live or die at their discretion. The collective buzz kill that group can create won't be overcome with a few "look at the cute holiday logos" BS.

Good luck.

Higher Expectations

It would be a real shame if the G boys were ever put in a position to make this kind of statement.

“Because today, we’re the focus of one of the most organized, most sophisticated, most expensive corporate campaigns ever launched against a single company.”
Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott, 6/3/05

When you get to be the biggest, you can become a target.

Google WAS a "hearts and minds" play and could return to that ideal.
It's not too late, Matt.

It's not too late


didn't mean too go overly apocalyptic onya matt, I actually like you guys sometimes. ;)


I think a lot of this animosity is generated by basic unfounded human emotion: JEOLOUSY!!!

The fact is Google rise to such a success in such a short time is remarkable.

Google is still in an infant state as a company and got a lot more growing to do before one could say it’s well established. Probably the fastest growing industry right now is RFID where Privacy and IP issues are also rising fast. In the area of IP, RFID companies formed consortiums to pool IP for licensing. Maybe, Google, Yahoo, MSN should form a consortium with outside council to handle privacy issues.

I am sure as the SE arena evolves in time, all the issues of Privacy and Copy write will be sorted out. Google with its shareholders will be a responsible company to this matter. In the mean time it’s a fight for market share.

All the time....

... Google was primarily just a search engine where you could go to find information and products that you wanted everything was great.

It has been the add on of the more intrusive applications (Toolbar, GMail, Desktop search, Analytics) that has been the cause of the change of peoples perceptions.

Data gathering is one thing when you are collecting publically available data and presenting it in a format that is easy for people to find and understand. Once you start gathering private and personal data and are not making it publically available - people are obviously going to have concerns.

Sorry Matt, I'm all spun out on this...

Google became popular beginning in 2000. That was when I first noticed their cookie with the unique ID in it that expires in 2038. I had never seen a cookie that lasted longer than ten years up to that point, and I was looking at a lot of cookies. I had a demo of an Explorer cookie leak on my site, and was able to collect cookies from everyone who tried out my demo.

Year 2000 was the same year that President Clinton banned persistent cookies from all federal web sites.

Years 1999-2000 was the time when Doubleclick tried to brag that they had acquired Abacus and would be able to merge that consumer data with their own. There was an uproar, an FTC investigation, and Doubleclick backed down.

Shortly after 2000, browsers began offering cookie blocking tools for the first time. Microsoft, to its everlasting credit, fell into step with this practice with their new versions of Explorer. That cinched it -- never again would there be a major browser without cookie blocking tools.

What was Google doing while all this was happening? Well, in December 2000 they introduced their toolbar, which offered up to Google the same Google cookie from every site you visited. In other words, the privacy issue was not even on Google's radar. But because Google used a bigger font when describing this sad state of affairs with their toolbar, all the Google cultists seemed to think that Google was cool.

To put it briefly, as Google waltzed into the middle of all this anti-cookie activism with their 2038 cookie with the unique ID, the only reason they didn't get hauled in front of the FTC at that time was because they were too cool with their minimalist interface, and too small to get noticed. By the time Google became too big to ignore, the anti-cookie, pro-privacy movement had subsided. It didn't subside because the privacy issues disappeared, but rather because cookie blocking became possible, and Clinton was out of office, and then 9/11 put a few more nails into the privacy coffin.

Google was lucky to escape the privacy issue. They remained isolated from the issue, and remained untouched and unaware of any social implications regarding privacy. It was simply lucky timing. Nothing Google has done since then has addressed privacy in a manner that the activists from year 2000 would have welcomed. On the contrary, it's all gotten much worse -- first with Gmail, and then with Google's open admission that the same cookie is accessed across all of their various services.

Now for Matt to come along and pretend that privacy is something that interests Google is laughable. Can anyone blame me if I consider this just more piece of spin from the Googleplex?

My tuppence

As I said to Matt in Vegas, what happens 20 years down the line if the United States gets a president who makes George Bush look like an utter left wing loonie and his crew get into power. The Dept of Homeland Security officer comes in with a piece of legal paper in his hand and says, "We're taking all that data for something we are working on and this subpoena says we can!"

It worries me that although the nice left wing engineers, Mr. Brin, Mr. Page and of course the good Mr. Cutts will do everything they can to stop the officers getting the data but they won't be able to do much.

I went through a dodgy time in a past life when an extremely dodgy, fat, stinking, lying, theiving bastard of a newspaper owner spent all his employees pension money and when the fucker disappeared off the edge of a yacht in the Atlantic so did the pensions of not only the current serving employees but also the retired employees who needed this money to live.

I was one of the lucky 12 people who were based in Amsterdam and there was a Dutch Law which said that our pension money couldn't be put in with all the other pension money in the UK, US and Australia so my money was saved.

I think the moral of that story is that it is really up to governments to start speaking up and making better laws to start saving their citizens data and I think that it is down to governments to start asking questions about this now.

Matt, you asked what are Google doing that the others aren't doing. First is the 2038 cookie. Why and what reason - why should you keep data on what my mother does on Google after she dies - if she doesn't come back in a year, she probably won't be coming?

issues that are

issues that are Google-specific (i.e. that wouldn't also apply to Y!, MSN, Ask, etc.)

Why does it matter if an issue is Google-specific? If it's an issue for Google, it should be considered thoughtfully without regard to whether your competition faces it, too.

NYT op-ed says that Google has a privacy problem

Here's one that's Google-specific: A member of the NYT editorial board slams Google's privacy policies and doesn't mention the privacy policies of MSN or Yahoo.

You can read it at,1518,387245,00.html

(Spiegel Online has a partnership that lets them run occasional NYT editorials.)

Privacy vs Not

This will be an argument from who is on the left and who is on the right forever. What you might consider a privacy matter others will not.

Privacy, Cookies and Toolbars - When you consider the amount of Toolbars downloaded from Alexa, MSN, Yahoo, Ask, Dogpile, Hotbot and yes, even the ESPN toolbar and has one too, Amazon A9, Ebay and many more, and more to come all with cookies. This is a PUBLIC ISSUE and not a Google issue. Yes, there are even some very small companies which also offer toolbars, harder to monitor and hence more dangerous than a public traded company. Oh I forgot Altavista has one too and so does Teoma, all with cookies looking at you!!!

Lets start talking about spyware and scumware regarding Privacy because that is where the real issues lie right now on the internet. Not some stupid cookie expiring in 2038 or 2099 which more than likely means nothing. And if a company thinks it might help them with better quality products somehow oneday, so what. Its a very competitive world.

So,if you suffer from privacy paranoia, I would suggest you do not accept the Terms of Agreement when you download any toolbar so that you can sleep better at night.

..or better still don't botther

downloading toolbars. You know that they aren't being produced for your benefit.

Hi Matt, I was hoping to be

Hi Matt, I was hoping to be able to provide an involved reply, but I'm afraid I'm a little pushed for time at present.

What I would instead recommend is for Google to try and answer the questions themselves:

1. Are the privacy policy at MSN, Yahoo!, Ask, etc, really beyond criticism?

2. In what way does Google differ from these companies that could exacerbate privacy concerns?

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