Monday, June 4. 2012
Saturday, May 19. 2012
Since the English version of this book was published in 2011, Google has been accused, investigated, and punished for one misdeed after another. The offences include violating users’ privacy, infringing others’ property rights, engaging in anti-competitive behavior, obstructing investigations, and breaking rules and laws. Google critic Scott Cleland’s book is the only book that makes sense out of what is clearly a pattern of misbehavior, showing that it is a natural consequence of Google’s strategy, ambitions, and tactics.
Google remains the dominant force in the digital information universe. Simply put, there is no escaping Google’s clout and reach. Though Google is not the top search engine in Korea, the company has tremendous power over Korea’s economy, and collects a huge volume of data about Korea and Koreans. Google is the information and e-commerce gatekeeper in most of the countries that Korean exporters do business. Troublingly, Google is both a partner and a competitor to Korean electronics giants Samsung and LG. And Google collects massive amounts of data about Korean businesses, homes, and individuals through Google Earth, Google Street View, Gmail, and hundreds of other products.
Google is being investigated by the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC). Google claims it is cooperating with this and other probes around the world. Reportedly, when KFTC investigators raided Google’s Korean office in September of 2011, employees deleted files from computers. Claiming they were telecommuting, employees stayed home the following day. The KFTC is considering fining Google for obstructing its investigation.
Unfortunately, this can’t be dismissed as just a misunderstanding or isolated incident. Google is under investigation in the US and elsewhere for eavesdropping on wireless networks with its Street View cars in what is widely known as the “WiSpy” scandal. When it was first disclosed that Google was recording data (including confidential passwords) sent over unencrypted wireless networks, Google claimed it was an accident—the actions of a lone engineer working without the company’s knowledge or permission. However, an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) discovered that the engineer told two fellow engineers, one of them a senior manager, what he was doing and described the data collection scheme in a written report that Google says was “preapproved” (implying that no one was expected to read the report). Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the New York Times, “Google’s rogue engineer scenario collapses in light of the fact that others were aware of the project and did not object.” The FCC fined Google for obstructing its investigation, suggesting that we still don’t know the full story.
The KFTC is particularly concerned that Google is blocking competitors from the burgeoning mobile search market. Naver and Daum complain that Google makes its search engine the default search engine on Android smart phones, that Android phones can’t be ordered with other search engines preloaded, and that it’s very difficult for users to change to a competing search application.
Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility is problematic for Samsung and LG. As the supplier of the Android operating system, Google is a partner. As owner of Motorola Mobility, Google is a competitor, selling competing handsets and controlling a number of essential handset patents. It’s not uncommon for a large corporation to partner with a company in one area and compete with that same company in another. However, it only works when that large corporation acknowledges that there is a potential conflict of interest and takes steps to prevent conflicts and maintain trust. Unfortunately, Google is highly secretive and often says one thing while doing another.
It all makes sense when you realize that Google takes its mission “to organize the world’s information” quite literally. Google wants to control all of the world’s information and it is making tremendous progress toward that goal—digitizing the world’s books, gathering data from the sky and the streets, and monitoring people’s use of the Internet, mobile phones, and other devices.
And that’s why Korea—like other nations—must safeguard its interests.
UPDATE: The Korean version has been published by Acorn Publishing in Korea.
Wednesday, January 25. 2012
As Walter Isaacson recounts in his best-selling biography, Steve Jobs promised to “go to thermonuclear war” over Google’s Android smartphone. But it wasn’t merely because Jobs was a fierce competitor. One of the greatest entrepreneurs in U.S. history, Steve Jobs was painfully aware that Google does not respect others’ intellectual property rights, and he understood that Google’s practices are a threat to innovation.
Jobs’ attitude toward intellectual property rights could not have been more different from Google’s. Steve Jobs didn’t manufacture and sell products at low prices. And he certainly didn’t dump free products on the market as does Google. Steve Jobs used his natural good taste and high standards to imbue products with added value. Based on his innate sense of functionality, ease of use, and elegance he was able to command significantly higher prices than his competitors.
Steve Jobs saw Google’s Android as the result of intellectual property theft. And he probably understood how Google expected to get away with it. Google can make more money using others’ intellectual property to sell advertising than its owners can make using the intellectual property to develop and sell products. That’s why Google is confident that if push comes to shove it can always purchase a settlement. But as Steve Jobs told Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, “I’m not interested in settling. I don’t want your money.”
There are other examples of how Jobs’ attitude toward intellectual property rights was the opposite of Google’s. Jobs made a habit of keeping new products secret until they were ready for a big, splashy launch. Google routinely introduces beta versions of products. Steve Jobs was a perfectionist; he expected Apple products to work flawlessly from Day One. Google offers its products “as is” and tells users, in effect, “don’t bother calling our customer service department—we don’t have one.”
Steve Jobs created the iTunes store so that consumers could buy music rather than steal it, and so that music producers could receive fair compensation. Google, in contrast, has aided and abetted online pirates. Google scans books without the copyright holders’ permission. Google has even asked artists to supply it with artwork in exchange for exposure rather than pay—as if Google were the starving artist.
The independent-minded Jobs swam against the current of “open systems” and demonstrated convincingly that end-to-end proprietary systems offer significant benefits to consumers. Nor was Jobs intimidated by widespread attempts to disparage proprietary solutions by labeling them “closed.” Jobs proved that he could consistently deliver great products and services using proprietary systems, and he also proved that proprietary systems are not an obstacle to multi-vendor support.
Google’s advocacy of “open systems” is hypocritical. Google urges others to use open systems because open systems are less private. Meanwhile, Google zealously guards its search engine and ad auction secrets—resisting all calls to make these systems more transparent.
Steve Jobs dismissed Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” mantra because he understood that it was pure theater. He judged Google not by their slogans but by their actions. He saw Android as brazen theft and was determined to prevent Google from getting away with it.
Ira Brodsky is co-author with Scott Cleland of the new book Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc. Visit SearchAndDestroyBook.com.
Tuesday, September 13. 2011
My OpEd at the Daily Caller:
Google recently agreed to forfeit $500 million to avoid prosecution for knowingly accepting illegal advertisements from online Canadian pharmacies. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Google knew as early as 2003 that the pharmacies were promoting illegal importation of drugs, yet it continued to accept the ads and provide customer support to the advertisers through 2009.
Saturday, July 23. 2011
An article in Today's Wall Street Journal describes how Google has been using customer reviews from other sites to beef up its Google Places service:
Google Inc. has made changes to the way its search engine displays information about local businesses, a move that follows the disclosure of a U.S. antitrust investigation of its business practices.
I don't know how to describe this as anything other than stealing. Note also the allegation that Google manipulates search results to favor Google Places. (That Google doctors what it claims to be "unbiased" search results was publicly admitted by a top Google executive quite some time ago.) You can read the rest here.
Friday, July 22. 2011
This is the third in a series of posts about Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.
Steve Jobs said that "Don't Be Evil" is BS. But he either couldn't or wouldn't say why. Hope my Op-Ed at the American Thinker helps:
Google is once again demonstrating that it treats others in ways that it does not want to be treated. Google is requiring users of its latest social networking service, Google+, to have public profiles. Meanwhile, top Google executives are taking advantage of a hidden Google+ feature to enjoy greater privacy.
Saturday, July 16. 2011
This is the second in a series of posts about Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.
I am amazed at how willing some people are to totally ditch their privacy for "more relevant ads." I'm willing to give up a little privacy for more relevant ads in specific areas. But forfeiting all privacy means forfeiting safety, individuality, and even free expression. And always receiving "more relevant ads" is like donning blinders.
I confess that during the 1990s I was leery of privacy activists. At that time the issue was whether individual websites should be allowed to recognize returning users and track how they used their sites. It struck me as counterproductive to prevent websites from leveraging personalization technology. Plus, privacy activists seemed to be calling for government intervention in a market offering consumers more and more choices.
However, things have changed. With retail and wholesale search, embedded YouTube videos, and Google Analytics—to name just a few—Google can track you almost everywhere you go on the Web. I don't mind being recognized by Amazon.com and being presented book recommendations. But I don't want to be tracked everywhere and at all times. Nor do I only want to see ads that reinforce my existing interests and likes. (Advertising is a great way to spur new interests.)
I've learned that privacy is important. Without privacy, you can’t be who you want, because you are forced to reveal everything. Without privacy, there’s little opportunity for independent thought or dissent, because your ideas are immediately subjected to public scrutiny. Without privacy, there can be no human dignity, because others can barge in on you whenever they like.
Here's the kicker: You cannot establish and maintain your personal identity without privacy. Your account numbers, user IDs, passwords, and phone numbers are your private property. Keeping that information confidential is not only legitimate, it’s necessary for your safety.
I also reject Eric Schmidt's creepy argument: “If you're online all the time, computers are generating a lot of information about you. This is not a Google decision, this is a societal decision.” The fact that a decision is a "societal decision" does not make it right.
Thursday, June 30. 2011
From my Op-Ed today at The Daily Caller:
With data breaches and cyber attacks littering the news, Google’s mission, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” is proving increasingly dangerous. By purposely storing all of the world’s information in one place, putting everyone’s eggs in one basket, Google exposes Internet users, content producers and even governments to huge and unnecessary risks. The utopian vision behind Google’s mission — that all information (including private property) should be centralized in the hands of one unaccountable entity — can only lead to a series of disasters and ultimately tyranny.
Read the whole thing here.
Friday, June 24. 2011
This is the first in a series of posts about Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.
In the 1990s, most of us saw the World Wide Web as a liberating technology. Built atop the “network of networks,” there is no limit to how much information the Web can hold. And it’s incredibly fast: You can jump from one end of the globe to another in a split second just by clicking on a hyperlink. The Web gives consumers access to information on virtually any topic. And anyone can publish on the Web—usually for a fraction of what print media costs.
The Web promised to change everything—and in many ways it has.
Our expectations only seemed to grow as the number of users and websites increased. Many of us believed the Web would perfect the free-market system: all markets would be global in scale; buyers and sellers would always be well informed; and all transactions would occur at the speed of light.
The Web would give everyone yearning for freedom a platform from which to speak, and it would undermine and ultimately defeat anyone engaging in censorship. No government would be able to stem the free exchange of information and ideas.
It was hard to see any downside. The barriers to entry were remarkably low. Anyone with a personal computer and a dial-up modem could get on the Web. High speed access over cable TV networks was rolling out, and telephone companies promised a competing high speed service using phone lines.
We celebrated the fact that the Internet was a self-organized, unregulated, “dumb network.” The days when we had to play according to the Phone Company’s rules were finally over. No single entity could control the Internet. Most of the intelligence resided at the edges of the network—in the hands of end users and a multitude of small websites.
What could possibly go wrong? The technology was evolving so rapidly that it seemed the moment a threat to competition or choice appeared it was already on the road to obsolescence.
If there was a first mover advantage, we theorized, there was also a second and a third mover advantage. No one worried about the network effect—a large company’s ability to extend its market lead by acquiring customers at a faster rate—because online markets were in constant flux. New companies with new solutions emerged daily. Competition was always just one click away.
What we didn’t see—what we refused to see—was the Internet’s winner-take-all dynamic. Scott Cleland calls it the Internet Choice Paradox: The Web offers consumers what looks like infinite variety, but most users eventually select favorite search engines, social networks, and news sites. Information producers trying to reach a large audience soon find that they have very few choices. A relatively small number of sites become the Web’s information gatekeepers and e-commerce toll collectors.
That could only mean one thing: the Internet would enter a period of concentration (of information) and consolidation (of companies). The technology might continue to evolve, but only a few business models would thrive. A small group of winners would seize control.
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