Thinking Tech

Googlephobia

Googlephobia

Posting in Finance

The problem is not in the data. The problem is in auditing what Google, Amazon and the government do with that data, and making certain it aligns with what we consider to be good public policy.

The Justice Department announcement that it will investigate Google's agreement with authors is seen as the latest proof that Google is evil.

Google's response, that the deal with authors is non-exclusive, is barely heard above the din.

Instead, views are being driven by former Microsoft scourge Gary Reback, who is now on a jihad against Google.

Competition is not the only grounds for Googlephobia. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is afraid Google may cooperate with the government.

Google could then combine your reading habits with other information it has about you from other Google services, creating a massive "digital dossier" about you, your interests, and your concerns. With numerous reports of government efforts to compel online and offline booksellers to turn over records about readers, the time is now for Google to pledge to protect reader privacy.

Well, yeah. We have known for 15 years that use of the Internet creates digital fingerprints governments or corporations can use to their advantage.

It's in the nature of the resource, and while it's fairly easy to turn it off doing that means you lose the advantages of tracking. You come to Amazon.com as a stranger. The ads you see may be meaningless to you.

The problem is not in the data. The problem is in auditing what Google, Amazon and the government do with that data, and making certain it aligns with what we consider to be good public policy.

Over at the San Jose Mercury-News, Jonathan Hillel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute finds Googlephobia misplaced and I agree.

"Google is creating a market for orphan works and is making them available for widespread access," he writes. If groups like the Internet Archive want to participate in that market, they can. But they will have to pay their fair share of the digitizing costs, and the same royalty rates Google will.

It's inevitable that, as a company grows, its reputation will take a hit. Microsoft was once the young and scrappy one. WalMart was once the upstart that brought Sears-like pricing to the countryside. IBM and Coca-Cola were once examplars of American values.

At some point in the process, suspicion arises over even the most innocent moves of a company, as in this piece from The Wall Street Journal about Google's lobbying.

Never mind that AT&T, with a market cap just $13 billion higher than Google's, spends nearly four times more on Washington lobbyists, and the Journal isn't even counting AT&T's extensive state lobbying effort. It's Google we must be suspicious of -- why?

It's right to be suspicious of every large company, on antitrust grounds, on privacy grounds, on the general premise that size means power and power corrupts. But we must be suspicious of every large company equally.

Set policy that every company must follow and audit it. But don't let rightful skepticism turn into cynicism, and cynicism turn into defense of the business status quo. That's what those pushing Googlephobia want.

Google is continuing to grow. It is following the law and leading the industry in new directions. It is trying to widen its business model.

If that's evil, give me more of it.

Share this

Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure