Google The Totalitarian?

Connecting the dots of several recent important developments, Google increasingly is acting autocratically like it has unlimited power and is answerable to no one.

  • More and more it appears to operate like a centralized, sovereign, virtual-State exercising control over the world’s information, info-commerce and Internet users.
Consider these several Google public actions over just the last month or so:

Search:

  • Editing Search Titles: Google’s Matt Cutts announced exercise of a new autocratic power: Google can “change the titles of your pages in your search results” per WebProNews. Google’s Cutts: “We reserve the right to figure out what’s a better title, what’s a more descriptive title or snippet to show to users.”
  • Search Ranking by Speed: Google’s Matt Cutts has signaled that how fast a page loads may become a ranking factor for search results in 2010. This forces all websites that want to be discoverable via search to spend money to upgrade and tailor their sites to Google’s moving-goal-post, page-load standards. Since page-load speed has little to do with search relevance, this appears to be an unilateral action by Google to move “the faceless scribes of drivel” “to the back row of the arena” as a Google Sr. VP wrote in an official Google blogpost earlier this year.

Unaccountability:

  • Sinking Competitors’ Search Rankings: The Register has a must-read and very thorough analysis of how Google sent search competitor Foundem “to the back of the arena.” The article is entitled “When Algorithms Attack, Does Google Hear You Scream? — Inside Google’s search penalties gulag.” The article tells the story of Foundem and other sites that have autocratically had their Google page rank reduced dramatically, and how unresponsive and unaccountable Google is to those who believe they have been aggrieved by Google’s autocratic exercise of its monopoly power.
  • No Due Process: Per Advertising Age, Google has now deputized its crawler-bots to ban suspected ad scammers; “It’s now guilty until proven innocent, a fundamental shift for ‘Don’t be evil’ Google.” “Google now has a harsh new penalty for advertisers placing scam and malware ads: a lifetime ban.” Moreover, Google “has technology to determine who is connected to what account, which will make it very hard for a banned user to create another account.” Interestingly this is in direct contradiction to Google’s Vint Cerf’s insistence to the Wall Street Journal that Google does “not know who you are.”

Competition:

  • Book Settlement: In Google’s revision of its proposed Book Settlement this month, Google basically stiff-armed the Department of Justice in not addressing the Government’s serious objections that the settlement would preclude competition by excluding competitors equal access to the digital books covered in the settlement. Apparently, Google only stops anti-competitive behavior when the Government threatens an actual antitrust suit like what blocked the Google-Yahoo Ad Agreement.
  • Acquiring AdMob: Even though DOJ has concluded Google is dominant in search advertising, Google is brazenly attempting to extend its monopoly in PC search advertising to mobile advertising via acquisition of AdMob, “the world’s largest mobile advertising marketplace” and a direct competitor to Google’s AdSense Mobile and Google-DoubleClick. Combining AdMob mobile advertising leadership with Google’s dominance would result in “game over,” much like combining YouTube’s online video leadership with Google’s dominance made YouTube dominant with fourteen times the market share of its nearest competitor.

Privacy:

  • Google Voice: Google is violating its own privacy policy per Techcrunch, in that it is — autocratically and without permission — changing the phone numbers in users’ contact list to their Google Voice numbers. This forces acceleration of the transition to phone numbers Google controls, but it can also cause users confusion in identifying incoming calls and it can result in undelivered text messages.
  • Privacy Dashboard: In discussing Google’s new “Privacy Dashboard,” Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto asked Google CEO Eric Schmidt how a user knows if their information has been deleted per their request. Mr. Cavuto: “How do I know you are deleting it? Mr. Schmidt: “Because we say so.”
  • Swiss Suing over StreetView: The Swiss privacy czar is currently having to sue Google to get Google to protect the privacy of Swiss citizens.

In sum, these are not isolated incidents they represent consistent Google points-of-view and patterns of behavior. Actions speak louder than words. The clear takeaway here is that Google is increasingly acting autocratically, because they can.

  • Google’s “black box” model and secret mode of operation increasingly functions like a hidden, non-transparent code of laws and regulations, where no one knows they are in violation of one of Google’s secret edicts until Google tells them so or punishes them.
  • Google’s rapidly increasing power over the world’s information, info-commerce, and Internet users, combined with its no-permission-required cultural ethos, appears to be morphing into a pseudo-totalitarian world view where Google will always push the envelope to be the ultimate authority, until some other authority forcefully pushes back.

2 Comments to “Google The Totalitarian?”

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