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Google: it is time to return to not being evil
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-09-05 11:08:30
Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Vivalvi (and former CEO of Opera):

Recently, our Google AdWords campaigns were suspended without warning. This was the second time that I have encountered this situation. This time, however, timing spoke volumes.

I had several interviews where I voiced concerns about the data gathering and ad targeting practices - in particular, those of Google and Facebook. They collect and aggregate far too much personal information from their users. I see this as a very serious, democracy-threatening problem, as the vast targeting opportunities offered by Google and Facebook are not only good for very targeted marketing, but also for tailored propaganda. The idea of the Internet turning into a battlefield of propaganda is very far away from the ideal.

Two days after my thoughts were published in an article by Wired, we found out that all the campaigns under our Google AdWords account were suspended - without prior warning. Was this just a coincidence? Or was it deliberate, a way of sending us a message?

Large technology companies have an immense amount of control over and influence on our society, far more than they - or anyone else, for that matter - care to admit. We're way past the point where governments should step in and start to correct this dangerous situation. It's time for another breakup of the Bell System. It's time we, as society, take a long, hard look at corporations - in tech and elsewhere - and ask ourselves if we really want to be subject to the control of organisations we effectively have no democratic control over.

I'm not a proponent of nationalisation, but I am a proponent of breaking up Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and possibly others (I'm sticking to technology for now) to severely limit their power and influence. The products and services these companies create have become too important and too vital to the functioning of our society, and they should be treated as such.

It wouldn't be the first time we, as society, decide a certain product has become too vital to leave in corporations' unrestricted hands.

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No Simple Answers
By Pro-Competition on 2017-09-05 20:07:55
I'll be the first in line to say that something needs to be done about these data giants, but unfortunately breaking them up doesn't seem to be a viable option. In fact, there are no easy answers to this one.

The only viable option seems to be a radical overhaul of users' rights to their own data, along with strongly regulating the industry for compliance (similar to utilities). That would obviously be a major change, and a complete departure from the "wild west" approach to capitalism of recent decades, but technology has advanced so quickly that a major overhaul is required (and overdue).
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RE: Comment by TheCovvboyOnline
By Morgan on 2017-09-05 22:39:35
It's nearly impossible to escape the reach of Google. Even after dropping them from my digital life, I find I'm still giving them information about me every time I email someone with a @gmail address. Even when a correspondent has their own domain, they may be using Google products associated with it, and I would never know.

Hell, even connecting to a hotspot that uses Google DNS puts me on their radar, since I'm pretty sure they already know the MAC addresses of my portable devices. Whether they actually do anything with that information is always up for debate, but at the very least they can track one's movement using hotspots. Uber's "God View" is another example of malicious location tracking by an unscrupulous company.

Above all other technology companies, Google must return to -- and adhere to -- their old mantra of "don't be evil" for the good of mankind, though I fear at this stage that will never happen. Alphabet, Inc. is the all seeing, all knowing superpower that we once saw as the villain in Dystopian fiction.
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RE: Sorry but not sorry
By Dave_K on 2017-09-05 22:55:49
> Opera failed because it was an average browser with a terrible business model, not because of Google Docs.

I can't argue about the failings of their business model, but calling one of the most innovative ever browsers "average" is just ignorant.

Many of the features in today's average browsers originated in Opera. Some features in Opera from the start, e.g. saved sessions, took the best part of a decade to filter down to its competitors. There were plenty of other Opera features that can barely be replicated today even with extensions. In my opinion nothing has matched Opera 10-12 for elegant and flexible tab management.

Opera stagnated and regressed; the current version is a dumbed down shell of the browser it was before its Chromification, but its commercial failure back in the 00s wasn't down to it being average.
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RE[2]: Sorry but not sorry
By Kochise on 2017-09-06 04:56:41
Can't say about their business model, I paid them 3 times through the 9-12 era to show them my support.
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Breaking up is not a viable solution: Common Carrier is
By rekabis on 2017-09-06 05:46:19
As some have said, breaking up is not a viable solution. Facebook is an integrated unit. How would you break it up? Its different components are integrated together as deeply as a networking stack is integrated into an OS - and neither can survive without the other.

What makes sense for monolithic companies that cannot be torn into self-sustaining pieces would be to classify them as Common Carriers. As in, they would no longer be able to restrict the transmission of information simply because they considered it objectionable. In fact, censorship of any kind would then become impossible. They could still remain dominant in their spheres of influence, but they would be forced to accept all comers and be able to reject none. Controversial videos will not be blocked or deleted. Controversial sites would not be delisted. Only verifiable falsehoods could be downplayed when actual information was being searched for.
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Don't make a really successful company
By Berend de Boer on 2017-09-06 06:23:50
If you become really successful as a company, you should be punished. Is that the lesson?
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RE: Strange list
By Savior on 2017-09-06 07:05:06
You know it's not just that. First of all, even having to use Messenger instead of any IM application (you know, because the protocol is open) is monopolistic practice.

Second, Facebook is unfortunately much more ubiquitous than what you admit. Many businesses (at least here in Hungary) don't even bother to have websites, and are Facebook-only. High school / university students (OK, the latter not much so) expect their teacher to communicate with them on Facebook, not on email. Etc.

Facebook has a well-deserved place on that list.

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RE: Don't make a really successful company
By puenktchen on 2017-09-06 07:47:55
It's not about being punished, its about working markets. If you win a round of monopoly, you need to reset the game to keep on playing.
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RE[2]: Comment by TheCovvboyOnline
By Lennie on 2017-09-06 08:04:18
A WiFi access point can see your MAC-address, but if the only connection with Google is Google DNS, they can not see your MAC-address. Unless you have a insecurely configured IPv6 set up.
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RE[3]: Comment by TheCovvboyOnline
By Morgan on 2017-09-06 11:11:28
You're forgetting that Google already tracks anyone who has ever (knowingly or unknowingly) loaded an advertisement on their device, creating a digital fingerprint for that person. Part of that fingerprint is the MAC address, browser type, OS version, and so on, of every device that person uses. Unless you take preventative measures and practice deep sanitation of your devices, they know everywhere you go. Your browsing habits define you, and when you browse the Internet over a connection served by Google DNS, you are giving them a direct feed of your entire browsing session, as well as pinpointing your location.



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