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The Google Trap The Google Trap - Gerald Reischl writes about the dangerous company Google

“The world is a Google”

August 8th, 2008

The cover story of the August edition of the German magazine “Der Journalist” focused on Google (The Information Imperium) and divided the story into two parts. One part is titled “The world is a Google” and I was asked to write this six-paged story. It starts with: “Google is about to become the world’s largest publisher, dealer, and registrar of information. But only very few users really know the US search engine has its finger in every pie.”
The second story is titled “Well-meaning dictator” and was written by Thomas Mrazek. It begins with: “Google is not only important as a research instrument, it has also become an important- even if sometimes controversial - distribution channel for news in the web, at least for German media.” Place your trial subscription here.

Media and journalists have realized – probably also due to the current developments (YouTube – Viacom, Google Analytics, Streetview) that the enterprise must be questioned and its real intentions must be unmasked.

Yesterday Andrea Gerk interviewed me in her radio show “Resonances” on WDR3 – among other topics we talked about the “Data monster”. The reactions by many of the listeners clearly proved that they wanted to know more about what was behind Google and which goals the company from Mountain View has on its agenda.

2 Tips: A Google documentation and a contest

August 8th, 2008

Googles Goldmine – The US enterprise and our user data
This is the title of a feature on the WDR-program “Monitor” broadcast on July 24. You can watch the program on the Monitor-website – just click on Web-TV. The renowned computer scientist Prof. Hermann Maurer was also interviewed. Maurer is well-known for his report on “Dangers and opportunities posed by large search engines, particularly Google”, which one can download free of charge. The essence of his report is that Google’s passion for collecting data is dangerous. Google is an uncontrolled world power. “Who guarantees that Google has not yet linked all of the user data available. If not today, maybe in the future? According to data security officers and critics all of this is technically doable. A digital goldmine.”

Which data does Google Analytics transmit?
Whoever answers this question correctly can win a copy of the “Google Trap”. Another copy of my book is raffled off on Ritchie Pettauer’s data-dirt blog. By the way – there is no “correct” answer, the most absurd contribution posted on the blog can win. The contest ends on Sunday, August 3 2008. Here is the direct link.

Google-Health and online patient files are dangerous

August 8th, 2008

Why would Google engage itself in genetic research companies? Why does Google – currently only in Europe – offer the health-data site “Google-Health”, on which we can save our health and patient data. Why would a search engine engage itself in such a highly sensitive field? Which goals and intentions are behind this?

In the “Google Trap” I have already warned about Google Health. Here are a few excerpts from my book to make you even more curious:

“Considering how much time it took before the e-card was introduced in Austria, mainly because of the lengthy discussions about the type of data which should be permitted to be stored on the card, one can easily imagine that Google Health will cause numerous data security officers to focus on the safety of the system. Naturally every Internet user and Google-account owner can do what he pleases. On the other hand, every user should be aware of the fact that a US based company has access to personal and possibly sensitive health data, to which the US authorities might also have access. Imagine if the immigration authorities would have data on illnesses of all tourists traveling to the US. Apart from this, the data enriches the personal profile of every user with additional valuable information. Details on Internet users become more and more transparent. But what is even more important is: what would happen if employers were given access to this data?”

This week the German federal data protection expert Peter Schaar commented and warned about the dangers of online patient files, offered by foreign companies. “Health data is well protected by us. Its usage underlies strict guidelines. Any usage for other purposes is out of question. All offenders are liable to prosecution. Even criminal prosecutors are not allowed to confiscate patient data from medical doctors. However, this type of protection is not valid worldwide.

Corporations such as Google or Microsoft, with its “Health Vault” service, state that personal health information online may be accessible to doctors at any time, enabling them to see medical data in the case of an emergency. Google’s head of research, Peter Norvig, who I interviewed in Mountain View last summer, says that personal data only belongs to the patient – not to the hospital or doctor – and that he must decide where the data is saved and who may access it. But how can abuse be prevented, asks Schaar. And I agree – how can something like that be excluded from the realm of the possible? How can a link to other (sensitive) data be prevented? In Germany, for example, officials may not even sequester health data. But this is not a worldwide legislation, and from the YouTube-Viacom case we know that once data is in the US, control over it is lost and there is no chance to regain it.

Here is a little excerpt from the “Authorization Agreement” – once registered with Google Health, you must surrender to the corporation…

I hereby authorize Google to share the health information contained in my Google Health profile(s) in its entirety, to only those entities and individuals I designate, for the purpose of providing me with medical care and for the purpose of sharing my information with others that I choose.

I understand and agree that this authorization permits the disclosure of health or treatment information about me, to the entities and individuals I designate, that may also contain sensitive information relating to the following:


* Mental illness or any mental health condition

* Alcohol or substance abuse

* Sexually transmitted diseases

* Pregnancy

* Abortion or other family planning

* Genetic tests or genetic diseases

I understand and agree that this authorization also covers any record that was created by a doctor or other health care provider other than the doctor or health care provider who supplied the record to Google Health.

The Google-Trap is nominated for the “getAbstract International Book Award”

August 8th, 2008

The Google Trap was nominated for the economics-related “getAbstract International Book Award” that will be issued for the 8th time at the Frankfurt Book Convention on 15. October 2008. Of more than 10,000 English and German books in the categories Business Administration, Management, Marketing, Human Resources, Finances and Careers, ten where selected for the final nominations.


The nominees are:

Die Geldverbesserer by Martin Gerth, FinanzBuch Verlag
Die Google-Falle by Gerald Reischl, Verlag Carl Ueberreuter

Humanomics by Uwe Jean Heuser, Campus Verlag

Die Karriere-Bibel by Jochen Mai, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (dtv)

Vorbeben by Wolfgang Münchau, Carl Hanser Verlag

Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell, Basic Books/ Perseus Books 

The Game-Changer by A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan, Crown/ Random House, Inc.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded von Thomas L. Friedman, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. 

Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets von William Bonner and Lila Rajiva, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 

The Subprime Solution von Robert J. Shiller, Princeton University Press

of these ten nominations, four – two in German and two in English - will receive the award. The nomination alone already makes me very happy and gives me the courage to continue to focus on the topic…

getAbstract is the world-leading provider of book summaries. Each year about 800 of the most significant books in the fields of Economics, Management, Finances, Human Resources and Marketing are selected and summarized.

Details about the the “getAbstract International Book Award” and a list of the previous recipients are listed here.

Dominator Google

July 17th, 2008

Google is the most popular search engine – it dominates the search engine market around the world. The newest statistics of the website efficiency analyzer Luna-Park show that Google has a market share of 95% in some European countries - for example in the Netherlands. 19 out of 20 Dutch use Google - a dangerous dominance. Whatever can’t be found on Google doesn’t exist – at least in Holland…. And an 89.2% market share in Germany and a market penetration of 90% in Poland and Bulgaria show that it is no different in other countries. The United Kingdom is an exception with a share of “only” 70%.

Google’s last minute panic

July 14th, 2008

The admonition of Google Analytics (GA) by the privacy officials in Berlin and Schleswig-Holstein, Alexander Dix and Thilo Weichert, issued two days ago, has not been ignored by the public. Many authors of websites have contacted the officials and enquired whether they have to deactivate the service to act in a privacy policy conform way. The warning issued by Dix and Weichert that Google Analytics may not be in line with data protection acts discomfited many website operators using the service. I am convinced that soon there will be an influx of warnings issued… but we first have to wait for Google’s response to the current situation. The company may wait until the beginning of August before they issue an official reply.

Attached, the original excerpt from the press release of the ULD:

“The Goal of the ULD is not to blight specific or constructive forms of online analytics and statistics. We also do not have the goal of directing our findings at a specific corporation. Our sole goal is, within the scope of our powers, to promote privacy in the Internet. And even though we believe Google Analytics is, to a certain extent, violating data protection acts, we will not warrant fines to website operators in Schleswig-Holstein that utilize Google’s service. But we do have to concentrate on the massive data protection fraud by promoting transparency and a free exchange of information. Google was given a deadline by us (August 1, 2008) to answer a certain number of legal questions, which, in turn, will enable us to make conclusions about the legality of the service. At the moment, we are not certain, how – due to the transfer of user-sensitive data to a country outside the European Economic Area – Google Analytics complies with data protection acts.

The legal requirements of tools that track or create user statistics online are clear: an individual-related collection and analysis is illegitimate. And a pseudonymous evaluation of data may only occur if the user is informed in a clear way. Moreover, he must be informed that he may opt-out of the analysis procedure and given the option to do so before any of his data is collected by the website. Finally, the tool must guarantee that there is no superordinate concatenation of the pseudonymous data with any identification markers of the original data. We have not yet received any guarantees of these conditions by Google. Moreover, we face the problem that the data is forwarded by Google to a storage area which cannot be guaranteed to be sufficiently safe. We hope to receive clear and checkable statements from the corporation in this matter.

Until now, we have only conducted one technical inquiry of Google Analytics – and this only within the scope of what we perceived to be technically possible. There are many other services online, of which we are currently also collecting data; yet we cannot yet give any statements in reference to these. Our focus on Google Analytics is based on the popularity of the service. We advise website operators to request a seal of data protection approval, which requires a legal and technical privacy protection examination.”

Google is getting nervous – next Monday, I am invited to an interview with a German radio station. The journalist also wanted to invite a Google representative, yet was unsuccessful at doing so – I knew this would happen. No representative of the company is prepared to face criticism. Whatever the reason may be. According to the journalist planning to conduct the interview the Google representative was “extremely aggressive”. I am not surprised that this is the case – now that Google’s colorful world is beginning to become dark and monotonous, and the company has to face more and more uncovered details about their daily misconduct…

The data collectors of Mountain View

July 11th, 2008

“Anonymity online – a thing of the past.” It is common for users to be traced on the numerous websites they visit. The privacy officials based in Berlin and Schleswig Holstein, Alexander Dix and Thilo Weichert, criticized an especially controversial form of electronic surveillance. As usual it refers to the search engine Google, which has often been targeted for its questionable relationship regarding user data.

This is how the article titled “Die Spurensammler” (“The Trackers”), published in today’s “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, begins. A truly interesting article pinpointing the problematic situation with Google. I recommend everyone to read it.

YouTube data to Viacom, Google Analytics as a “privacy troubling service,” as Schleswig-Holstein’s state privacy officer, Thilo Weichert, called it. I wonder what issues Google will have to face next? Probably decreasing numbers of Google-Analytics users… privacy advocates are beginning to criticize the Analytics service…

German privacy advocates assess Google Analytics

July 11th, 2008

One and a half months ago, you could read it here: Even if Google is not mentioned, Google is inside. Google spies on Internet-users – even on sites that are not related to the company Google. The web analysis tool “Google Analytics”, which is integrated into more than 80 percent of the top 300.000 websites, is key to this troubling situation – and that without the knowledge of the Internet’s users. Google also collects data when we simply surf the web. After Austrian politicians had reacted to this by removing Google Analytics from their websites (“we don’t want our users to become transparent”), their German counterparts are commencing to investigate the analysis tool as well. “ Privacy experts are assessing Google Analytics” is the title of a press release published by the Independent Federal Department for Data Protection, Schleswig Holstein (Unabhängiges Landeszentrum für Datenschutz). Thilo Weichert, has taken up a topic that - I believe – will soon be discussed in other German states as well.

The following statements are made in the second paragraph of the press release, which can be read here: Google openly admitted that the concatenation of user data to data from other Google services is possible. This enables the company to create detailed usage and interest profiles of web surfers, which, in turn, may be used for targeted ads. And all this happens regularly and without the knowledge of those affected. It is an exception that a note is published on websites, stating that the tool is used and data is potentially forwarded to Google in the US. And this is a violation of various privacy protection acts by the authors of the web sites. The users are unaware of, and have by no means agreed to their private and traceable data being used for the creation of user profiles that in turn are then forwarded to an international corporation. Even the German state officials do not know what Google does with the data it collects.

Whether a website uses Google Analytics and virtually forwards its user data to the US, where it is then saved and analyzed in various ways by Google, can be easily identified. The service – as previously presented on this blog – uncovers which sites donate data to Google. Open the URL, click on “domain info”, type in the URL of the questionable website and click on “Domain abfragen” – it’s as simple as that. Under “external Services” one finds all those integrated in the site… oftentimes, you will see references to, or – all Google-services over which the “hip” corporation collects your personal data…

Scary: Google forwards data

July 11th, 2008

Two days ago, the most popular German Google-Blog, GoogleWatchBlog, started a poll about the YouTube-Viacom issue. Since then, everyone that visits the website, may vote whether forwarding of YouTube data to Viacom is scary. And this is independent of the users decision to continue or stop using YouTube. The intermediate result is quite fascinating, as it suggests that more users than initially thought are worried about their online privacy. The results published on 08.07. at 10:35 a.m. indicate that two thirds of the users are scared… Today YouTube data is forwarded, tomorrow details saved on the new Google Health service could be forwarded, and the day after… who knows?


YouTube-Users in the Googletrap!

July 9th, 2008

“Google has to forward YouTube-Userdata” title of AFP article

“YouTube-Userdata: Datatrap USA” was the title on

“In the Datatrap with YouTube” published in “Stern”

“YouTube-Users are becoming transparent” was written by the Financial Times Germany

“Verdict depicts YouTube as Datamonster” titled the “Spiegel”

There are hundreds of examples of other news-portals that deal with the problems I warned about in my book “The Google-Trap” – nonetheless, it was waved aside as a “conspiracy” and “scare tactics” by naïve and blinded members of the Internet scene. I had anticipated this development after my discerning look behind the scenes of the corporation.

Google has to deliver data that it collects to a different Company. A New York district court has ruled that all YouTube user data must be forwarded to the media-giant Viacom. The corporation, which also owns the music-station MTV, indicted Google for many cases of copyright infringement. It claimed indemnification worth 750 million euros. The court made the verdict on Tuesday - details can be read here.

The complete user log of YouTube – containing more than 12 Terabyte of data – has to be forwarded to Viacom. Its contents include IP addresses, logins, playtimes and much more details of the video service’s users. Since YouTube is not only used in the US market, details of European users – including German, Austrian and Swiss users – are forwarded to Viacom. The exact number of forwarded users is not yet clear. And Google tries to soft-pedal the whole thing – Google’s spokesperson Kay Oberbeck says that he doesn’t know if users from Germany are affected to the German IT-news site And his comment cited on is truly “naïve”: “Google hopes the data will be made anonymous and appealed to Viacom to allow this.”

This is interesting for two reasons:

1. Why would Viacom be interested in anonymous data? The companies primary interest is to prove that Google/YouTube users upload copyright infringing content and that this is one of YouTube’s features that make it attractive to the public.

2. And this is the actual problem, in which Google contradicts itself – doesn’t Google usually state that it only collects anonymous data, that cannot be linked to an individual user? Does this mean that all Google-experts who repeatedly stated that Google does not collect any user-specific data, said something untrue? If the data was actually anonymous it would not have to be anonymized. Or am I wrong?

In this context, I would like to cite a passage that Stefan Krempl published on

„Google was in deep trouble on account of its attitude toward the legal position of IP addresses. For many years the US company held the view that Internet identifications without additional information could “in most cases” not be seen as personal data. This way Google wants to avoid reducing the currently practiced 18-month storage period for search enquiries including IP addresses. This did not slip the judges attention. In addition, he also pointed to the fact that the search engine operator had declared, that the login-name for YouTube was an “anonymous pseudonym” that users could invent themselves. Google didn’t even notice that some of the surfers were using their real names.“

I warned the public in my book that Google and Co. endangers our privacy, because it collects data, stores it on its servers and only underlies US jurisdiction. We don’t have a chance of knowing what is saved about us and/or who can access this data. Last week, one of the most renowned computer scientists of the world, Georg Gottlob, affirmed that the true danger of Google is that no one truly knows what Google does with the collected data… and that no one has the possibility of questioning or learning more about this interesting myth of the internet.

Today, it is YouTube data, tomorrow it could be the details that are saved on the servers of the search engine. The bloodhounds have awoken! My book is more newsworthy than ever…