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The Google Trap » 2008 » April 2008 April - Archiv - The Google Trap

Archive for April, 2008

Googolopoly instead of Monopoly

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Google is a dangerously funny Company – young, colorful and very liberal, almost a harlequin Ikea-Kindergarden for adults. One could even call it a playground – a description that can be found on Google’s page “Google’s technology playground.”

It is almost logical that this playground in Mountain View is inspiring to even those that do not live in the Lego-colored flower-power-paradise: The website recently launched a new version of Monopoly called Googolopoly because: „we often come to the conclusion that Google’s way to do business with other companies and interest in controlling the information age makes the company look more and more like the software monopoly of yesteryears. Overall, it’s questionable whether such a powerful position made the world better or worse.“ More and more people arrive at the same question – is Google’s power (some even say it is a monopoly) good for the world? I say: NO!
With “Googolopoly”, which is available here, one can explore the world of the powerful people behind Google and learn to play with the properties of the Internet. The goal of the game, as explained by, is to acquire a large number of companies without ending up in the Deadpools in the corners of the playing field. You have to work like Google – quickly eat all start-ups before they become dangerous to your business model. Google is a datamine, a monster, a Googzilla….

Where are Google’s Server-Farms?

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

The Google-System consists of a network of thousands and thousands of computers and servers, which contain data of 60% of all internet-users worldwide. These systems are spread over all continents, containing more information about some users, less about others. It’s always a question of how much the individual user reveals online.

The exact number of Google-Server-Farms is a well-kept secret. Some experts believe that there are seven, others are convinced that the company maintains twenty-five. Likewise, the number of servers at the Googleplex in Mountain View can only be guessed. Approximations range from 100,000 to 450,000, which would be twice the number of computers at Microsoft. Christoph Pichler, an internet-marketing expert at CPC-Consulting, has found a map of all of Google’s data centers on Pingdom. It shows a world-map with publicized locations of the individual server farms. Overall, there appear to be 36, of which 12 are in Europe. I believe this map includes every Google establishment, not only server locations.
Google Data Centers
This secretive behavior is simply a protective measure against potential attacks – Google does not want to become a potential target.

4 Stars for the Book “Die Google-Falle”

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

I was aware that my book, “Die Google-Falle” (“The Google-Trap”) will have a polarizing effect on the public – even whilst writing it. I was also certain that there will be critics – but I am still surprised by some of the too subjective and unfair reviews.

It gives me great pleasure that one of the most important reviewers on Amazon, Dr. Werner Fuchs (who has written more than 1486 online reviews), gave me a good critique and concluded with a rating of four stars. I consider this a distinction, allowing me to conclude how important the topic online-privacy is and how urgently a Google-warning and list of its true colors was needed.

GFDr. Werner Fuchs’ review:

There is no protective measure against conspiracy theorists
Whether we consider the moon landing, the death of a princess or 9/11, whoever scents a conspiracy, cannot be reached by rational arguments. But there are also conspiracy theorists that intend to amend a conspiracy theory to others, allowing themselves to maintain a certain view of the world. These types of critics gave Gerald Reischl’s book just the minimum rating. Their alacrity made them even write an Amazon-discussion – yet they are unaware of the significance of objective research required for writing a book. And even though these online-rants seldom have any significance, I strongly oppose censorship in any form. It is simply the price that we have to pay for a diversity of opinion. And now to the actual review.

The journalist and author Gerald Reischl dared to question Google. He was aware that this will most probably spur a lot of discussion. Whether one considers a sports-club or company, a true fan is characterized by his lack of neutrality and objectivity. I also suffer under this condition – the ZSC Lions ARE the best ice hockey club, there is no question about that. But Gerald Reischl doesn’t solely want to highlight the downsides of Google. He simply looks at those aspects of the company that haven’t been considered before, concludes on what they really mean and publicized his results. And if he isn’t the first to do so, that’s even better! Since Google has chosen my birthplace and hometown as its European capital, I have been affected by the overwhelming Google-euphoria. All Google critics are criticized. But I am also affected every time I find out how little the Google-fans know about the company. One does not have to be a paranoid privacy-advocate to consider the potential dangers of the concentration of (economic) power. One does not have to disconnect from the Internet or eradicate all mobile phones after reading this book – in fact, nothing has to be done. But one may see the online world with other eyes. And this is precisely what is expected from serious journalists.

I have asked myself how the book’s contents could be presented in a more attractive fashion to the young audience that should read it – even though Gerald Reischl is excellent at writing in the casual tone of modern journalism, his book is not one of the most entertaining and exciting I have read in the past weeks. The lack of pictures, modern layout features and changes in contextual rhythm make the book a rather tedious journey through 190 monotonous pages. This creates a potential danger that the most important messages of the book will never reach the internet-users that will define a lot of our future.

Conclusion: Next to all optimistic enshrinements of Google, controversial books like this one from Gerald Reischl are absolutely necessary. Some may put it off as all-words-and-no-content, but I liked it, even though its message could be mediated through a better presentation. But the lack of good literary presentation cannot be equated with a lack of content.

The Alternatives to 47 Google-Services

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

How expensive would it be to replace Google? This admittedly fascinating question was asked at the beginning when Google’s economic impact was being evaluated. It was examined which opportunity costs would arise for users and the economy, if Google would close down at short notice. In order to conduct such a calculation the marketing analysts KREUTZER FISCHER & PARTNER based in Vienna, at first examined the services provided by competitors during the corresponding period (November 2007). Investigations took place to find out which alternatives were available providing services similar to those supplied by Google.

In a second step it was examined which direct and indirect costs would arise if one were to switch to another service instead of Google. The “management theoretician” Michael E. Porter describes these kinds of adjustment costs as “conversion costs”. The higher these conversion costs are, the larger the damage, which would be caused if Google-services would be terminated.

The examination included 47 Google services ranging from Web Search, Google’s actual browser, to You Tube, the video portal, which had been purchased by Google just shortly before. Possible qualitative losses in case of a conversion were not taken into consideration, since - understandably- there was no agreement among the community.
Below you will find a list of alternatives for the various Google services compiled by KREUTZER FISCHER & PARTNER:


EU restrictions for the data loggers Google & Co.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

The report is titled “Opinion on data protection issues related to search engines” and encompasses 29 pages, including the cover sheet and table of contents. It was put together by the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party. The group is made up of European data security officers, which have worked on this report during the last months. They closely examined search engines and their relationship to data protection. Search engine & data protection sounds somewhat like a contradiction, if I think of my own research… Google and DoubleClick, Microsoft and Yahoo – a lot of things are going on in the search engine business. Not only with respect to acquisitions.

Should the claims, which the Article 29 group has worked on, become reality and EU-restrictions, this would have a huge impact on Google & Co. In any case, the measures to be taken, which have been suggested by the Article 29 group, confirm the deplorable circumstances that have been revealed by the “Google Trap”.

Shady data collections
One of the most severe grievances is the uncontrolled passion of collecting data. Google & Co. collect too much personalized data and offer no explanation whatsoever why they need this information to begin with. Furthermore, the collected information is saved much too long – some operators even save the data indefinitely. A period of six months would be absolutely sufficient, anything exceeding this amount of time is simply not justifiable.

Excessive storage period
Google even stores data for a period of 18 months. The data protectors are now demanding that the search engines must demonstrate and explain why such a long period of storage is necessary. In a first statement, Peter Fleischer, Google’s head “data protector” insisted on the 18 months – this would be the only way to maintain a high search quality.

Cookies stored too long
The Article 29 group also criticizes cookies, which are installed on our computers. Cookies are protocol files, which are loaded onto the computer while you surf the web, “present” us with a distinctive identity number, make a protocol of our surf habits and finally offer this data to the web-operator. Some cookies are valid for decades. That means if you do not delete them, you are identifiable for decades (at least theoretically, since the computer will probably have been replaced during that time.)

User profiles
The information, which has been collected by these cookies, allow an exact compilation of user profiles. Especially if they have been enriched with information from other sources – something, which is often the case and has been explained in the “Google Trap”. Just think of the numerous patents Google already owns in the categories user-tracking, user-analyzing, etc.

Right to have a data entry corrected
Information on registered users is even more detailed. According to the Article 29 group they should be allowed access to their data collection, in order to delete, correct or update the information.

Google & Co. will be facing difficult times: in the coming weeks, the unsubstantiated and uncontrolled collection of data will stay a much discussed topic - for sure.

Google wants a clear record – and is selling Performics

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Putting pressure on Google can be successful: The EU had approved Google’s DoubleClick-Deal on 11. March. On the following day, it became clear that DoubleClick possesses a so-called search engine optimizer, on account of a company acquisition with Performics in 2004. The prestigious search engine expert Danny Sullivan called upon Google in an open letter that same day and requested Google to get rid of this company immediately. It was unheard of that a search engine owns a company, which is specialized on selling tips how to be positioned at the top of search results.

This morning, Chrisoph Pichler from CPC Consulting made me aware of a recent entry on the official Google Blog: Tom Phillips, one of the Google Directors, who is responsible for the integration of DoubleClick into the Google system, writes that Performics will be sold to a “third party”. It will be interesting to find out, who this “third party” will be. I will keep on checking this.

The Performics story also makes something else obvious: public resistance can make a difference. One should therefore put more pressure on Google in connection with the data- and privacy protection and data collection, as well as a continuous discussion of human rights. Only then will things change!

Fourth Edition of “The Google Trap”

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

The numerous reactions which I have received from readers of my book or visitors to my website have shown me that my goal to stir Intenet users up and to trigger a discussion, has been achieved, even if discerning and sometimes disdainful (possibly steered?) voices have arisen in a few blogs and forums. But I reckoned that a Reischl-Bashing might happen (as stated in the introduction) “No one should dare to speak up or write against the most popular Internet company of the world. Or he will feel the anger in the forums of the web.”

The publisher has just requested me to update the book, because a fourth edition will be printed. I will amend and correct quite a few things, which were not known before the deadline of the first edition.

Thank you all for the many motivating emails…

Evidence from Mountain View: Google is in favor of censorship and against human rights

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Slowly even the Google stock holders are beginning to realize that the “cool” company has quite a few things to catch up on regarding data protection and privacy, and that Google has some enormous deficits in its attitude toward censorship and human rights. At the upcoming stockholders meeting on the 8th of May these topics are on the agenda. The “Googlers” will most probably not deal with these questions for a long period of time and will push the topics aside as fast as possible – as the agenda proves. I recommend that those who still think Google is a “good company, which does no evil” should read the “2008 Annual Meeting of Stockholders Notice of the Annual Meeting and Proxy Statement”.
The New Yorker Office of the Comptroller of New York City and the monastery “St. Scholastica” have proposed, that Google should oppose censorship, support the right for freedom of opinion and press, and should no longer store user data.

Here are the claims in detail:
1) Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
2) The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
3) The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
4) Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
5) Users should be informed about the company’s data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
6) The company will document all cases where legally-binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available.

And here is the answer/recommendation by the Google Directors:
Recommendation: Our board of directors recommends a vote AGAINST the stockholder proposal.

In the next proposal (5) Harrington Investments makes a claim for a human rights committee.
Board Committee on Human Rights. There is established a Board Committee on Human Rights, which is created and authorized to review the implications of company policies, above and beyond matters of legal compliance, for the human rights of individuals in the US and worldwide…

The proposed Bylaw would establish a Board Committee on Human Rights which would review and make policy recommendations regarding human rights issues raised by the company’s activities and policies. We believe the proposed Board Committee on Human Rights could be an effective mechanism for addressing the human rights implications of the company’s activities and policies as they emerge anywhere in the world. In defining “human rights,” proponents suggest that the committee could use the US Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as nonbinding benchmark or reference documents.

This is the answer/recommendation of the Google directors to the shareholders:
Recommendation: Our board of directors recommends a vote AGAINST the stockholder proposal.

This is really a “cool” company. Isn’t its motto “Don’t be evil?” Much more pressure should be put upon this company – even from the EU. If it is possible to force Microsoft to pay fines, it must be possible to ask Google for concessions.