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The Google Trap » 2008 » July 2008 July - Archiv - The Google Trap

Archive for July, 2008

Dominator Google

Thursday, 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

Monday, 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

Friday, 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

Friday, 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

Friday, 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!

Wednesday, 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…

Google gives in

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

 It took a long time. Ten years to be exact. As of today - at least I only noticed it this morning - Google has added a “privacy” note on its homepage. It’s called “privacy” on and “data protection” (Datenschutz) on The link to the privacy-guidelines can be found next to the “copyright”-symbol, where the “Google” logo was formerly positioned.
Until now Google had refused to add this notice on its homepage, because it would destroy the design. I have written about this a month ago. What does this rethinking imply? If you exert enough pressure, the company reacts. Google can only be forced to disclose its methods or to change them if a discussion develops.

US-antitrust commission reviews Google-Yahoo deal

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Even antitrust groups in the US finally became upset about the mega cooperation between Google and Yahoo. According to an article published in the New York Times the US department of justice launched a formal investigation regarding the advertising deal between the two companies. Experts had been asked to assess the Google-Yahoo advertising partnership for antitrust implications.

Not only Google- and Yahoo experts were being interviewed, but also Microsoft representatives. We will see what happens and if the colourful Google-logo and the charismatic Google CEO Eric Schmidt will blind the antitrust commissioners. Schmidt never seems to get tired of assuring how important the deal is for the Internet, for us users. I remember one of his statements when Microhoo was still a topic: this merger endangers the freedom of the web. Have the Romans gone berserk? Sorry: the Mountain Viewers?

It is perfectly logical: if the number one merges with the number two on the market, a highly questionable dominance will develop. Let me repeat one of my comparisons again: what would the world be like, if nine out of ten cars were VW-Golfs? Volkswagen would definitely be more than pleased. Or if you could only choose among one milk and one yoghurt at a supermarket… if you only had “Müllermilch” on the shelves?

Voices critical of Google can now also be heard in the USA. “Until now, Google was always careful not to show predatory behaviour,” says Christine A. Varnie from the law firm Hogan & Hartson. Varney used to be a member of the (US) Federal Trade Commission. “But a cooperation such as this is completely anticompetitive.”

I am always bemused but also worried about Google representatives that say, “We are certain that our agreements are fair and competitive.” How blind can one be? Until September, a decision will be made…

I ask myself, when the EU will finally inspect Google’s market-dominance and will realize how dangerous this information monopoly is to society? When a single company dominates more than 90% of the web searches and ads, the term “monopoly” can easily be applied. And I wrote this on the cover page of my book: “The market domination by Google is dangerous for society. It allows for political censorship (as it is practiced in China), simplifies spying on user privacy and does not allow criticism or competition.” And the only information we get is what the search engine defines as “Google-correct”…

And Google remains silent…

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Oftentimes I am asked how Google reacted to the “Google Trap”. Had they threatened to sue or had they commented in any way to the numerous reproaches made? Nothing. To this day there has not been an official or an unofficial comment by Google to the “Google-Trap”. Except for one interview with the European Policy Counsel of Google - “Google’s liaison officer for political issues”, Annette Kroeber-Riel, was confronted by with facts from the book and simply considered them to be “rumours and speculations.” So far, Google has not made an official statement, because they want to avoid that the discussions about the topics in the book, which are now increasingly discussed in various media, continue to become more intensive.

Google is up to every PR trick: the best reaction to criticism is not to react and to continue providing the Internet community with positive news. People should not get the wrong ideas. A recent example is the article “Voyage through the Google-Republic”, which was published on the “Futurezone” yesterday.
It included a very amusing paragraph:

This is what Google says
Google spokesman Kay Oberbeck answered the question, why large website operators in Germany and Austria ignore their information-responsibility towards users (whereby Google’s own user terms were clearly breached), with: this is a “good question” and he would try to get more information if sanctions were being imposed. has now been waiting for more than two weeks for his answer.

Futurezone will have to wait for a long time, since Google-spokesman Oberbeck is known for not answering critical questions and sweeping problems under the table. It is Google’s PR tactic to play “dead” if matters become too hot.

Google is everything but an “open” corporation; it only pretends to be one. Google was confronted with two dozen critical questions, while I researched facts for my book, and I, too, had to wait for many weeks before I received an answer. After having contacted Oberbeck on his cell phone, he said that he had reacted to my questions – most of them were answered with the usual “we cannot comment on this” or “we are not allowed to comment on this”.

Therefore I appeal to everybody who wants more background on Google and who is not interested in their self-adulation and only positive-stories, which are published by various Google-blogs: put more pressure on Google and force them to take a stand on all topics you confront them with. Data protection and privacy concerns us all.

+ I would be interested to find out, if and how the implementation of Google Analytics is legally covered. This free of charge web analysis tool is an obvious prying program.
+ Who has access to the collected data, why does Google cooperate with authorities in totalitarian states, etc.?

There is a long list of questions. I am planning to publish them online soon… maybe we, as users, can find answers, especially if Google continues to remain silent.