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The Google Trap » 2008 » August 2008 August - Archiv - The Google Trap

Archive for August, 2008

“The world is a Google”

Friday, 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

Friday, 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

Friday, 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”

Friday, 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.