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Massive Google take-down from Willem Buiter

He's talkin' sense, Merle:

Gagging on Google
Google is to privacy and respect for intellectual property rights what the Taliban are to women’s rights and civil liberties....


... a daunting threat that must be fought relentlessly by all those who value privacy and the right to exercise, within the limits of the law, control over the uses made by others of their intellectual property. The internet search engine company should be regulated rigorously, defanged and if necessarily broken up or put out of business. It would not be missed.

In a nutshell, Google promotes copyright theft and voyeurism and lays the foundations for corporate or even official Big Brotherism.

Google, with about 50 per cent of the global internet search market, is the latest in a distinguished line of IT abusive monopolists. The first was IBM, which was brought to heel partly by a forty-year long antitrust regulation (which ended in 1996) and partly by the rise of Microsoft.

Google has been making available copyrighted material for download on its websites for years (books through Google Books, music through YouTube, newspaper material through Google News), often without obtaining prior consent of the copyright holder and generally without making any payments to the copyright holders. There is a world for that kind of behaviour: theft. Just because you steal using internet technology does not make it anything other than theft. As an author, this naturally concerns me. ...

Google Street View, an addition to Google Maps provides panorama images visible from street level in cities around the world. The cameras record details of residents’ lives, including pictures of drunk people throwing up, people in intimate clinches with persons with whom they are not officially affiliated, small children playing in a yard, with or without adult supervision, etc. etc. A wonderful database for voyeurs, peeping toms and would-be child molesters.

Users with objections can register complaints before images of their street are made public. ...

Google and tracking cookies

Another way that Google (along with others, including Microsoft and Yahoo) invades our privacy is through the use of tracking cookies or ‘third-party persistent cookies’ to implement interest-based advertising (a.k.a behavioural targeting). ....

While Google, Yahoo and Microsoft each offer you a web page where you can opt-out of the tracking cookies, all three companies opt you in by default. That is, in my view, wrong and unethical. We know from endless examples (opting in vs. opting out for trade union memberships, opting in vs. opting out for occupational pension funds,) that the ‘framing’ of the choice makes a massive difference to the outcome. When opting in is the default, 80 per cent or more of employees remain subscribed to the occupational pension fund. When opting out is the the default, only 20 per cent may end up with a long term participation in the fund. Clearly, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft should opt you out by default.

Search engines like those of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft can provide the companies that own and manage them with detailed information about many aspects of our lives, including our intimate, personal lives. In the wrong hands that information could be used not only to put a commercial squeeze on people, but alto to extort and blackmail them. Transferred to government hands they could provide much of the information required for a pretty effective and very nasty police state.

Can we trust Google not to abuse the information they collect? Of course not. This is a profit-seeking company. Its owners, CEO and top managers are typical amoral capitalists who want to make as much money as they can without ending up in jail. Their ruthless, unethical behaviour as regards copyright, Of course we cannot trust them. They must be regulated and restrained by law so we can sleep at ease even though we know we cannot trust them. ...

When the asymmetry in information and power between the individual and Google (or any other company in a similar position) is as extreme as it is in this case, and when the commercial and control incentives for abusing the information that can be collected through the cookies are as strong as they obviously are in this case, it is irresponsible to trust Google or any other company capable of tracking our internet actions. They should not be trusted because they cannot be trusted.


When confronted with criticism of Google’s repeated assaults on copyright and privacy, Google CEO Eric Schmidt comes up with the most astonishing infantile defence. It amounts to: if something can be done, it will be done and indeed ought to be done. Well, no, actually.

We can run carefully controlled experiments on the response of newborn infants to long-term submersion in freezing water. We don’t do this because it is considered cruel and inhuman. We have even declared such act to be illegal.

We can deal with annoying little foreign countries by dropping H-bombs on their cities, killing most of their population and turning the country into a radio-active hell hole. We chose not to do this because it offends our sense of proportion and its irreconcilability with any notion of a just war. We can, easily and effortlessly do a great many things that we either voluntarily choose not to do, or that we are prevented from doing by law or other social constraints.

Google company’s founding motto is: ‘Don’t be evil.’ But it does evil. It has indeed, become the new evil empire of the internet. It is time for people to take a stand, as individual consumers and internet users, and collectively through laws and regulations, to tame this new Leviathan. When I get back from this trip, I will do my best to remove every trace of Google from my computers, even the tracking cookies (if I can!).

Doesn't Eric Schmidt hold a high position in the Obama Adminstration? And want to help out with Electronic Medical Records? Just asking.

No votes yet


Nervine5's picture
Submitted by Nervine5 on

Where is the corroborating evidence of these claims? What is his motivation? What has Eric Schmidt have to do with this?

We all know Google is somewhat evil, but, really? Is Google controlling all the internet?

Submitted by lambert on

... is CEO of Google and serves on Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Google is also an electronic medical records vendor, about which Obama is oddly enthusiastic.

For the rest of it, this is opinion, like that offered by Krugman or, for that matter, Friedman. Nothing he says is new. What I find remarkable is that he's saying this is in the pages of the Financial Times, next door to conventional wisdom. Of course, if the argument is that monopolists can be trusted, I'm all ears!

Nervine5's picture
Submitted by Nervine5 on

And that the current Administration can be trusted is ridiculous. Its is always to the people to look, example, and maybe trust.