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Online Privacy

On what basis does Google dismiss privacy in DoubleClick merger?

An  Associated Press article, "Google Chairman dismisses privacy issue" could turn out to be like waving a red cape in front of a bull.

  • Relevant parts of the AP story:
    •   "Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said Wednesday that U.S. regulatory approval of his company's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick will not be hindered by concerns over privacy."
    • "Schmidt said that Google, when considering the acquisition, "looked very carefully" at privacy and other issues that would come under legal review "because we knew competitors would raise those issues, as indeed they have."

Google buys "Feedburner" blog ad network, as it further Googleopolizes the Internet

For anyone watching Google closely, they are cleverly locking up all the leading segments of the Internet which control the monetization access points to Internet content.

  • Per MediaWeek, June 1st Google bought Feedburner, the largest feed and blog advertising network, which also happens to have the best quality and quantity of major content providers who subscribe to blog feeds.
    • It's a shrewd and brilliant move, if the antitrust authorities allow it.
  • This comes on the heels of its April proposed merger with DoubleClick, the largest adserving company on the Internet, which is estimated to serve 80-85% of Internet users with display ads per EPIC.
  • That came on the heels of the closing of Google's YouTube acquisition, which makes Google the owner of the largest user-created video content network and one of the most popular destinations on the web.

Anyone else see a pattern here?

Is Google peeping on you? Google's cavalier attitude towards privacy

The New York Times article today by Miguel Helft, "Google photos stir a debate over privacy"  provides a great public service in highlighting yet another example of Google's cavalier approach to guarding peoples' privacy.

  • This section of the NYT article captures the creepiness of Google's new "Street View "photo service" and what it says about Google's storied culture of "innovation without permission" (or supervision):
    • “The issue that I have ultimately is about where you draw the line between taking public photos and zooming in on people’s lives,â€? Ms. Kalin-Casey said in an interview Thursday on the front steps of the building. “The next step might be seeing books on my shelf. If the government was doing this, people would be outraged.â€?

Why its signficant advertisers seek FTC/Google-Doubleclick scutiny?

Ad Age reports that the two largest Advertising Associations have asked antitrust officials to look into the spate of major advertising acquisitions; Google-DoubleClick, Microsoft aQuantive, Yahoo-Right Media, and WPP-24/7 Real Media.

  • The thrust of the letter:
  • "During the past month, there have been several major acquisition announcements in the online advertising marketplace... These mergers, if approved, certainly would change the online advertising marketplace. As such, those proposed combinations deserve careful scrutiny. It is essential to ensure that none of these combinations restrict competition in the Internet advertising marketplace."

Why is this significant?

  • First, the advertising community does not like to make waves or speak ill of any potential client -- in any way in public -- it goes against their normal business practice.  
    • The fact that they did speak up and that they did ask the Government to give all these mergers close scrutiny -- was their indirect/politic way of getting their point across without stepping on any one company's proverbial toes.  
  • Second, I think they are genuine in their shock and bewilderment that their entire industry has been transformed before their eyes in a matter of weeks.
    • The online technology players have swooped in and made it clear that  technology and measurement tools are advertising's future.
      • The tail will now wag the dog.
    • Advertisers and advertising agencies must adapt or be left in the dust.
      • WPP, for one, has quickly adapted with its purchase of 24/7 Real Media.

It is my view that there is a whole lot more going on here than meets the eye.

"Google's emergence as one of the scariest companies on planet"

The San Diego Union-Tribune "gets it" -- in  its editorial on Google:

  •  "The Google Threat, Needed: a guaranteed private search engine."  

A couple of my favorite parts of this dead on editorial:

  • "Google's emergence as one of the scariest companies on the planet continues with a story in the Financial Times describing the Silicon Valley firm's goal of maximizing and cataloging personal information gleaned from every user's use of its vastly popular search engine."
  •  "... but should mortify Google's users – because the company has never come close to adequately acknowledging the vast privacy concerns raised by its already massive database."
  • "... The potential for government snooping, harassment, financial manipulation, blackmail and all sorts of online crime is stunning."

Add to the list of scary things Google is working on is a "truth meter" where Google CEO Eric Schmidt posited in FT just before the last US congressional election, that in the future Google could help voters gauge in real time whether a politician was telling the "truth" or not.

House "spyware" legislation oblivious to Google's "pryware"

The Post Gazette reports today that:

  • "The House passed legislation Tuesday to combat the criminal use of Internet spyware and scams aimed at stealing personal information from computer users.

    Spyware, said bill sponsor Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., "is one of the biggest threats to consumers on the Internet." She and other lawmakers cited estimates that up to 90 percent of computers in this country are infected with some form of spyware.

    Spyware is software that secretly collects information about a person or organization and sends it to another entity without the user's consent..."

Good ClickZ article on pros & cons of Google-DoubleClick

Harry Gold on ClickZ gives a good and balanced review of the "Pros and cons of Google and Doubleclick."

  • As an industry insider, he gives a sophisticated analysis that is worth the read.  
  • This was the most interesting factoid to me:
    • Doubleclick's "DART does have a hold on over 70 percent of the ad-serving marketing, according to a March 2007 CIMA/William Blair study. Also on the paranoia side of the equation: the data Google and DART collectively have on the population at large are already rather Big Brotherish, never mind Google extending its cookies' reach onto DART's network of sites.

Microsoft Ballmer's insights into Google-DoubleClick merger

I always take time to read interviews with CEOs because I always learn something.

What did he say that was relevant to the Google-DoubleClick?

First, he made the case why the Google-DoubleClick merger is a big deal:

  • "I do think that it would be worth the regulators taking time to understand this market, much the way they took the time to understand other parts of the technology business, because the whole future of the media and advertising will move to the Internet. "
  • "What we think of television today, what we think of newspapers, magazines, you name it -- all of these things are going to move to the Internet and be funded by advertising. And so we are talking about a pretty important part of ... people's basic lives." 
    • What this means is that Google-Doubleclick is about the evolution and the future of advertising. 

In response to a question about being third in search -- Ballmer said:

Exposing DoubleClick's misdirection on Google-Doubleclick merger

The WSJ yesterday had an illuminating interview with David Rosenblatt CEO of DoubleClick about its acquisition by Google.  

Mr. Rosenblatt engaged in some pretty effective "spin" so I thought it would be helpful to shine a brighter light on some of his pat answers that were... how should I say it... less than forthcoming.

In response to a question about whether he could reassure web publishers that Google did not have too much market power, he said: "Google shares revenues with publishers so it makes sense that their interests are pretty much aligned." 

Google has an "Open Net Coalition" Problem... already!

I always love to juxtapose a couple of stories to point out irony.

Yesterday, I blogged that Tech Daily reported that the Google gang, AKA ItsOurNet ... will be relaunched in May as the "Open" Net coalition.

Well today I laughed out loud when I read in Tech Daily, that Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales is promoting a new collaborative search process like the wiki online encyclopedia.

  • Wales said: "I believe Internet search is currently broken and the way to fix it is to build a community whose mission is to develop a search platform that is open and totally transparent."   

Seems like those who really know "open" don't think Google is worthy of its self annointed name of the "Open" Net Coalition.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths