Yesterday the New York Times published an OpEd titled “The Emperor of All Identities” by Pamela Jones Harbour. The article starts by hailing Google as “the most central conduit of information” while having close to 80 percent of the U.S. search market and nearly 98 percent of the total mobile market.
But slowly, the tone changes.
In the next paragraph, the article moves into how the Federal Trade Commission is “delaying” its decision on whether Google is using its might to drive away competition.
And all of a sudden Pamela writes:
“This would be a severe setback for Internet users. It will allow Google to continue to amass unbridled control over data gathering, with grave consequences for privacy and for consumer choice.”
Wait a minute… How is data gathering a “grave consequence” for the consumers, and how is this a “severe setback” for Internet surfers? She offers no information in her column to back up this accusation.
It is natural for any company to collect data on its clients to use in improving its products/services and to continue upselling them on new products. So I was puzzled by this assertion and couldn’t quiet make sense of it.
Then the accusation continues:
“For now, Google uses the data to sell targeted ads, but who says the company’s use of the data will be restricted to that purpose?”
My question is this: who says they’re up to evil using that data?
That’s all they need the information for – exactly as Pamela explains – to sell their ads. They have never done anything to harm their users unlike Yahoo! and Microsoft which sold the database of their users’ private information to politicians to send unsolicited emails.
For those who are curious as to what Google does with the personal data it collects, the answer is provided here. On Google’s Policy and Principles page, they state:
If you’re seriously concerned about what Google does with your data, I recommend reading this March 2012 post from Mashable titled “5 Things Google Does with Your Data.”
Getting back to Pamela’s OpEd, here’s the climax of her article.
“Now, the FTC has another chance to protect consumers, promote innovation and ensure fair competition online” by restricting Google’s data collection abilities, perhaps.
And Pamela ends her OpEd by suggesting that the FTC’s decision against Google would be an example of “democracy” on the Web by creating more “competition” for Google.
None of this made any sense to me until I got to the very end: Pamela is a Microsoft lawyer.
Suddenly, all became clear. This OpEd piece is nothing but a political ploy to change the opinion of her ex colleagues at the FTC to please her employer: Microsoft.
I’m however surprised that such a respected media outlet published such a weakly argued, politically one-sided and financially motivated OpEd that bashes Google.