Tag Archives: Google

Three Reasons Why Internet Regulation Is Necessary

With the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) failing to pass Congress this past week, it is just the latest internet privacy bill to be thrown into the trash. Technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have invested millions of dollars into lobbying Congress to make sure their companies are not regulated and are able to build products without having to deal with any red tape.

Despite the successful advertisement campaigns run by Facebook and Google, ensuring that they are cool and hip, the fact remains they are working to protect their brand just like any other company. But there are real reasons why the internet needs to be regulated in order to ensure the millions of people who use it for their personal and business lives are protected.

1) Online Credit

Forget about sending a check in the mail to pay the rent, insurance, or even using cash. Technology companies are making it easier to use a card or online banking wherever you go. That means more people will have information relating to your finances. Technology companies building these products are not banks who have government bureaus setting rules and regulations on what they can and cannot do, but will still have sensitive information that can be stolen and ruin your credit.

It is important to note that just because they have this information does not mean they are going to give it out. In fact, they most likely would not as it would be bad for business. That being said, there are laws forbidding banks from giving it out anyway for those instances where it does, and it doesn’t seem to interfere with them making billion’s of dollars each year.

It also seems to make sense that technology companies should be obligated to have the latest security software to protect the financial information people must give to them.

2) Big Brother’s Watching

It is not just about the products themselves but the way they develop them. Facebook, Google, and Twitter, all put out new ways for people to share information, while at the same time they track the way people are using them. The most controversial instance was when the story broke about how people who had an iPad or Android device were essentially being followed, using the GPS inside the equipment. The reason for the companies doing this made perfect sense, they needed to know how people were using their product so they can improve it and make it more popular so others would use it as well.

Of course, no one knew they were being followed and technology companies saw no reason to tell them. As far as they were concerned, with as many people using their technology as it was, it was best for the consumers that they do this. While no one is being followed around anymore, maps are still a popular feature on Apple and Google products, Four Square and other “check in” applications are becoming more popular with people and restaurants/bars who offer deals using them, and cameras are being placed on all the new gadgets people are buying. Without any rules forbidding these practices from taking place, there will still be plenty of ways for companies to track what an individual’s habits are, whether you like it or not.

3) Business Is Business

Microsoft and Google already fight over patents and sue each other over any antitrust legalize their lawyers can think of; which means it is only a matter of time before there is a lawsuit over one company using a tech companies products.

It seems more and more likely that cloud computing will be an important part of how people do business. There is technology that allows people to record the call they are on, share documents that make it more efficient to work with multiple people in the office, and even talk to people across the world. Right now, non-profits can use most of these products for free or at very little cost. But what happens when a for-profit company, that had to pay a tech company to use its product, makes something that is worth a lot of money?

Many of the lawsuits we see today are hit or miss shots taken by lawyers who have nothing to lose. But what if, for example, a cure for the common cold is created by a pharmaceutical company using Google documents? Should Google have a right to the patent because the scientists combined their efforts using a Google product they paid for? This scenario may not happen in the near future but as the internet continues to become a common use for the way businesses operate, it is likely that one day it will.

That means other companies outside of Silicon Valley will be lobbying against Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, so they can protect their products as well. One fight has already taken place with the film industry when their lobbyists could not push a bill through Congress that would have protected films from being stolen overseas.

With bills like CISPA being put aside, millions of people, small businesses, and future entrepreneurs, will not get the protection they need to go about their everyday lives, without worrying about someone stealing their credit information, something they created, or someone tracking their habits. We know no law is perfect, but there are common sense regulations that can be implemented that will make life easier for individuals and companies alike.

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How Does Google Affect You?

Congress allowed other online companies to complain about Google’s dominance in the world of “search” at a this week. The online industry makes its money off advertizing, particularly from companies that sell things. But Google owns some of those companies, and the others, have been accusing the Palo Alto giant of helping to highlight the companies they own over the ones they do not. So, why should we care about all this?

Jeff Katz of Nextag and Jeremy Stoppleman of Yelp testified, arguing that because of Google’s popular Map application it shows where Google’s companies are while other companies like theirs are left off. There was also testimony where charts were used that accused Google of helping to promote the companies they owned even if they were not very popular. If the hearing did not turn out to be such a show, like they usually are, serious issues could have arisen from having these major players all in once space. Katz and Stoppleman are upset that their companies are not getting as much exposure as others, thus leading to less sales. Do they have a point? Maybe.

Google is by far the most dominant search engine in the U.S., mainly because it has been much more innovative than others who try and compete with it (I’m looking at you Bing). They created maps, translate, images, and of course everyone likes the clever ways they sometimes change their logo. As a privately owned company, Google has the right to promote which products and websites they want. One of the scuttles that occurred during the hearing was when other companies accused Google of not promoting its site even when it paid for the advertisement. Google said the ad was not used as much because of the quality of the company’s website was poor, and they use other factors which sites to put higher on its results. This also comes on the heels of Google being accused of charging higher prices for advertisements from companies they do not own, and being investigated to see if they have violated any antitrust laws.

By why should anyone outside of Palo Alto care about this issue? Well, if you want competitive prices online (which drive costs down for consumers), having one search engine deciding where you should shop is not a good thing. Particularly when it is becoming more and more common for people to shop online, they need options. Instead of people going to their local store or similar ones to compare prices, they are looking for deals on the internet using Google.

There is also a general fear of one company having control over all the online content that people look at or find. As the internet becomes the way more and more people make a living, we need to make sure the information we find on it is not only easy but unbiased. The last thing people should want to happen is where we are searching on Google for information on the medicine we need, and the only sites that come up are the ones owned by Google. Not to mention it could hurt future job prospects because small companies or start ups would be harder to foster.

Google’s executives argued many times that if people do not want to use Google as their search engine, they have other options. Other sites like Bing and Yahoo give you the same results as Google, but they are not used as much because their branding methods have not been as effective. Yahoo does not have as good of an email system, and Bing’s Maps aren’t nearly as functional as Google’s. Once you are in the Google bubble you trust it and see no reason to leave. Apple has done the same thing with its products and created a large following, like Google, because of it.

Google is a company, and like all companies they exist to make money. There is nothing wrong with that. They have made investments to reach into other areas expanding its reach and successfully became a global powerhouse. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are much more likely to praise Google as being a great American company rather than claiming they are abusing its users. When similar antitrust investigations took place involving Microsoft the problem wasn’t the services but the way they were providing it. They got hit harder in the public arena because people running the company (cough! Bill Gates cough!) couldn’t keep their mouth shut. The same thing happened with Intel, but last time I checked both companies were doing alright.

So far all we learned from the investigations and hearings is that Google is something to keep an eye on. The government needs to keep watching the hedge fund managers on Wall Street, and inspecting our food imports, with the same caution to make sure the American people don’t get tangled in Google.

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