The Mother Of All Anti-Google Rants: Comparing Google To The Taliban
from the wow dept
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 necessary, broken up or put out of business. It would not be missed.It goes on along those lines. It's quite a read. There's just one problem: Buiter doesn't seem to understand what he's talking about. First of all, it's hard to believe the statement that if Google went out of business "it would not be missed." If that were the case, why do so many people use it so often? I would suggest plenty of people would miss Google and Buiter presents no evidence to suggest otherwise, other than the fact that he, personally, really dislikes Google. But, he seems to do so solely because he doesn't understand how Google works.
In a nutshell, Google promotes copyright theft and voyeurism and lays the foundations for corporate or even official Big Brotherism.
On the copyright front, Buiter's argument is extremely confused:
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 word 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.Where to start? First, the three services named are all entirely different. His strongest case might be against Google Books, but even that's a stretch. Google (contrary to Buiter's claim) never "made [books] available for download." That's simply not true. What Google did was index books by scanning them. You could never download them. You could view snippets of those books, limited to just a few pages, based on a search. Basically, all the company did was create a much more effective card catalog. So, Buiter has his facts wrong on Google Books.
As for YouTube, again, Buiter's facts are simply incorrect. Google never made music downloadable. Some users (not Google itself) did upload music videos, but it's wrong (and slightly mixed up) to blame Google for the actions of its users. Second, Google never made the content on YouTube downloadable. It's true that there were some third part apps that allowed stuff to be downloaded, but not that many people use them, and it's a bit twisted to blame Google for third party apps being used to get content from third party users... isn't it?
Google News is the most confused claim here. After all, Google did nothing here other than index content that newspapers put online free themselves, and then Google sent people to those newspaper websites. It never displayed or offered the content itself, except in the rare cases where it had made deals to do exactly that. To claim that it's somehow illegal to send newspapers traffic for content they put online themselves is quite odd.
And, of course, we've discussed at length why copyright infringement isn't theft, and it's somewhat depressing to see an economist claim otherwise, when he should recognize the difference between copying rivalrous goods and copying non-rivalrous ones. But, even that debate is silly, because what Google does isn't even infringement, let alone theft. Buiter simply appears to be almost 100% misinformed about what Google does on this issue, and makes a bunch of false statements to support his highly questionable assertion that Google is somehow involved in theft.
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.Again, Buiter appears to be confused and/or misinformed. All of the photos in Google Street View are taken on public streets. It's not a privacy issue at all. And he misses the fact that any questionable or problematic pictures can be (and are) quickly removed by Google. Finally, the ridiculous claim that it's a service for "voyeurs, peeping toms and would-be child molesters" is supported by absolutely nothing. Considering the fact that the content is often weeks or months old, and hardly real time, it's hard to see how it's useful for such purposes at all. Peeping toms and voyeurs are people who view people in private through windows and such. Google Street View does no such thing.
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).Really? In 2009? Still complaining about the threat of cookies to privacy? That argument has been out of fashion for nearly a decade, and every browser has pretty clear and easy controls if it's really a problem for Buiter. For most of us, though, we recognize that the cookies are hardly a problem.
Or, alternatively, Buiter is free to not use Google. Considering he claims the company wouldn't be missed, I'm confused why he appears to use the site in the first place. At least, at the end of his article, he claims he's planning to get rid of Google, though he still seems to think that regulations are needed to shut the site down:
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!).The good news is that in the comments to his article on the FT.com site, people take him to task on pretty much every point he raised. One hopes that he actually bothers to read the comments, because he seems to have based his opinions on factually inaccurate information, and that makes his conclusions quite troubling. For a respected economist, you would expect better.