Posted January 19, 2010 9:35 am by with 2 comments

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I realize that what I am about to write is a stretch but just go with it for a minute. In the past week we have seen Google act as if they are standing up to the Chinese government by not censoring their search results and thus risking expulsion from the world’s largest market. A market in which they are getting beat. Now Microsoft is bowing to pressure from an European advisory board to purge all data from their records after 6 months vs. the 18 months that the major search engines usually do. The New York Times report:

John Vassallo, a Microsoft vice president and associate general counsel, said the company would introduce the changes over the next 18 months, aiming to satisfy a European advisory group that has been critical of how search engines collect and retain data on individuals for advertising purposes.

In 2008, a panel comprised of national privacy regulators from each European Union country asked Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! to eliminate such data, including a computer’s unique identification number, location and the text typed into search fields, after six months.

Like other search engines, Microsoft had been keeping user data for more than 18 months. Last year, Microsoft changed its policy to make the individual’s I.P. address anonymous after six months.

So far, only Microsoft has agreed to comply fully with the panel’s request. Google and Yahoo have said they need to hold on to some data longer than six months to refine the functioning of the search engines.

Now here is where we go into the “what if” part of the post because I have no evidence of this hypothesis being true other than observation and drawing inferences from those observations. What appears to be happening is that companies are using pressure from foreign governments to help redefine their own competitive environment in these areas.

Hear me out. Google was very vocal in their “stand” against the Chinese and by “standing up” and taking a position that looks very strong on the surface they are actually forcing others to consider the same. Why? Because if Google is turning it’s back to some degree on the largest market on the planet for “moral” reasons as well as business ones, how does that make their competitors that stay look? Not as good as Google for sure. In fact, it leaves the rest having to defend their decisions to do business in China which never is the best position for a brand to be in.

Now we have Microsoft who is in essence getting its clock cleaned in the search business by Google. They have invested a lot of their future in the bingahoo deal. There seem to be mounting evidence that the only market share gains that are likely when the union of bing and yahoo occurs are that of having one number instead of two to measure the two engines’ market share. Individually they both lost ground in December of ’09 so things are not going well.

How could they possibly slow down Google? Be the first to bow to the pressure of this advisory board in Europe and make statements like this.

So far, only Microsoft has agreed to comply fully with the panel’s request. Google and Yahoo have said they need to hold on to some data longer than six months to refine the functioning of the search engines.

The panel, known as the Article 29 Working Group, held a hearing with representatives of the search engine companies last February, and has given each until the end of January to respond.

“We support what the Article 29 Working Group is doing. That is why we are making this change,” Mr. Vassallo said at news conference in Brussels. “We call on our competitors to do the same.”

Like Google using their actions to call out others and change the playing field in China, Microsoft looks like it is trying to dent Google’s ability to use information for its business advantage. Microsoft is acting all high and mighty because they are playing nice with European governments and then implying that the right thing for their competitors to do would be to follow suit. Now there are battle lines drawn and decisions to be made that are forced by compliance with government forces and not competitive ones. That’s bad for everyone.

This is what happens when the free market is stifled by the “powers that be”. Innovation stops and you start to see everyone looking to play by rules that kill any forward movement. Who suffers? Consumers. Who benefits? Governments. That is not a good formula.

No evidence here. As I said at the start this is pure speculation on my part. Your thoughts on the subject?

  • You only have to look at how hard Microsoft battled accusations of a browser monopoly in Europe, to see that your hypothesis has merit.

    It really has more to gain, than lose, by compromising in the search space.

  • Like phone companies that handed over call info to the FBI without warrants, these internet companies have no real interest in our privacy or protecting our personal data. They only want to exploit it, and manipulate the facts to better position themselves in the market. Let’s consider Yahoo’s role in turning all our e-mails over to corrupt gov agencies like we were chinese dissidents. For a small fee each, of course. Which is why they are so against hackers stealing data they usually charge for. At least it’s helped them hone their highly intrusive marketing tactics. So Yahoo can better sell us stuff now, based on breaches of our privacy, through this data collection they’ve mastered. Like Google’s CEO recently said though, if you’re worried about privacy, you must doing something wrong anyway. Facebook obviously agrees with them on that as well. Those that we’ve trusted often try to get us busted. Now it’s time to bust some heads, of internet industry scum like them. But nobody really cares anyway do they? People freely give away their rights as quickly as they do personal info in these twittering days of self absorbed narcissism. They so want the attention their parents wouldn’t give them, they’re willing to invite both criminals and spies into their embellished lives online. As long as they call us “friend” or protect us from those bearded boogie men. What great freedoms we have here. China must be really jealous. Google’s hollow PR move is very similar to this one by MS. It’s all just smoke and mirrors that cloud the truth about what they do, and their real self serving intentions.
    .-= FedUp2´s last blog ..Social network exposes kids to porn and danger. =-.