• http://twitter.com/Winooski Winooski

    Well-reasoned all around. I think Senator Franken’s right to be concerned in the larger picture, especially as these major Internet companies find their way into more of our online activity and transition from nice-to-have-but-optional services to can’t-do-without utilities, but he’s certainly mistaken to single out Google when there are lots of competing behemoths behaving similarly.

    I also appreciate your calling out less-sexy industries that record crucial consumer information (e.g., credit card companies, grocery companies) yet don’t provide anything close to the same level of transparency as the major search engine and social media companies. Senator Franken would do well to train his gaze on those older experts in consumer surveillance.

  • For Pitch

    Shouldn’t you change your name to Danny Shilligan?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZSXDJJEOIFYJ57LILHXPYHSRMY Barbara

    As a citizen of MN I believe Senator Franken seeks expert dialog on this important topic while he balances a myriad of perspectives as a policy maker. I admire your internet expertise and focused point of view here. ( like Sullivan v. Scoble on GG :)

    It appears Google was used as a consistent illustration in the speech, providing a cohesive thread relevant to the audience of antitrust lawyers, it was not necessarily framed for the public at large, or as a statement on the tech industry spectrum. The message is clear in the opening lines of the speech.

    More than a century ago – with manufacturing conglomerates engaged in widespread anti-competitive behavior, hundreds of short-line railroads consolidating into omnipotent transport concerns, and Standard Oil building a monopoly – America decided it was time to take action.

    As Senator John Sherman said, “If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessities of life.”

    I’m illustrating an analogy for the internet; where rails have been built anywhere, by anyone, with interoperability across tracks. Within personal and interconnected trains of content and services, there are always individual boxcars you could hop on and off anonymously. People pass freely through independent depots of access, at the same time passenger movements are often tracked across cars along the way. Search has been a valuable conductor of commerce across platforms. 

    In recent years Facebook has built a bullet train of immense scale offering the glimmer of secure service within a self contained app environment. Data driven efficiency speeds passengers across the internet on proprietary tracks with locked down doors. Access points are protected, at the same time transfers across the internet are tracked, while exchanges among passengers have become highly monitored. The terms of service are omnipotent.

    With an eye on the value of this alternative platform, Google is scaling up to build a Speed Train of their own. To build on the interest in their own self contained data cargo, customer privacy agreements have been resigned to cattle cars for data driven markets. 

    Times are quickly changing… to Franken’s point. “It’s a lot easier to preserve competition than it is to restore it once it’s been destroyed.”

  • http://twitter.com/SpryNM Lance Long

    Re: building a facial recognition finger print to track you…  “So does my gym.”

    Sorry, what now?

    There is a big leap from using a picture for a human to identify the holder to having that picture indexed for tracking in content you may not even be aware of.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    My gym has my picture linked to my fingerprint, so that when I check in, they can tell who I am and have a match to my face. I don’t recall any US Senators worrying that maybe private companies should be regulated on doing this type of thing. And maybe they should, because who knows what’s going to happen with those two bits of data. I really don’t know. That’s the bigger point here. We don’t need scapegoating one or two big internet companies. We need solid privacy protections overall.

  • zato

    Google is an advertising enabler. Their goal is to mine the activity of the internet and build profiles/dossiers on everyone. That data is then analized by algorithms to create a virtual model of each person. Eventually Google will be able to accurately estimate the DNA of any individual, and create a GoogleBot version them, to replace the original, as they have done in the case of Danny Sullivan. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/SWUJVT7C6X3PP3QPLO2NVQJMNA jackl421

    When you can’t get insurance or a job or are under surveillance by some malevolent government agency that has data on your every move, purchase or whatever, this may be a problem.  As far as we know, this kind of data is already being marketed to data aggregators like Lexis-Nexis.  If you think credit scores and the like are nefarious, then “free” email from Google or the silly social networking sites like Facebook are a lot more sinister.

    Like what Senator Franken is doing and think your dismissive attitude is not called for.  By the way, my primary email server is a paid service, but modestly priced.  Gmail and Gmail+ are my “throwaway” accounts and not used for anything serious.  Therefore, I don’t mind the ads and datamining, but agree that “free” is OK as long as you have no expectations of quality, privacy or good customer service because you are not the “customer” you are the “product”.

    As in everything, you get what you pay for.

  • fjpoblam

    Danny, while your piece may be “well reasoned”, I have a few gripes. Take’em or leave’em. At least, enjoy.

    Your debunking starts with “I liked Al Franken as a comedian.” This subtle ad hominem does little to enhance your arguments. 

    An argument you use often is of the ilk that everybody else does it, so it should be okay if Google does it. E.g., “Not mentioned is that if you use mail from Yahoo or Microsoft, they have a copy of every single email you have, unless you delete those, too. Was it too hard to squeeze the names of two more companies into that sound bite?” Not relevant. Franken was griping about Google practices, not everybody else; and just because everybody else does something inappropriate, doesn’t necessarily make it proper.

    You: “You can stop using them.” I love (or actually despise) this one. It’s Google’s “another service is just a click away.” In other words, “Like it or lump it.” I don’t know, really, how to rebut your argument. America, love it or leave it. Earth, love it or leave it. I rebut it only by saying, you’re trying to deny anyone the right to gripe about Google services. I’d say in this case, if you don’t like such gripes, you needn’t listen. “The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.”(Tommy Smothers)

    You: “Senator Franken, you know that when I go to your own campaign web site, you “track” my use of your services? You do.” Yep, View Source, Danny. Some of the tracking is Google, Danny. If you don’t like being tracked, be sure to logoff Google! 

    You: “Let’s have a reality check.” As you may have seen in many discussions on webmasterworld, the reality is that Google “owns” searchability, and SEO involves playing up to Google. Just as diligent web design involves playing up to widely-used Internet Explorer even though a web designer may despise Internet Explorer. So you might not be surprised that Franken’s site tracks you.

    You: “Google actually said it ‘may’ share, not that it ‘will’ share.” [Nor did Google say that it “won’t” share, FWIW.] “It also said that …it might also do it to make your use of its products better.” [What the heck does “make your use of its products better” mean? Pretty danged vague, if you ask me. Better how and for whom?]

    You: “By the way, that client/product quote sounds familiar. Kind of like, ‘If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold’ from Andrew Lewis in 2010. I’m not saying you’re plagiarising him (I’m really not). He’s probably not even the first to have said it. Just pointing it out, in case you suddenly get turned into the author of this concept by some.” [Implicit ad hominem? Just pointing it out. But at any rate, both are correct. Google services plus a pack of cigarettes are worth about the same as a pack of cigarettes.]

    Danny, your heart seems to be in the right place. Please do fight on the side of Google, because they need you in their corner. But be fair about it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IBNWZLQU3VTZBTYVUCSPQ5Z6YA Mariusz

    Since you are an expert on Google you were able to see through the demagoguery of Al Franken on this topic.  What you fail to realize is that he is like that on other topics much more important than Google.  Finally it might give people a pause before they blindly support a comedian.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I meant nothing negative saying Franken was a comedian. He was an incredibly intelligent comedian, as many great comedians are. It’s one reason I liked the idea of him becoming a US Senator.
    My argument is absolutely not “everyone else does it.” Rather, it’s that since everyone else does it, let’s not single out one company as a scapegoat but instead solve the systemic problem.
    It’s also true that if you don’t want to use Google, you don’t have to. I’m sorry, but Franken simple sounds ignorant when he gives the impression you somehow are stuck with Google for email. We need him to be smarter than that, or sound smarter than that.
    I’m not surprised Franken tracks me. As I explained in another comment, it’s not that tracking altogether is bad. It’s what is being tracked, how it’s being tracked and your control over it. That’s why I dislike “tracking” just being tossed out as some type of illicit activity.
    The reference was about Lewis quoting in terms of being the product sold again wasn’t some type of slam against Franken but rather simple to point out that that concept isn’t something fresh that hasn’t been out there before. Very likely, Franken will end up popularizing that. But I thought it would be nice to credit someone else.
    Look, I like Franken. He seems a smart, savvy and genuine person. That’s why reading a speech like that made me scratch my head. I’m looking for a more nuanced and educated approach to the real issues we have with privacy. I hope we get that from him.

  • The Shambolic Skeptic

    Franken has become a typical political demagogue on this. Just making cheap political points for the great unwashed. To hell with the facts, Al, as long as it leads to more votes.

    Sheesh … he’s gone bad like those he ran against. Part of the problem now.

  • Pierre Gardin

    “Cattle cars”, you’ve jumped the shark on this one.

  • http://jeffdownerbailbonds.com/ Jeff Downer Indianapolis IN

    I gotta say that I’ve never confused Al Franken with a rocket scientist.

  • http://twitter.com/wardtwits Chris Ward

    Your a little hard on Al, but I agree with much of.  However, your point about other search engine’s such as Bing… Bing just steals Google’s results, so I would hardly call them better, or different.