May was an interesting month, where the press' narrative finally caught up that the competitors to Microsoft who so robustly co-opted the anti-market-domination argument have found themselves now as market dominators.
Of course, some of this will be Microsoft pushback. But behind the blinkered corporatism of the suits, the same kinds of concerns that accrue to Microsoft in its success also accrue to other market dominators in their success: whether Apple, serial patenter IBM or Google.
I think it goes beyond what Googler Tim Bray says in Feelings about Companies — which is excellent as far as it goes — but with size needs to come regulator scepticism and extra scrutiny. And efforts to ameliorate that success, when it comes to market-domination. The elephants must not ignore the mice in the room.
At the moment, it seems that regulators have given up trying to stop market domination and monopoly in individual markets, and are more concerned with practices where domination in one market is used to drive success in another market: Microsoft's bundling. The claims that Google manipulates its PageRank ranking systems to boost YouTube surely will be of interest.
If anyone doubt's that governments are rather cheesed off by what they see as Google's self-righteous stance and poor record, the comments from Australian Minister of Communication Sen. Conroy are unusually strong:
This has been worldwide. Google takes the view that they can do anything they want-- they do not evil to themselves. ... It is possible that this has been the largest privacy breach in history across Western democracies. ... At an Abu Dhabi media summit in March 2010, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, 'Google sees itself really differently from other companies, because we see ourselves as a company with a mission about information and not a mission about revenue or profits.' ... Mr Schmidt was asked about the company's worrisome stash of private data on its users: 'All this information that you have about us, does that scare anyone in the room?'
The response from Mr Schmidt was: 'Would you prefer someone else? Is there a government that you would prefer to be in charge of this?' Frankly, I think the approach taken by Mr Schmidt is a bit creepy.
This is a company that says 'do no evil', but tries to pretend that it is not motivated by profit and that it knows best and 'you can trust us' when it comes to privacy. Unfortunately there are no safeguards. You are dealing with company policy. ... When it comes to their attitude to their own censorship, their response is simply, 'Trust us.' They state on the website, 'Trust us.'
It is not good enough to say that this is just strategic talk by Conroy, on the larger debate on national government firewalls, which seems to be one response. Google's good record in pulling out of China (if they actually have) because they don't wish to become tools to an totalitarian regime having a good decade (if that is the reason) has nothing to do with these issues of privacy, and illegal data collection. If Google is growing too fast to implement proper procedures, there is a solution: don't grow so fast.
I have gotten into a lot of flack from people who want to have black hats and white hats in the corporate world in recent times. Indeed, when it is the central marketing position of a company "Buy us, we are not evil Microsoft" everyone should know they are setting themselves up for a fall. The larger a company is, the more successful it is in any market, the more it can dominate even a limited market, the more that it needs to question its own motives and procedures.