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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006. No paid or guest posts, no link sales.



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17.10.2022

We should challenge monopolists, not do business with them at the exclusion of ethical parties

Search engine Mojeek is doing no wrong in my book. Here’s its CEO Colin Hayhurst being interviewed by The New Era’s Jeffrey Peel, making complete sense, which is not something I can say about anyone speaking for Big Tech. We should be shunning monopolists if we truly value progress and innovation, or even a proper, factual debate. We even have laws about it that few seem to wish to enforce when it comes to Big Tech players. It’s well worth a watch.
 
I was disappointed to see that the Warehouse, our big retailer, specifically blocks Mojeek from searching its site. Google is fine. Explanations vary—but they include the theory that the Warehouse wants to get data from its users and Google can provide them.

I’ve written to the Warehouse as an account holder and received no reply. I decided to take it higher, to its chief digital officer, on October 3. As far as I know this email has been delivered, but there’s always a possibility I have her address wrong. Regardless, I am yet to hear back on any front, including social media where I had asked the Warehouse why they would wish to block a legitimate and far more ethical search engine. What does it say about your company when you choose to do business with someone as questionable as Google, yet you go out of your way to block a fully ethical and privacy-respecting business?

Dear Sarah:
 
I contacted the Warehouse through the customer service channels at the beginning of September and have yet to hear back.

As CDO I think you’re the right person to raise this with, though please refer it to a colleague if you aren’t.

I run Lucire Ltd. and have been a Warehouse account holder for some time. Our own foundations are in the digital space, with my having been a digital publisher since 1989. We’re always mindful that our activities promote a healthy online space, which means we keep a watchful eye on the behaviour of US Big Tech. (For instance, we removed all Facebook gadgets from our sites in 2018, prior to the Cambridge Analytica exposĂ©, as we became increasingly concerned of the tracking exposure our readers were getting.)

Our internal search is now run by Mojeek, a UK-based search engine that has the largest index in the west outside of Google. It is also my default, having lost faith in Duck Duck Go after 12 years.

Other than the Warehouse’s home page, none of the contents of your company’s site appear in Mojeek. When I raised this with them, they tell me that Mojeek is very specifically blocked by the Warehouse. Neither they nor I can see any good reason a legitimate, independent search engine would be blocked.

I am told that inside your code is:
 
User-agent: MojeekBot
Disallow: /

 

As concerns over privacy grow, it seems a disservice that it’s blocked.

When I put this to other techs, they theorize that the Warehouse wants to track people via whatever data Google provides. I find this hard to believe. To what end? The amount of information that comes surely can’t outweigh overall accessibility to the website for those of us who have concerns over Google’s monopolistic behaviour and privacy intrusions.

Even if tracking were the reason, I would have thought there would be no great loss allowing a tiny percentage of people to come in via a Mojeek search result and browse the site—including customers like me who had the intent to see what you had in stock with a view to purchasing the item.

I genuinely hope this is something that will be looked into and that a New Zealand company I admire (one which is connected to me through a round-about way—I was educated by relatives of the Tindalls) isn’t party to upholding the Google monopoly.

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Filed under: business, internet, New Zealand, technology—Jack Yan @ 09.56

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