Posts tagged ‘DuckDuckGo’

The EU lands Google with another fine—but will Google change?


Zain Ali

The EU gets it when it comes to fines. Rather than the paltry US$17 million certain US states’ attorneys-general stung Google with some years ago for hacking Iphones, they’ve now fined the search engine giant €4,340 million, on top of its earlier fine of €2,420 million over anticompetitive behaviour.
   That US$17 million, I mentioned at the time, amounted to a few hours’ income at Google.
   As the EU’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager noted on Twitter, ‘Fine of €4,34 bn to @Google for 3 types of illegal restrictions on the use of Android. In this way it has cemented the dominance of its search engine. Denying rivals a chance to innovate and compete on the merits. It’s illegal under EU antitrust rules. @Google now has to stop it’.
   Google forces manufacturers to preinstall Chrome if they want to install Google Play. The EU also notes that virtually all Android devices have Google Search preinstalled, and most users never download competing apps, furthering Google’s dominance of search. Google pays manufacturers and cellphone networks to preinstall the Google search app on their phones, and prevented manufacturers from installing Google apps if their versions of Android were not approved by Google.
   DuckDuckGo, my search engine of choice, welcomed the decision. It noted:

   This last Tweet is particularly damning about Google’s deceptive practices (or, as I call them, ‘business as usual’ for Google):

   That’s consumer confusion on top of restrictive contracts that promote market dominance and anti-competitive behaviour.
   This is a very petty company, one that shut down Vivaldi’s Adwords account after its CEO gave some interviews about privacy.
   Of course I’m biased, and I make no apology for it—and anyone who has followed my journey on this blog from being a Google fan to a Google-sceptic over the last decade and a half will know just how Google’s own misleading and deceptive conduct helped changed my mind.
   Google’s argument, that many Android manufacturers installed rival apps, clearly fell on deaf ears, and understandably so. While I’m sure Android experts can think up examples, as a regular person who occasionally looks at phones, even those ones with rival apps still ship with the Google ones. In other words, there’s simply more bloat. I’ve yet to see one in this country ship without a Chrome default and Google Play installed, often in such a way that you can’t delete it, and Google Services, without getting your phone rooted.
   I did read this in the Murdoch Press and thought it was a bit of a laugh, but then maybe my own experience isn’t typical:

The impact of any changes mandated by the EU decision on Google’s ability to target ads to users—and to its profitability—is an open question. The two apps targeted in the EU decision, Google’s search and its Chrome browser, are extremely popular in their own right. Consumers are likely to seek them out from an app store even if they weren’t preinstalled on the phone, said Tarun Pathak, an analyst at research firm Counterpoint.

   I just don’t believe they would, and I made it a point to get a phone that would, happily, have neither. By buying a Chinese Android phone, I escape Google’s tracking; by seeking out the Firefox browser, I get to surf the way I want. That choice is going to create competition, something that Google is worried about.
   The Wall Street Journal also states that despite the earlier fine, Google’s shopping rivals said little or nothing has actually happened.
   With all of Google’s misdeeds uncovered on this blog over the years, I’m really not surprised.
   The EU is, at the very least, forcing some to examine just how intrusive Google is. It might soon discover how uncooperative Google can be.

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I found a new search engine (after Google signed me up to another mystery service)


I’ve a bit more reason to moan about Google of late, after a few more dodgy happenings on the site.
   But before I do, some good news: I found a very good search engine. And it’s not Bing.
   Ironically, one of the alternatives to Google search that I liked was Yahoo!, but even that company now has switched to Bing. However, it still has some search tools that others can tap in to.
   From what I know, Duck Duck Go (or, to use the site’s own convention, DuckDuckGo) takes some of those data and supplements its own. It’s surprisingly comprehensive and accurate—something I could not call Cuil, which once saw itself as a Google-killer.
   I got a similar feeling in 1998 when I first saw Google. ‘Wow, this is much better than AltaVista!’ Now with Google doing more evil, DuckDuckGo is a breath of fresh air. None of that ‘supplemental index’ BS, either. It also promises that it won’t store your private information. That, too, feels revolutionary in 2010.
   I liked Google better, too, when it just delivered good services, and didn’t bother with who I am or tried to pretend it was a social network.
   Here’s the real kicker: the founder of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg, emailed me after I sent in a compliment. I remember when either Jerry or David did that back in 1994 or thereabouts on Yahoo!. You’ll be lucky to get that now.

Now, as promised, Google-dissing time.
   You’d think I’d have got most of it out of my system earlier this year with the privacy flaws I discovered around the time of the Google Buzz débâcle.
   But you’d also think that Google would have learned from that mistake. Apparently not.
   First up, here’s a screen shot of my old Google profile. I had deleted it once post-Buzz, but reinstated it because, ironically, it was the only way to remove Buzz. (Deleting my profile did not, as Google would have you believe, remove Buzz when the service was forced on me back in February.)
   I found an option in my profile (which had not been there prior to February) that claimed to prevent my name being found, if I unchecked it. It also said that by unchecking that option, one could not use Buzz and Latitude.
   I should also point out that I do not have a Gmail account.

I don’t know what that says to you, but I would have thought that that meant I would never get Buzz.

   What part of ensuring that my name could not be found did Google not understand? What other US laws has it violated this time?
   It’s pretty rich for a company that did not have, the last time I looked, a privacy policy for Buzz.
   So, I went and deleted my profile again. This time, it did kill Buzz, though I still have 777 connections in my Social Search. How does it know, if I am no longer supplying data for that?

I also really don’t want to know the 285 friends-of-friends’ searching habits and Tweets. (It still insists I have four blogs with them—the actual number is zero. I wouldn’t trust Google to be able to do arithmetic correctly.)
   But here’s one big down side to not having a Google profile. Google suggests you can be contacted through the company by not signing up to a profile with them! In your Google account, there is now this:

You can’t have that box unchecked without creating a Google profile. What sort of a con is that?
   Some of you may remember when I whinged about Google saying I was signed up to a bunch of services I never knew about. Google goes one better now: it preempts new services and forces them into your account:

You are now a member of something that hasn’t even been invented yet! This is probably how, after all, it got all those Buzz users earlier this year. Google has “pre-consent”!
   Clicking on ‘New Service’ results in a 404. I don’t know what game Google is playing, but something is rotten in Mountain View.
   I can moan all I want, but I have acted and have drafted a letter asking Google to remove the unwanted services from my account. I would delete the whole account, but for a couple of services where colleagues have asked me to set things up (notably Analytics for the Medinge Group website—contrary to Google’s own claims, I cannot remove myself as an administrator).
   So why whinge? Hopefully it’ll have you checking your own Google accounts to make sure there aren’t unwanted things there.

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | 5 Comments »