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Data trading for ad revenue must be regulated (theregister.com)
266 points by samizdis 88 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 132 comments



I had written this regarding the rebranding of Facebook to Meta and the genius of the Google (Alphabet) co-founders extricating themselves from being the evil personas:

“La plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu'il n'existe pas." ("The devil's finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.")”

― Charles Baudelaire

The smartest thing that the Google co-founders did is to step out of the "picture" and have a "nerdish" dignitary Sundar Pichai be the face of the company.

The type of headlines we won't see anymore since they have "stepped down".

Email exchanges between National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt suggest a far cozier working relationship between some tech firms and the U.S. government than was implied by Silicon Valley brass after last year’s revelations about NSA spying.

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/5/6/nsa-chief-goo...

https://pando.com/2014/05/13/emails-showing-googles-closenes...


> Email exchanges between National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt suggest a far cozier working relationship between some tech firms and the U.S. government …

Or, Alexander is just selling a product on the back of cyber threat consulting:

”At IronNet Cybersecurity, as the Founder, Chairman & Co-CEO and President, General (Ret) Keith Alexander provides strategic vision to corporate leaders on cybersecurity issues …”

https://www.ironnet.com/company/leadership/keith-alexander


In hindsight, I find it hard not to feel complicit, having invited friends and family to Gmail back in the day when invites were a thing. I had actually believed Google's "don't be evil" line, when it launched what was a brilliant stripped-down search product. (And yes, I defected from AltaVista with the crowd. Oh, how I miss case-sensitive queries; how I miss all those relevant results.)

I was far too gullible.


If you go back and read the stuff from Brin and Page at the time, they do actually go to quite some lengths explaining how crucially important it is for search results to be relevant, and the original PageRank paper even outlines methods for reducing manipulation from commercial interests.

It's a jarring contrast to what Google is today.

"[...] we believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm. "

[1] http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html [2] http://ilpubs.stanford.edu:8090/422/1/1999-66.pdf


>If you go back and read the stuff from Brin and Page at the time, they do actually go to quite some lengths explaining how crucially important it is for search results to be relevant, and the original PageRank paper even outlines methods for reducing manipulation from commercial interests.

What else could they write, even if they were already Satan incarnated?

"We could not care less about search relevance as long as we make big bucks, and if we can sacrifice it in the future, we will"?

I doubt it would have helped with Google's adoption.

Whatever they wrote is just marketing. At best, they believed their own marketing, but they still made a for profit company.

People who don't do it for profit, don't go to build a for profit behemoth. Even in 1999, everybody could tell where Brin/Page stand relative to someone like Linus or Jonas Salk, for example.


From a viability perspective they might not have had a choice —but they could at least have put up a fight.

Overture, which they acquired, did paid ranking, which is reminiscent of AOLs keyword(s).

If Google had stuck to their ideals, someone would have come around and commercialized the idea (as Google did).

The tragedy is Google didn’t try to stall all out commercialization but rather doubled down on it.

Initially they may have been afraid of becoming the AltaVista, the best, but usurped by someone better because they weren’t investing gigantic profits back into it to assure dominance.

In the end they became the monster they feared, and not a docile one at that.


I think the main reason they've gone down the route they have is a lack of competition to keep them honest.

Microsoft tried with Bing, but it was too little and much too late. DDG has helped a bit even if it's mostly rebranded Bing-data, but we're still far away from having a healthy search ecosystem.


I vaguely remembwr there was already a search engine at the time google started where all the results were paid ads.

I forget what it was called though.


I'm not sure what we should've done. Google for a long time won users by making almost objectively better products. It's only in the past decade or so that they started to abuse their monopoly.

Putting the blame at government failing to enforce existing and create new anti-trust legislation seems much more sensible than blaming users picking the best products.


One of the biggest assaults is Google Classroom. My son goes to a school in London. He was given out a Chromebook. His Chromebook effectively became his backpack. Everything is in there. They do homework there, collaborate, get used to the "G Suite." Paper is citizen number two. He spends a good portion of his day in Google's ecosystem. I thought Microsoft dominance twenty years ago was scary, but this is something on a completely another level. Very smart move on Google's behalf and something we will all have to fight later on when kids grow up.


It was always a great part of Apple’s playbook, back in the day. Train the kids.


Microsoft did that in the late 90s onwards, technology == MS Office for an entire generation.

However the extent of ecosystem in the 80s and 90s is different to the extent today.


In the 90s, if you used ClarisWorks or WordPerfect or whatever, it was no big deal. You weren't collaborating over the Internet, you were submitting printed essays to your teachers, and group essays weren't really a thing. Heck, a good chunk of kids were still exclusively submitting handwritten homework, because only wealthier families had computers at home, and free access to computers was only during study hall, and even then there weren't enough for everyone.

In the 2010s, when I was in grad school, the use of GSuite was absolutely obligatory. Professors shared course materials through Google Drive. They expected you to submit your homework the same way. And, in between, on group projects, all the actual work was done in Google Docs because that was how you collaborated - simultaneous editing.


I'm having an ironic morning of it. I also posted [1] from The Register a piece about China's antitrust watchdog, which seems to be advocating for policies one can only envy. (What emerges in reality, though, is unlikely to live up to my optimism.)

If I were at The Register, I'd look for a way to combine that China news article with the Google opinion piece of this thread.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29064865


There, if you don't play with the unwritten rules, you get clobbered by the written ones...


Not a monopoly. They are dominant. Start using duckduckgo and other similar sevices. The internet is still a free market. If you continue to use their products you are just whining. Become the change you wish to see in the world.


"vote with your wallet" is a useless aphorism when it comes to implementing systemic change. In order to stop Google from abusing its dominance, billions of people would have to simultaneously choose not to use the best (?) and most popular set of products. Free market activism doesn't work for consumers.


To quote a meme... "por que no los dos?" I have been using DuckDuckGo since I don't even remember how long now - pretty much immediately after I heard of it - what made the "switch" easy was the ability to search google (and a slew of other search engines and websites) from the ddg interface using the bang notation. So I have been mainly using ddg the past few years, but when I'm "sure" I would get more relevant results from Google I just add !g to the query and go look there.

I agree it's not ideal - and this is pretty much just a ddg "ad" - but it's a start. The beauty of free software (free as in beer) is that you can just use it all. Yes - again - not ideal, but it's a start.


The problem is that me switching away from Google products isn't going to change their behaviour at all, and I'm disincentivised from doing so because on an individual level, the benefits to using Google products outweighs the cost I bear from their actions. And even if I decide to bear thr cost of switching away as a largely symbolic act of protest, it doesn't change Google's behaviour at all. Problems at a societal or institutional level require solutions at the same level. There are things you can do individually (contrary to the parent's claim) to achieve systemic change but they're things like helping Google employees to strike or unionise, or building a movement around advocating for the breakup of Google. These are individual actions with the intent of building collective action.


I would contest your position. While your individual action may be of no consequence to Google, it still has a marginal impact.

I did basically the same thing as the user you responded to did, but only about 6-8 months ago. And I plan to migrate off of Google services as soon as Graphene is ported to the Pixel 6.

If the utility that the convenience that Google offers you outweighs the inconvenience of not doing business with a company you disagree with, no problem. Your utility curve doesn't weigh in the actions of the company as heavily as mine.

Google won't need to change their behavior until enough people leave, and even then they may choose to go out of business as opposed to changing. But you would have played your part and spoken with your wallet which is how free markets are designed.

Note: My utility curve doesn't place any emphasis on me individually acting as a figure in Google politics: unions, regulation, etc. We all have preferences.


> While your individual action may be of no consequence to Google, it still has a marginal impact.

If we round off and assume Google has 2 billion customers, then your marginal impact is 0.00000005%. That doesn't do anything at all.

> Google won't need to change their behavior until enough people leave

This is based on the assumption that the only action one can and should take against Google is an individual disconnection from their services. This is pointless compared to meaningful changes through systemic means. I know HN has a lot of libertarian/rationalist economist types, but that ideological approach has been shown time and again to accomplish nothing, to the point where brands actively encourage "vote with your wallet" boycotts from conservatives because they are actually extemely profitable (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06yy88tLWlg).

I'd also point out the libertarianism/rationalism is rooted in neoliberalism and the whole point of neoliberalism is to remove challenges to corporate power, so of course they would encourage actions that do nothing to really harm corporate power while feeling like you're doing something. It's the consumer activism equivalent of donating £5/month to charity to assuage your first-world guilt.


0.00000005% is not 0%. There is marginal impact.

You are correct that I am both a libertarian and economist type, and that is born out of my love for rationality.

To do what you propose, you need to implement regulation. It is unclear to me how changing worker bargaining would impact the practices of Google towards consumers.

To implement regulation, you'll need to define some harm that is being incurred by a third party that is not voluntarily participating in a private transaction. What is the basis for the proposed regulation?

I don't think libertarianism exists to remove challenges to corporate power. Rather, it seems to me that it is rooted in, "live and let live." Unless there is a negative externality that is incurred by an unwilling participant, there should be no regulation. Morality is not the job of the state.


> There is marginal impact.

Yes, but meaningless. If you want something to change, you typically don't settle for changing it by one in two billion.

> You are correct that I am both a libertarian and economist type, and that is born out of my love for rationality.

I used to take this stance until I learned about systems theory (and later critical theory, which is just systems theory applied to sociology*). Now I realise that libertarianism is only rational if socioeconomic individualism (ie, no collective action, no changing of institutions) is an axiom that you accept on faith.

*kind of, it's more complicated than that.

Oh, and systems theory is the flipside of cybernetics, which is one of the main rational bases of both automation and computing. It is itself a rational field.

> To do what you propose, you need to implement regulation. It is unclear to me how changing worker bargaining would impact the practices of Google towards consumers.

In theory, sure, maybe Google workers don't have to care about this stuff. But they do, and there's been lots of internal activism within Google about reducing the company's negative externalities.

> To implement regulation, you'll need to define some harm that is being incurred by a third party that is not voluntarily participating in a private transaction. What is the basis for the proposed regulation?

I reject your dilemma because if taken as-is, there would also be no argument against monopolies or monopsonies as they are caused by free individuals participating voluntarily in private transactions.

> I don't think libertarianism exists to remove challenges to corporate power. Rather, it seems to me that it is rooted in, "live and let live." Unless there is a negative externality that is incurred by an unwilling participant, there should be no regulation. Morality is not the job of the state.

Libertarianism is rooted in deregulation of private industry, which objectively increases corporate power by removing constraints on their actions. I understand the belief behind it being "live and let live" because if you formulate a free market system from the position of an individual voluntary transaction, and don't look at the higher-order effects that can come from that, then it seems like a good ideology. I believed this myself, maybe 10 years ago.

> Morality is not the job of the state.

Regulation is, though. Plus, laws are how we enforce the Overton window of our collectively agreed-upon moral beliefs - theft is the illegalisation of stealing, after all, and murder is illegal too; I would assume you're OK with these laws.


> Yes, but meaningless. If you want something to change, you typically don't settle for changing it by one in two billion.

With this I agree, and I mentioned in my original response at the end that my utility curve didn't include going beyond changing my consumption habits. But I did want to make it clear that there was an impact (and there are a growing number of people that are taking the same action so the aggregate marginal impact is certainly increasing).

> I used to take this stance until I learned about systems theory

I will look into this further. From the limited searching I've now done, it seems potentially similar to coalitional game theory wherein the result from cooperative behavior leads to better outcomes from all participants than if they were to individually compete against one-another. Perhaps the major difference is the level of abstraction which may say that a system is made out of many coalitional games to create an even greater outcome without the individual coalitions knowing, but I could be wrong there. If that were the case, it isn't apparent to me why an individual or coalition would participate. Searching source: https://www.onlinemswprograms.com/social-work/theories/syste...

> In theory, sure, maybe Google workers don't have to care about this stuff. But they do, and there's been lots of internal activism within Google about reducing the company's negative externalities.

This is good news. My original supposition was that we were discussing the consumer perspective (having no insider sway), but I would agree that a far better effect would be gained from internally infiltrating/joining the organization and then pushing directly for the changes one wants to see.

> I reject your dilemma because if taken as-is, there would also be no argument against monopolies or monopsonies as they are caused by free individuals participating voluntarily in private transactions.

Generally, yes - and I generally am against break-up of monopolies unless such an organization is able to physically prevent competition via barriers to entry (typically a consequence of government) or physical exclusivity. Examples are things like transmission over radio frequencies, satellite orbits, electricity companies. These things specifically benefit from regulation because, without it, there is no market solution that can provide the same service.

> Regulation is, though. Plus, laws are how we enforce the Overton window of our collectively agreed-upon moral beliefs - theft is the illegalisation of stealing, after all, and murder is illegal too; I would assume you're OK with these laws.

I am okay with laws against theft and murder specifically because there is harm against a third party whom is not a volunteer in the transaction. I think a more appropriate comparison would be things like gifting (and the resulting gift tax) and duels.

Gifting: It's private property so you should be able to do with it (withholding negative externalities) or give it to whomever you want. The gift tax, as I see it, is a direct tax and unconstitutional, but this is specific to the U.S.

Duels: The outcome of a duel is equivalent to murder, someone dies. The difference is that two (or more) parties voluntarily enter this transaction knowing the potential consequences, and no third party harm exists. I am fully for duels and believe that their existence actually more appropriately shifts the Overton window than regulation, which will always be solved on too general a level. Specific actors are much better able to generate specific solutions for their specific needs.

All this said, I will take the time to look more into systems theory as it does sound like I'm 10 years behind you in the progressivity of my belief system.


> With this I agree, and I mentioned in my original response at the end that my utility curve didn't include going beyond changing my consumption habits.

That's fair enough, my point was not that everyone has to be some kind of activist, which is just overly demanding on others' time, but that if one were to take action against Google, consumption habits were probably the least effective action possible - and that their ineffectiveness is why neoliberals advocate for it, and yet always try to undermine collective action.

> From the limited searching I've now done, it seems potentially similar to coalitional game theory wherein the result from cooperative behavior leads to better outcomes from all participants than if they were to individually compete against one-another.

Yeah that's one way of looking at it, at least from a sociological/economic angle; cooperation > competition, in a prisoner-dilemma sense, but capitalism forces everybody to compete against each other. Broadly though, systems theory is about how the sum can be greater than the parts (via complex causality), and applied sociologically it speaks to things like incentive models and how small-scale actions that are perfectly moral can lead to larger-scale effects that are not moral. One example being that from an equal starting point, a pair betting rationally on fair coin flips will eventually end up with one person holding all the money; this has obvious implications for your previous examples of voluntary trade under capitalism (rich-get-richer etc). Systems theory is more of a general holistic lens though, it started out in biology and has applications all over the place. It's not a common topic ideologically speaking (aside from things like systemic racism), the main entrypoint into things like how/why Google does what it does would actually be Marx & Engels' analysis of capitalism.

> This is good news. My original supposition was that we were discussing the consumer perspective (having no insider sway), but I would agree that a far better effect would be gained from internally infiltrating/joining the organization and then pushing directly for the changes one wants to see.

I think the most effective consumer-only approach would be to protest and advocate to the government, but for sure change is best affected from within an organisation.

> Generally, yes - and I generally am against break-up of monopolies unless such an organization is able to physically prevent competition via barriers to entry (typically a consequence of government) or physical exclusivity.

Regulatory capture is pretty terrible, I agree - and that's how government ends up actually strengthening exploitative enterprises. However there are natural monopolies too, like network effects or other accumulative, positive feedback loops. Commodification through perfect competition is largely a myth, all markets trend towards monopoly over a long enough period. Just look at Microsoft's near-total dominance over the desktop OS market, or Google's dominance of search. Competition is the only thing that gives consumers power (under capitalism), so once competition goes away the monopolies can (and basically always do) exploit their consumers while ceasing to innovate in their captured market.

> I am okay with laws against theft and murder specifically because there is harm against a third party whom is not a volunteer in the transaction. I think a more appropriate comparison would be things like gifting (and the resulting gift tax) and duels.

> Duels: The outcome of a duel is equivalent to murder, someone dies

You can extrapolate from your argument about duels, directly to Squid Game. Presumably you think that such a world is not moral? You have to look at the outcome of your principles to decide whether they are moral, not just the theoretical formulation. Free market capitalism's outcome is generally an extreme income divide, and post-globalisation the other outcome is that all the misery and poor working conditions get exported to poor countries. Free market capitalism as formulated in the individual transaction kind-of sounds fair, but played out in reality it's extremely immoral.


But you really can switch to firefox and DDG today.

Firefox works perfectly well if you don't get wound up about silly details (mostly silly details that have been amplified by the internet which has told you to care about them, perhaps by Google astroturfing PR?) and you can DDG for 90-95% of your searches and fall back to google when it isn't doing well. Once you get over the initial few weeks of the learning curve there's very little cost to it.


it's a bit more involved than that for me (I use Google search, chrome, gmail, calendar, android + play store, sheets, analytics, etc) but yeah I totally can switch. The problem is that that doesn't accomplish what I want, which is for Google to stop doing evil things.


Ironically the whole GDPR mess made it easier for me to use ddg first. I just don't have cookies, so every time I use google I'm greeted with that amazing consent form, so I just stick to ddg unless it's really necessary.


The ocean is made up of drops of water.

Individual action has lots of impact at scale.


True, but how do you scale it if you only act in a vacuum?


"implementing systemic change" is a useless aphorism when it amounts to "I want someone else to do all the work for me at no inconvenience to myself". Everyone, but everyone, who cries out for "systemic change" either is using it for cover to give themselves total control, else demand someone does it on their behalf.


So what's your approach to getting Google to stop doing anti competitive things? Presumably you have a plan for getting enough individual people to boycott Google that they have to change their behaviour.

Personally I think that laws are useful for constraining bad behaviour, both for people and companies.


I try to start from the bottom up. I'm "fortunate" to live in a country where we have a saying - The country doesn't have a mafia, rather the mafia has a country. So I'm pretty used to hearing "we need systemic change, individual action is meaningless". But I just keep telling myself to be the change I want to see and - honestly - I see results. I'm not saying I have changed anything, but the situation feels a bit better. And when it comes to democracy the elected officials are a direct representation of the peoples of the country.


How do you avoid google classroom when the school demands you use google classroom?

This is the same principles as the Microsoft monopoly of the 90s and 00s, and that at least gives me hope


You bring your concerns to your local school board. Google is just a vendor - the district can choose whatever vendors they wish.

The problem is that the other vendors aren't all that great. If you really want to take Google down a peg, you need to build better products than they do. Or go offer assistance to their existing competitors.


> If you really want to take Google down a peg, you need to build better products than they do.

This is a meme that really needs to die. If something is harmful, we don't have to wait for a "better" alternative to regulate it. Unleaded gasoline was objectively worse at powering cars, and some people at the time even whined about it, but they were wrong. If regulating Google and Facebook means we have to live with marginally clunkier online tools, so be it.


That isn't a meme, that is truth.

I think your real concern is the definition of "better". In your example of gasoline, public health is more important that power, so "better" gas is measured by health.

So we are both right - products need to be "better", but at the same time, by all means schedule time with your local boards to explain to them why these concerns mean that other products are "better", even if clunky.


Seems like the monopoly here is the school, not Google. There are other platforms than Google Classroom.


Duckduckgo search results are even less relevant than Google's.


well, people could have been more willing to pay for email. Google's search engine was top notch for sure. But when we gave them the right to scan our emails we really handed over the keys to the kingdom.


Before gmail you either had hotmail, or you had your ISP's mail provision. Both were poor in comparison, and in different ways -- your ISP meant you were locked in to your ISP for all features, and while clients like eudora were fairly good for the time (I tended to use Pine), gmail was still superior for normal users.

The move to multi-device from the late 00s onwards also changed the email landscape. It was no longer acceptable to simply download your email onto a single desktop computer via pop3 and remove from the server, you wanted access to it from everywhere on any device, your home desktop, your laptop, your work desktop, and eventually your phone, which meant storing mail on the server.

Personally yes, I use DDG, OSM or apple maps, pay for an email provider hanging off my own domain which comes with a decent enough webmail client as well as imap integration for phones, but that's not normal. In the 00s I used Pine and fetchmail and squirrelmail on linux, with latex and StarOffice and Phoenix/Firebird (and konqueror at one point) rather than Microsoft and IE and hotmail and office, but that wasn't normal, and it's not really a defence against a claim of a monopoly.


I doubt willingness to pay would be a factor. To my knowledge, Gmail (or any other google services) didn't start off paid, bomb, and then they made free but paid for with privacy.

I think aside from having 20/20 hindsight to avoid their services and tell others to do the same (which you cant really blame people for not having), I doubt theres much we could do. I guess theres the whole "vote with your wallet" thing, but again, I think that argument is largely made with the benefit of hindsight


The point was that other email (even with a GUI served over the web) services were available when gmail was introduced, and you did have to pay for many of them. IIRC I was using something called "zworg".

I almost regret getting a gmail invite early enough to be able to snag my first and last names with no number, since I am constantly getting all sorts of messages that include surprisingly private information about the various "Jess Austin"s around the world who are getting married, renting "flats", going on vacation, considering cosmetic surgery, etc. I don't know whether these various Ms. Austins have forgotten their email addresses, or perhaps their friends and service providers can't be bothered to use those.


I find it highly ironic that in a thread about subjective evil one talks about granting more power to governments... The only institution on the planet that has granted itself the right to legally steal, plunder, and murder you...

I am no fan of Google, but as much as I despise what google has become, I am do not have a rose colored view of the evil that is government to the point here I think that government could be a viable solution to the Google problem


In a world of imperfect systems and fallible humans, it's over-idealistic to say "Don't fight evil with evil". Simplistic, even. It's a counter-productive moral high horse because you can always find dirt on any authority that can help you.

Even if I believe the police is corrupt, if I get mugged on the street, you can bet I'm going to the police for help. That is not mutually exclusive to my belief that the police, as an organization, abuses power.

Government granted these tech giants the necessary permits to operate (to say the least), and can penalize them based on the law. It just makes sense that the power to regulate rests on this government too. Now how government should reign in these companies is another topic and that's the part where moral vigilance comes into play.


> The only institution on the planet that has granted itself the right to legally steal, plunder, and murder you...

Rights that, legally, only have validity if people want them to. (In theory, in some countries.) In principle, Google is allowed to ignore the will of the people; in principle, the government is not.


None of that is true, in fact it really is opposite.

Google has to entice people into voluntary exchange, yes the power is imbalanced but it is possible to remove yourself from google, thousands have. You can not remove yourself from government, if you try they will kill you. Google will not kill you if you stop using their services

if I disconnect from my city utilities, if I stop paying taxes, if I grow an unapproved plant, if I do anything the government does not like well men with guns show up...

Further this idea that the government is beholden to the will of the people, even in the ever lauded (and seldom understood) "democracy" is provably false, many many studies have been done that prove the will of the people hardly ever changes the will of government so I am not sure what factual factual basis you have to claim that governments must follow the will of the people.


> yes the power is imbalanced but it is possible to remove yourself from google, thousands have.

And I was once among them. Except actually, using Google's “services” is mandatory if I want to obtain such luxuries as food and shelter in the area where I currently reside. I was required to shell out for an Android smartphone; me paying Google money (albeit indirectly) was mandatory.

> You can not remove yourself from government, if you try they will kill you.

What hell-hole do you live in‽ In my country, the government doesn't have the authority to kill anyone (except the military, unfortunately, but that's in some other country). It used to, and then people decided they weren't okay with that any more, and now it doesn't.

And where is disconnecting from your city utilities illegal – let alone physically enforced with guns‽

> so I am not sure what factual factual basis you have to claim that governments must follow the will of the people.

I said “legally” and “in principle”. Though, in many places, the governments actually do do what the people want; look into the Pirate Party in Europe, for just one example. (Also, suffrage movements… A lot of the time the government “goes against the will of the people” is when most people are apathetic about your cause; governments prefer the status quo, because most people don't like change.)

Fundamentally, I have zero say in what Google does. At least with the government, I get a vote.


>>Except actually, using Google's “services” is mandatory if I want to obtain such luxuries as food and shelter in the area where I currently reside

What Hell-Hole do you live in?

>>What hell-hole do you live in‽

the US

>>In my country, the government doesn't have the authority to kill anyone

I highly doubt that is true.

>>And where is disconnecting from your city utilities illegal –

I am not aware of any city in any industrialized nation that does not require all buildings that have occupancy permits to be connected to their city water, sewer systems as a condition of that occupancy permit. Thus disconnecting from said utility is illegal. Going further most US Cities require not only water / sewer connections but also Electric (and Gas if no electric heat) and Trash Services.

Failure to maintain those services results in fines, then from fines you get liens, then foreclosure, then eviction, at the point of eviction is where men with guns show up... Resit them, and you die.

>>At least with the government, I get a vote.

Which only carries the cause in the case of the tie, there has never been a tie....


> Google has to entice people into voluntary exchange, yes the power is imbalanced but it is possible to remove yourself from google, thousands have.

Eh, no, this is not true. I may have been in the vanguard of de-Googling ... but... For example, I go to a lookup page on a government website and they have embedded Google Re-Captcha. I disable Google scripts on e-commerce pages and it breaks unexpectedly at checkout. No, it it not possible to entirely eliminate Google, or any of the largest tech firms, from one's life.


> Google will not kill you if you stop using their services

This is only true because the government dictates it. Without government intervention, the only considerations that Google would need to have when deciding to kill or threaten to kill people who refuse to use their services would be the effects of that decision on their revenue and profits.

> Further this idea that the government is beholden to the will of the people, even in the ever lauded (and seldom understood) "democracy" is provably false, many many studies have been done that prove the will of the people hardly ever changes the will of government so I am not sure what factual factual basis you have to claim that governments must follow the will of the people.

This is of course true. If replacing the governance of the country with the governance of google's internal structure is something we want to do though, we should do it explicitly. I do find it contradictory that you would dismiss all possible forms of government as unfixably corrupt, yet accept the org chart of a search engine as your government.


> many many studies have been done that prove the will of the people hardly ever changes the will of government

Studies such as? Citation needed.



I mean, that's also what the article we're discussing proposes:

> Data trading for ad revenue must be regulated like finance, aviation, medicine, and power.

Regulation by the government is absolutely one tool towards stopping a gigantic monopoly bending the world to its interests.


You have a basic disbelief in using law to control corporations, which are government constructs themselves?


I believe altervista would be terrible today. The same with early google.

The web has changed. If you look at page rank, it is basically a random walk of the internet and most visited locations get the highest rank.

Today you simply cannot trust websites to link to content just for the love of sharing good content. You can’t even trust webpages to be relevant to the keywords they write in their content. You can’t even trust them to show the same content to search engines as they show to regular users.

A modern search engine has an adverse relationship to the pages it is indexing. In the good old days they had a trusting relationship.


>In the good old days they had a trusting relationship.

It's almost like there need to be clearly defined and agreed upon rules for everyone to operate under, with clear consequences for failing to follow those rules. Sort of like some kind of, well, legislation.

Trust and social norms setting expectation is fine when it works. But it will eventually stop working.

So what's the answer after that? How do we fix it without making it worse via legislation or regulation?


I remember a story from someone at Google about someone who emailed them with a number every once in a while, and the number kept going up. They finally figured out it was the size of the Google home page, and the person was making sure they knew when it was getting bigger. It was something small, but big for the time. It's now almost 1MB zipped.


I thought it was the number of characters on their homepage that was emailed to them, not the size of the page in mb.


There was a time when the number of characters was the sensible metric.


I too believed this "don't be evil" nonsense. I made my Google account the center of my online life because I believed it. Migrating to more open technologies is proving to be extremely annoying now due to how entrenched it is in my life.

In the end, "don't be evil" wasn't really a principle, it was just Google's marketing and marketing cannot be trusted. Everything these people say is nonsense. We must watch what they actually do instead. Only actions matter.


Altavista was garbage compared to Google at the time, that's why everyone switched in the first place.


Guess it depends on what you mean by garbage... I loved altavista - especially the 'near' keyword. But it didn't have as large an index as google. As the web grew, it just fell further behind.


The results were less relevant.


I don't know. Google 20 years ago felt good. All the stuff about FLOSS vs proprietary software. Support for open standards. The summer of code. A search that seemed to reward quality content over paid results.

There was reason to doubt, but I think at some point the motto was legitimately aligned with the company interests and everyone benefited from it, until it wasn't.


same here ... even further back I belonged to those people who congratulated their parents for joining facebook and whatsapp - so cringy. now I myself am using neither of those services any longer. feels good on one level but also futile on a deeper.


We were all naive in believing that a company that embraced open source could still manage to exercise such ruthless control. We believed that access to source code would save us from any face-heel turn, but that turns out to be a consolation prize at best in the face of such a leviathan adversary.


>I had actually believed Google's "don't be evil" line

The thing is, so did the founders of Google. The issue is not that they were lying to you.


Eric Schmidt put in that line because many times engineers said ,,that would be evil'' when another person suggested something, and Eric wanted to create a strong engineering culture for hiring the best software engineers. He talks about it in the first Tim Ferriss interview.

I was quite happy at Google while he was CEO and I hated it when Larry took over, things got boring....Sergey would have been so much more fun.


As a web developer, the AMP story is notable.

On many HN comment-threads people complained that AMP pages were in fact a lot slower than the alternatives they could do, and undesirable in other ways too, and AMP didn't seem to be achieving Google's stated goals for it. Either Google has ulterior malicious motives, people posited; or perhaps is just inertially stuck enforcing something that didn't work out how they intended.

Looks like the ulterior malicious motives were it.

Some people in HN threads are inclined to attribute all sorts of malicious conspiratorial motives to facebook/amazon/apple/google that others think are without evidence and likely have other explanations or at any rate who can say; these revelations probably make many of us a bit more inclined to suspect the conspiratorial malicious explanations with or without evidence. "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you."


For instancce, here's an example of a HN thread from two years ago, on an article on "fighting back" against AMP (!), in which the top comment:

> I worked on amp for a leading newspaper, and everyone who says that amp is about "making the web faster on mobile" is either very naive or doing marketing for google.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21712733

I guess that user was... right? There's a reply disputing it, in part, although even the replyer seemed to accept that Google had ulterior motives, they just weren't willing to accept that Google would actually make the web slower and lie about it to achieve their ulterior motives...

> Of course AMP has other motives than simply making the web faster for mobile, but it also does make the web faster for mobile


I have some nontechnical friends who deeply distrusted and disliked Google. But I always believed Google’s “don’t be evil” line. I’ve learned a lesson.


I went through that same change of opinion several years ago. I now believe that Google is thoroughly evil.


It's not even the beginning of an end game. We're in midgame, at most.

10 years ago Ars Techinca published the evergreen article called "Owning the stack: The legal war to control the smartphone platform": https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/09/owning-the-stack...

At the time it explained, with great accuracy and insight, all that was happening in smartphones: all the visible and invisible wars and battles to control everything, from hardware to apps, in order to control ... well ... everything.

It didn't occur to me then, but it also explains everything that's happening on the web. It's the same damn war.

Alphabet aka Google derive 80% of their revenue from online ads. For all intents and purposes it has no other source of income. However, it still own just a very thin slice of the stack that brings in money.

So, it does all it can to take control of as much of the stack as possible:

- AMP, subsume websites and ad distribution channels.

- Chrome, subsume web standards and replace them with "if it works in Chrome, it's a standard" (web.dev serves as a propaganda machine for this, as well)

- Google Services, subsume as much of digital life as possible under a single controlling entity (AOSP is a lifeless husk, and will remain so)

and so on.

Google is very intentional


When you consider this, realize that Microsoft switching it's entire browser stack to run on Chrome's engine is likely to make business textbooks as an example of an abject folly. The new Microsoft Edge was literally a choice to hand the entire stack of the Internet over to their top competitor.


Remember when we thought Microsoft was evil, and Google was a force for good?


At the time it was arguably true. But it seems every company gets increasingly amoral at it becomes more powerful, and eventually becomes evil. I think one reason is the relentless pressure for growth by shareholders. Another is the simple fact that power corrupts.


Saying society is screwed because ads are more expensive seems like quite a stretch to me.

Looking at the NYTimes stock as an example it seems that they are doing pretty well these days (although some might argue their quality has gone down)


Just imagine, how content publishing and journalism alone would have developed, if publishers wouldn't be cut off by the advertising cartel of Google and Facebook.


Or if they would have rubbed 2 brain cells together in 2005 and actually tried to come up with an attractive web presence.

It's like the news media saw what was happening with music and napster/the internet and thought, "Glad that could never happen to us" and went right back to the printing press to fire off the next day's issue.


> Saying society is screwed because ads

Stop your sentence there and I'd agree with you


NYTimes digital revenue is mostly subscriptions. Other publishers with lesser brand names are much more beholden to Google.


In the original context I read the statement "either google is screwed or society is screwed" as referring to the lawsuit, not Google's behavior.

That is, to project some of my own opinions: If something like this is not enough to cause major consequences for a big company like google, there is little hope that anything will.


It’s not just ads - there’s a general feeling with a lot of their products and services priorities have shifted away from protecting the user.

You could find a bone to pick with any big company. It’s just clear priorities at the company have shifted from their fun growth days of just doing what’s best/right for users to optimizing for money and other KPIs - search, ads, you name it.

It’s definitely noticeable and their size/monopoly definitely has influence on society.


> (although some might argue their quality has gone down)

Isn’t that the entire thing the article argues? That journalism (real journalism, that is meant to keep those in power on the straight and narrow), suffers because not enough money goes to the actual journalists? Stock is the public’s perception of something’s value, but the actual value to society can not be measured in stocks.


Data trading for ad revenue must be regulated like finance, aviation, medicine, and power. The giants who've cheated us must be broken up to their smallest viable constituent parts, and their future interactions be through a framework of radical accountability.

Considering that more than 50%(70? 90?) of IT is 100% based on those ad revenues, sounds very reasonable, yeah. Bees against honey. All those, who cry the most about evil giants, will stand in the lines demanding to fuck off from Google the moment something will REALLY start to happen with those revenues


I am personally not against ads, I just want to have the contextual ones and not the profiling/tracking/I_must_know_everything_of_you ads.

Simple solution? Just ban any form of profiling for ads and force the whole industry to go back to contextuals.


Companies pay insane money for ads, because they bring clients who really-really will buy what they sell. That simple solution will lead to drop in the evil giant's ad profits from which it actually lives


It depends. I think, but I could be wrong, that if there is no alternative to the contextual ads the market will adapt and the price for them will not drop (a lot), compared to the old and now banned profiling ones, because these new ones would still be the best possible solution for companies which want to publicize themselves.


The amount of money you can gain from context ads is limited - you have so much space on the website and it will be forever reserved by the companies with the most money(monopolies) who will pay exactly the amount those ads bring to them, no more, no less. Non-profiled context ads reached their limit. No growth - no need for development


There are ads, and then there are privacy violating targeted ads.


Nonviolating ads have a static amount of money. All the other departments, which exist only because of ad market growth(which happens because of violating privacy and making the ads more and more effective), will not be needed anymore. No growth - no point to develop anything else.


I thought the linked Twitter thread was more informative: https://twitter.com/fasterthanlime/status/145205393819534131...


In case anyone else prefers it via Threadreader:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1452053938195341314.html


Cutting through all the commentary in the reporting, the key idea worth considering is that Google has built something very similar to a stock exchange wholly owned and operated by a trading firm that can trade on it, and that arrangement is illegal in the financial sector for a reason.


> And the court filing has claimed that AMP's primary purpose was indeed to create huge amounts of data for Google's internal use, while denying that data to other services. If true: insider trading…

Where does the insider trading come in, anyone have details?


The claims of "insider trading" appear to be in regards to their ad-bidding schemes and manipulation. Not actual public securities fraud.


Every ad that was generated by user targeting should have a tobacco style warning + link with explanation: 1) who targeted you 2) what information they have on you and 3) why/how they got it.



I see HN has followed their standard practise of "The thread must always be named for the title of the article unless we don't like it"


The deal we struck with Google for all that nice free stuff, the affordable mobile phone ecosystem, the entertaining videos etc. has proved a deal with the devil

Wow, what a bad deal! Perhaps we should just, you know, undo the deal and give back the mobile phones and entertaining videos. If it's a choice between societal collapse or land-lines and physical-media-driven home theater, is that even a choice?


I really missed the days when Yahoo! was the first choice search engine, the results were hand picked by human, limited but really relevant. Then came google, the results were much richer but relatively inferior, however still acceptable. Years later, Gmail was out and I immediately expressed my interest and got invitation directly from Google. Unfortunately, Gmail did not workout for me. From the very first day, I started receiving spams. Note that it's a new id which I never used anywhere. Then I asked for the function to reject particular senders, and the responses I got were always something like "our spam filters are good enough, blah blah blah". Wasn't feel confident with that, so Gmail was never my primary email. I felt not quite right with Google since then, but not quite sure what was wrong until recent a couple of years. Googles' recent moves such as trying to blend in Ads with search results, trying to block Chrome API access for Ad blockers' etc. made it clear that it's almost if not already time to ditch Google. The only thing I cannot find a substitute is the search engine, the others are simply not good enough.


From what I've read about them, and how they are now, I highly doubt a future with yahoo would be an improvement.

They actually have quite an interesting history. From what I can remember, they refused to brand themselves as a tech company to avoid Microsofts wrath (Microsoft of course used to be a lot more aggressive with competition than we see today) and subsequently failed to attract the best engineers.


Let's call Google a publisher because it is and make it responsible for the content of every AMP page.


So this is just a rehash of same court document few days ago?


I don't like a lot of things that Google does, but it might be worth noting that trying to circumvent government regulations is not automatically evil. Government regulations are not automatically good.


Do not use software that you cannot self host.


Except Google and Microsoft have screwed up email so that self hosting is a never-ending game of 'who will they block today?'

You can't run a business where the 2 companies that control the vast majority of email can block you for no reason, and absolutely no visibility that something is wrong until a customer directly contacts you that they are not receiving email (and how would they even know in most cases unless they knew a message should have come through?)

Google was blocking signup emails to me from the 2nd largest telecommunications company in Australia at the time, and I ended up having to use my work address.


This is overly simplistic. Frequently you get blocked because your IP block legitimately has a lot of people with poor computer hygiene who are a source of large amounts of spam which puts your IP on a reputation blocklist.

There are legitimate and valid reasons for Google or Microsoft to be taking the actions that they do because email is an extremely hostile environment. Blaming them for that environment is silly. You may be a good actor but you are in a sea of really bad actors and it's non-trivial to figure out that you aren't one of those bad actors.


It goes beyond self hosting and IP blocks, because even if you use a large email provider other than Google or Microsoft, Google will quite happily block you too.

So far as I can surmise: I got a ban from Google, that lasted a month because I sent a mail to a contact that contained the text of an advert I wished to complain about. During that time I could send mail to my own Google account but to nobody else's.

If Google or Microsoft want to be blameless, they will have to do a lot better than send this with no means to object:

"Our system has detected that this 550-5.7.1 message is likely suspicious due to the very low reputation of the 550-5.7.1 sending domain. To best protect our users from spam, the message has 550-5.7.1 been blocked. Please visit 550 5.7.1 https://support.google.com/mail/answer/188131"

Email should be decentralised in future, as federated answering machines with pre-exchanged and allowlisted addresses.

The concept has become totally unworkable for unsolicited mails.


I'm not sure it's feasible to do better than that. They clearly call out the reason there. The domain has a poor reputation. The sheer amount of manual labor to field questions for every good actor who unfortunately is caught in the blast radius of other bad actors is an unworkable business model.

This isn't Googles fault. It's baked into how email works when combined with Eternal September. Blaming them is like blaming the Weather Channel for bad weather. They are just the messenger. Google has it's fair share of suspect activities but this isn't one them.


The domain is a major email provider, protonmail. They can read the contents and they already have the option to put it in a spam folder if it so heinous. They could very easily elaborate whether it is the domain, my address or the content of a previous message that has resulted in the block, but no.

They could simply do that instead of subtly encouraging me to use their email service, it is entirely their fault.


I self host email and really only have this issue with hotmail users.

IMO: email forms should reject addresses from hotmail domains since the mail probably won't get delivered anyway.


If you have the right kind of business, you can tell your customers that it's Google and Microsoft's fault (“they want to keep people on Gmail so they keep blocking everyone else”) and suggest using another email address “while you get it sorted” – they might just do that.

Of course, that is risking significant amounts of money out of your own pocket just for a stupid nerd turf war…https://xkcd.com/743/


Tried that before, doesn't matter. Customers say "my address works for everyone but you, it must be your problem. I'm not getting another address just for this, I'll use <competitor that works>."


Unfortunately that is very impractical. And way too broad of a measure. There are plenty of cloud-based services that have a business model that is based on providing that service and not on selling ads.


I found this rule more practical (and I hold to it):

Do not rely on software you cannot self host or holds your data hostage in a proprietary format. Data export must be a supported feature.


Isn't data export a requirement for GDPR compliance? Many apps have this feature (exporting my data) and I usually take advantage of it.


The data does not have to be easely portable though, right?

I.e. they can send human readable data that can't be directly translated back to its original form.


no, it must be computer readable. you cant print and mail your data export.

  When the processing is based on consent or a contract, the individual can also ask for you to return their personal data to them or transmit it to another company. This is known as the right to data portability. You should provide the data in a commonly used and machine-readable format.
https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/dealing-with-customers...


Yep, see this classic HN thread on Spotify and SongShift: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24764371


Oh nice!


Google Takeout exports MBOX files for Gmail. I don't know how well they follow conventions supported by other MBOX-supporting tools though.


One caveat with any online service is data export could be modified or removed in a future (forced) update with no practical recourse.


You mean like this site?


Well done, Mr Gotcha.

https://thenib.com/mister-gotcha/


Haha. Fair. I do have a “gotcha” streak in me.

But I also wanted to point out that you can’t boycott all software that is not self-hosted.


Seems particularly irrelevant to this thread.


Can you host your own web search? (Or can you function without a web search?)

Can you host your own auction platform for everything?

News aggregator? Global GIS with updates?


>>Can you host your own web search? (Or can you function without a web search?)

Yes [1]

[1]https://yacy.net/

>>Can you host your own auction platform for everything?

Seems odd to call this out, you must you ebay alot. I dont think I have every bought anything from ebay, i always found the "auction" format off putting, I prefer normal eCommerce. And there are PLENTY of self hosting eCommerce platforms, I am sure a few of them have a action function

>>News aggregator?

Yes, plent of those exist, I never use google for news, though I do not self host my own either but I could. Today I use Feedly alot, but I have run RSS readers, and other news aggregators in the past

>>Global GIS with updates?

Self Hosting does not mean you cut yourself off from the world of data, OpenStreetMap and other such service crowdsource data that you can then ingest into your selfhosted service. So yes I believe you can do this


You absolutely can host all of OpenStreetMap yourself, and plenty of people do. https://switch2osm.org/ has instructions on how to get it into a (queryable) Postgres database and serve maps from there, but there are many other possible workflows.


Shoshana Zuboff's book "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism" [1] at times glances over some important technicalities but its eloboration on the social impact and consequences I found to be spot on.

Here an excerpt from Chapter 3 "IV. The Discovery of Behavioral Surplus":

"[...]Google would no longer be a passive recipient of accidental data that it could recycle for the benefit of its users. The targeted advertising patent sheds light on the path of discovery that Google traveled from its advocacy-oriented founding toward the elaboration of behavioral surveillance as a full-blown logic of accumulation. The invention itself exposes the reasoning through which the behavioral value reinvestment cycle was subjugated to the service of a new commercial calculation. Behavioral data, whose value had previously been “used up” on improving the quality of Search for users, now became the pivotal—and exclusive to Google—raw material for the construction of a dynamic online advertising marketplace. Google would now secure more behavioral data than it needed to serve its users. That surplus, a behavioral surplus, was the game-changing, zero-cost asset that was diverted from service improvement toward a genuine and highly lucrative market exchange. These capabilities were and remain inscrutable to all but an exclusive data priesthood among whom Google is the übermensch. They operate in obscurity, indifferent to social norms or individual claims to self-determining decision rights. These moves established the foundational mechanisms of surveillance capitalism. The state of exception declared by Google’s founders transformed the youthful Dr. Jekyll into a ruthless, muscular Mr. Hyde determined to hunt his prey anywhere, anytime, irrespective of others’ self-determining aims. The new Google ignored claims to self-determination and acknowledged no a priori limits on what it could find and take. It dismissed the moral and legal content of individual decision rights and recast the situation as one of technological opportunism and unilateral power. This new Google assures its actual customers that it will do whatever it takes to transform the natural obscurity of human desire into scientific fact. This Google is the superpower that establishes its own values and pursues its own purposes above and beyond the social contracts to which others are bound."

[1] https://www.worldcat.org/title/age-of-surveillance-capitalis...




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