Less Government Regulation Series: Google (Nov. 30, 2009)

“Nine years ago, you purchased the book ‘Privacy Issues Today.’  Another critically-acclaimed work purchased by others who purchased this book is available for only $29.95.  Just click below and we will bill the credit card on file.”

A courtesy or a curse?  This solicitation may not be from Google, yet the same problem with privacy is lurking.  You can drive to the store, purchase a pickle, pay with cash and leave only your image on the closed circuit cameras in the store and perhaps in the parking lot.  If you pay with a credit card and/or provide a customer identification number, there is an electronic fingerprint.  However, those records typically are static and rarely mined for information.

In response to a typical search request, you might be informed:

“Did you mean: (one of our advertisers)”  (Note:  Not all of the top responses are advertisers.)

A person today cannot not use Google.  Google cannot not make a record of the search history.  Google is collecting far more information than any public or private entity should be allowed to collect, retain, sell and inevitably manipulate.  The computer motherboard has become the new Big Brother.

Possible copyright violations by Google can be and are being challenged publicly.  By contrast, invasions of privacy are usually done privately and are far more elusive to detect and remedy.

In economics, a “natural monopoly” occurs when, because of the economies of scale of a particular industry, the maximum efficiency of production and distribution is realized through a single supplier.  In some cases inefficiency may occur.  The electric utility is a prototypical “natural monopoly.”  The usual market does not support two entities providing electricity in one market.  Thus one entity is allowed to operate a monopoly subject to government regulation.  Google has emerged as a natural monopoly.  Or perhaps a traditional monopoly.

Government regulation should be eschewed, they say.  They are correct.  Government regulation on a good day is often bad.  It is time for a serious debate on the need to regulate Google.

Before it is too late.  Although it may be too late.

Bumper sticker of the week:

In mathematical terms, a google is 100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000;

In privacy terms, a Google is 1984.

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