February 29, 2012

Taking Google Bashing a bit too far

We have just made the greatest sacrifice people in the Brussels-EU-machinery can imagine: We walked out on a free lunch.

This is the story...

ICOMP (Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace) organized a luncheon seminar entitled "Data Protection and profiling – How 'big data' is used to create your online identity". Which pretty much sounds like something Pirate party representatives should attend.

However, already when we received the seminar documents at the entrance – we realized that this really was something else: A Microsoft-funded Google Bashing lunch.

Google Bashing is a very popular sport in the EU, these days.

First, let me make one thing clear: Yes, there is a problem with sweeping privacy policies, which most users accept just as a pure routine. It is an issue that deserves a serious discussion.

However, privacy is not what Google Bashing in Brussels is about. Here it is rather a question of a number of Google's competitors trying to whip up political criticism, for business reasons. They simply don't like that Google more or less own the search market.

By the way, these Google competitors shouldn't be talking. When it comes to privacy and exploiting dominant market positions, well, they are not as white as snow themselves.

And if your agenda is, shall we say, a little soiled – then maybe you should try to use a somewhat delicate approach?

But, no.

ICOMP's seminar began with one of Microsoft's lawyers, Pamela Jones Harbour from the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP speaking about everything that Google does wrong, everything Google is accused of doing wrong, and every kind of wrong Google could conceivably consider. Even their future unknown actions were plain and simply wrong.


It all felt tawdry and incredibly biased – moreover the sender might not be the most credible, in particular not when it comes to whining about competitors' market share.

(By the way. What lobbying firms arrange this kind of events? It may be that they think that EU policy makers are stupid, easily led cattle. However, showing it in such a blatant way, feels, well a tad rude.)

At the Pirate's bench, we soon reached boiling point. Finally, the party's founder Rick Falkvinge (who has been visiting us here in Brussels) had reached his limits, got up and marched out of the room - along with Pirate MEP Christian Engström and the rest of us.

A flustered and gesticulating lawyer from ICOMP followed us.

Kind 'a bad mood. But a demonstration that was in place. ;-)

Again, this blog post is not about Google or it's policies.

Here I would rather point to how big companies use politicians as a tool to eliminate competition and stop their more successful competitors. How lobbyists are wasting the MEP's (and their staff's) time by inviting to supposedly interesting seminars, that turn out to be almost hate sessions against competitors. And how rigged most of the seminars and conferences here in Brussels actually are.

And one more thing. Whether the criticism of Google is justified or not – it leads us away from a bigger and more important privacy issue: The role of the state - that is, the EU and the Member States play in the surveillance of citizens.

Related: The Economist and Falkvinge

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