Former FTC Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour, now corporate lawyer for Microsoft (among other clients), wrote this op-ed that appeared in yesterday’s New York Times:
Google is not just a “search engine company,” or an “online services company,” or a publisher, or an advertising platform. At its core, it’s a data collection company.
Its “market” is data by, from and about consumers — you, that is. And in that realm, its role is so dominant as to be overwhelming, and scary. Data is the engine of online markets and has become, indeed, a new asset class.
I’ve been concerned about Google’s dominant role in data collection — and the profound privacy concerns it raises — since my time at the F.T.C. When the commission approved Google’s 2007 acquisition of DoubleClick, I dissented — because I was concerned that combining the two companies’ vast troves of consumer information would allow Google, which was largely unchecked by competition, to develop invasive profiles of individuals’ Internet habits.
How dominant is Google?
In March, when Google replaced the more than 60 privacy guidelines that governed its products and services with a single policy, it also moved to consolidate the personal data it collects. The company creates as much data in two days — roughly 5 exabytes — as the world produced from the dawn of humanity until 2003, according to a 2010 statement by Eric Schmidt, the company’s chairman, who later declared that he didn’t “believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable, and recorded by everyone all the time.”
In my own web analytics, referrals from Google search outnumber those from Bing and Yahoo combined by about 20-1, typically. Those are Microsoft-in-the-1990s market shares.