Google Inc. is an American-based international Internet and software company that specializes in Internet search, advertising and cloud computing. It was established by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1998, and since then, Google has grown to be the world’s leading search company with its innovative search technologies enabling millions of people throughout the world to share information daily. Google’s mission is to organize global information and make it accessible and useful throughout the world. Its key stakeholders include Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and its employees. Google’s core business includes Google search, advertising and apps.The company’s web search engine, Google Search, is the most popular search engine throughout the United States with a market share of 65.6%. Google obtains 99% of its revenues from advertising with $10.492 billion recorded in 2006 and $21.8 billion in 2008.
Despite Google’s success in the Internet search and advertising business, the company has faced sharp criticisms in the recent past over numerous issues, which include manipulation and the misuse of search results, the company’s use of the intellectual property of other companies, concerns over its data compilation, which is viewed as a violation of people’s privacy, the censorship of search content and results, as well as concerns over monopoly and antitrust issues. This paper discusses Google’s copyright and privacy issues with a specific focus on the company’s privacy problems and appropriate solutions to them. Ambitious plan by Google to scan and avail millions of books to its customers via its specialsearch engine has faced sharp criticism for copyright violations. For instance, the China Written Works Copyright Society, an organization that protects the copyright of Chinese writers accused the company of scanning more than 18,000 books that were written by a total of 570 Chinese writers for the company’s library in November 2009, including Google Books without their consent. On November 20, the same year, Google agreed to present a list of Chinese books that it had scanned; nonetheless, it refused to admit infringing copyright laws.
Google Inc. is an American-based international Internet and software company that specializes in Internet search, advertising and cloud computing. It was established by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1998, and since then, Google has grown to be the world’s leading search company with its innovative search technologies enabling millions of people throughout the world to share information daily (Hayes, and Bodhani 33-39). The company has its headquarters in Silicon Valley with its offices located all over America, Asia and Europe. Google’s mission is to organize global information and make it accessible and useful throughout the world. Its vision is to develop a flawless search engine (Hayes, and Bodhani 33-39). Google’s core values include creating an atmosphere, where employees can grow and flourish, valuing people’s ideas and diversity, building the best technology in the world, having fun while working at Google, and being actively involved and committed to Google as its representative. The company also values honesty and integrity, but shuns arrogance and evil deeds; it also encourages earning users’ and customers’ respect and loyalty, which are achieved via creating and maintaining quality products and services (Hayes, and Bodhani 33-39). Other values of Google include supporting the society, where it lives and works, and changing and improving the world. The company has numerous key stakeholders, which include Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and its employees (Hayes, and Bodhani 33-39).
Google’s core business includes Google Search, advertising and apps (Kurtz 29-30).The company’s web search engine, Google Search, is the most popular search engine throughout the United States with a market share of 65.6%. The company indexes numerous web pages to enable its clients to search for any information they need via the use of keywords and operators (Kurtz 29-30). Google search has extended its scope to searching images, i.e. Google Maps. Though the company launched Google Video in 2006 to enable users search, watch and upload videos online, it discontinued the service to concentrate on its search aspect (Kurtz 29-30). Advertising programs of Google offer businesses of all sizes with quantifiable outcomes, while improving the general web experience of users.
According to Vise (1), Google obtains 99% of its revenues from advertising. For instance, in 2006, the company made revenue worth $10.492 billion, as opposed to just $112 million from other sources, such as licensing (Moyer, McGuigan and Kretlow 100). Google’s advertising revenue rose significantly to $21.8 billion in 2008. Google ads can be put on websites of third parties using a two-part program, Google AdWords and Google AdSense. The AdWords program permits advertisers to exhibit their advertisements within the Google content network via two schemes: cost per view or cost per click (Moyer et al. 100). Google AdSense, a sister service to Google AdWords, permits website owners to display ads on their websites and make money each time advertisements are clicked. In an effort to advertise its products Google launched Demo Slam, a website developed to display technology demonstrations of Google products (Moyer et al. 100). Demo Slam offers an opportunity for creative people to showcase the greatest and newest technology to the world.
However, despite Google’s success in the Internet search and advertising business, the company has faced sharp criticism in the recent past over numerous issues, which include manipulation and the misuse of search results, the company’s use of the intellectual property of other companies, concerns over its data compilation, which is viewed as a violation of people’s privacy, the censorship of search content and results as well as concerns over monopoly and antitrust issues (Kang 1). This paper looks at the current tactical and strategic problems facing the management team of Google, including a detailed discussion of one of the problems and appropriate solutions to it.
The ambitious plans by Google to scan and avail millions of books to its customers via its search engine have faced sharp criticism for copyright violations. For instance, in 2005, a group of authors calling themselves the Authors Guild which represents around 8,000 authors from the United States filed a lawsuit in the Manhattan federal court against Google with regards to its unlawful copying and scanning books via the Google Library program (Pohl 1-2). In response, Google stated that the company was only showing the snippet view of books, for which they had no authorization from owners, and therefore, their action was fair and in agreement with all available provisions of copyright laws on books. The company postponed scanning copyrighted works in the short term to permit modifications of its program, as well as to let copyright owners present them with a list of books that they wanted to be excluded (Pohl 1-2). Negotiations between Google and the Authors Guild began in 2006 with the hope of resolving the lawsuit. In October 2008, the company made an announcement regarding a suggested agreement between them and the Authors Guild, in which Google was to pay the Authors Guild $125 million as a settlement of the lawsuit (Pohl 1-2). The concurrence also consisted of licensing provisions, which permitted Google to sell both institutional and personal subscriptions to its books database. In November 2009, the Authors Guild filed a modified settlement agreement following filing a brief by the United States Department of Justice, which suggested that the original agreement was likely to violate American antitrust laws.
After a fairness hearing carried out in February 2011, a ruling, issued on March 22, 2011 by Judge Denny Chin, rejected the settlement. He recommended that the settlement be modified from opt-out to opt-in; he also set the date for a status conference, when the subsequent steps concerning the case were to be discussed (Pohl 1-2). By September 2011, the discussions were still going. In addition, the briefing and discovery schedule intended to bring the case to a hearing in 2012 was also established, in case an agreement had been not attained before then -(Pohl 1-2).
In a similar incident, Mian Mian, a Chinese writer, filed a lawsuit against Google in 2009 for scanning her whole novel without offering her any payment for a copyright permission, or even notifying her. In addition, the China Written Works Copyright Society, an organization that protects the copyrights of Chinese writers accused Google of scanning more than 18,000 books written by 570 Chinese writers for the company’s library Google Books without their consent in November 2009. On November 20, the same year, Google agreed to present a list of Chinese books that it had scanned; nonetheless, it refused to admit infringing copyright laws.
Potential avenues for data disclosure
In June 2011, an attack on Google by China led to stealing thousands of passwords of individual Gmail accounts of senior American government officials. With those email addresses and passwords, attackers were capable of giving access to those officials to other Google areas, such as Docs, Apps etc. They could also access other systems, where the same pair of username and password was used (Pike 1-35).
Google, like many other search engines, puts a cookie on the computer of a registered user to track the search history of a person (Pike 1-35). Google utilizes cookies to provide other search features, and sustain preferences of the user between sessions. Initially, the set expiry date of a cookie was 2038, though users could delete it manually. Beginning from 2007, the expiry of Google cookies was in two years, but it renewed itself every time a Google service was utilized. In the past, Google anonymized its IP data to expire after nine months, and cookies after eighteen months (Pike 1-35). Though no evidence is available to prove that Google shares people’s data that they store with the government and law enforcement agencies, some users are worried of the possibility of their personal information being shared.
It has been suspected that Google collects and accumulates information of Internet users via various tools, such as Google Analytics, Google APIs and Google Web Fonts. This permits the company to make out a person’s route via the Internet by storing the company’s IP on every site. Connected to other data that are availed via Google APIs, Google is capable of providing a fairly entire web user profile, which is linked to an IP address. Such types of data are valuable for marketing agencies, including Google itself, which can utilize such information to enhance the effectiveness of its marketing activities (Pike 1-35). This research focuses on only one of the above problems: privacy issues of Google.
Google’s privacy issues
According to Newman (1), there are two sides of the controversial Google’s policies, i.e. the cultural side and the business side. The cultural side is about whether Google has violated too much of its users’ privacy, while the business side concerns whether Google’s monopoly is a threat in the market. To Newman, there is no difference between the above issues. In fact, he thinks that both Page and Brin did not take less care of rifling through the personal lives of people, when they created Google; to them the new policy was just part of their business. Since the business model of Google is founded on obliterating the privacy of users as much as possible, Newman (1) suggests that solving the privacy problem of Google will solve the company’s antitrust problem to a large extent.
According to Reed (1), the controversial new privacy policies of Google have not stopped the company from being a leader in the American search market. However, according to a recent survey conducted by the American Life Project and the Pew Internet, the new privacy policies have caused some trepidation. For instance, 65% of users, who had been surveyed, stated that they would ‘‘not be okay’’ using a search engine that used their searches to provide more customized search results. Likewise, 68% of respondents said that they were ‘‘not okay’’ with advertising, and with their information gathered from tracking search results. With all criticism and concerns raised above, it is evident that Google’s new privacy policies have created fears, mistrust and doubts among users of company’s services. This is a problem that the company needs to deal with urgently, if it does not want to loose its customers to its competitors, namely Yahoo, Facebook etc.