The European Parliament is asking to “unbundling search engines from other commercial services”, issuing a message as in the ‘Free Willy’ movie, or any other cause you may be for 🙂
The Economist has done its first page article around it: ‘Should governments break up digital monopolies?’, Nov. 29th. 2014. Is this issue so important? Yes, I believe so. The Economist’ writer dismiss this issue arguing that lately any dominant company has not kept its position for too long. He mentions on this particular issue that technology is shifting again, and browsing is not as relevant as it was, as everybody is going mobile and using more apps than browsing than before. He also says the main interest of the EU for him is more to protect the European companies than for the benefit of the consumer, because the consumer is offered a better service with the attachment of additional functionnalities to the result of searches.
Giving people flight details, dictionary definitions or a map right away saves them time. And while advertisers often pay hefty rates for clicks, users get Google’s service for nothing—rather as plumbers and florists fork out to be listed in Yellow Pages which are given to readers gratis, and nightclubs charge men steep entry prices but let women in free.
Even though as consumers we may be happy having those additional features, I don’t fully agree: I still believe it is very important to ensure a correct result to a search or as much as it can be, at least not too obviously biased. And for sure I don’t want to leave in the hands of a few (managers of Google for instance) to decide what is shown to the majority of us as a result of a search, how to prone between the choices, how to direct our attention to only their friend’s interests (on products or on views).
On the other hand, we may have a bigger impact on educating the user: what is he receiving from a search result may be biased because of the business model or the intertwined interests of the search engine providing the answers. Because technology is moving very fast, for when a resolution of this type is issued, the manipulative aspect of marketing may have moved to another place.
For the other aspect, the collection of all the user’s data and its privacy, the issue is becoming urgent, the whole world would benefit from a just and feasable way to deal with it:
The good reason for worrying about the internet giants is privacy. It is right to limit the ability of Google and Facebook to use personal data: their services should, for instance, come with default settings guarding privacy, so companies gathering personal information have to ask consumers to opt in. Europe’s politicians have shown more interest in this than American ones.