Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

7/2/2010
01:22 PM
Rob Enderle
Rob Enderle
Commentary
50%
50%

Is Google Stealing Our Digital Freedom?

With the Fourth Of July here, it's a good time to focus on freedom. It seems that often when new technology and new ways of getting revenue advance in an industry, those who don't understand that technology are exploited by those who do. Google's model seems to increasingly fit this mold, and the example it is setting is driving others down the same path.

With the Fourth Of July here, it's a good time to focus on freedom. It seems that often when new technology and new ways of getting revenue advance in an industry, those who don't understand that technology are exploited by those who do. Google's model seems to increasingly fit this mold, and the example it is setting is driving others down the same path.Now while I continue to talk about Google, it is because it is the leading user of the advertising revenue model and because it is the leader in search, which makes that model dangerous. It is far from the only company doing this, however, it is the company that is driving the behavior.

Google's financial model has bothered me for a long time, primarily because 97 percent of its money comes from advertising revenue yet it behaves as if it were a product company. This advertising revenue comes from selling eyeballs and the information that defines people on the Web, our virtual selves, to advertisers. The profit, which is impressively large, is the difference between the cost of the services it provides and the value of the information it is trading us for.

We go along with this largely because we both don't realize the value of what it is we are trading. And even if we did and still wanted to sell it, we have no way to actually consummate that deal.

But what if this information is captured while we are at work? Many of us have likely signed employment agreements that grant the rights to things we create to our companies. But Google appears to derive value from the information created while we use its services and, just like it doesn't compensate us for that value monetarily, it doesn't do that for our employers, either. If our employer uses a Google product, then it may pay a fee but likely doesn't account for the information value Google is pulling out of the firm. This would be like having a home-cleaning service that was aggressively priced but made up for it by taking things you probably wouldn't miss and then reselling them.

Now if there were a firm that specialized in the resale of stolen intellectual property, and it came to your company offering a free janitorial service, you'd likely chase them away with the equivalent of pitchforks. Even if they simply resold intellectual property but made no distinction on whether it was legitimately or illegitimately acquired, you would put out the garlic and keep it away from your door.

Google appears to make no distinction between the legal and illegal use of information except when it comes to its own information or information surrounding its executives. With that information, Google is highly protective. But Google has gotten into trouble repeatedly for providing information that countries and individuals felt was not its to provide. Back when CNET tried to point this out in Google's early years, instead of addressing the problem, Google blacklisted CNET.

The company's goal is to index and provide access to the world's information, regardless of ownership rights or laws. What's the difference between someone who sells stolen property and a legitimate store selling the same thing? A disregard for who owns the property and the local laws. Google has repeatedly shown both.

I really don't like the free model because I see it as a confidence game. What you are actually paying isn't disclosed, so you blindly think you aren't paying anything -- and that is the con. With Google and other "free" products and services, there is a cost. In all cases, the firm should be in full agreement with that cost and the ramifications of it before using the "free" or cheaper offering.

For security, any company that seems to show a disregard for laws and ownership rights should be looked at it for what it is. And what it's not -- a vendor that is protecting your, or your company's, rights and freedoms.

Freedom may be just a word, but many died to protect ours. Perhaps we shouldn't give it up with the false promise of "free stuff."

-- Rob Enderle is president and founder of Enderle Group. Special to Dark Reading.

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/10/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Lock-Pickers Face an Uncertain Future Online
Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  8/10/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: They said you could use Zoom anywhere.......
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-14483
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
A timeout during a TLS handshake can result in the connection failing to terminate. This can result in a Niagara thread hanging and requires a manual restart of Niagara (Versions 4.6.96.28, 4.7.109.20, 4.7.110.32, 4.8.0.110) and Niagara Enterprise Security (Versions 2.4.31, 2.4.45, 4.8.0.35) to corr...
CVE-2020-11733
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
An issue was discovered on Spirent TestCenter and Avalanche appliance admin interface firmware. An attacker, who already has access to an SSH restricted shell, can achieve root access via shell metacharacters. The attacker can then, for example, read sensitive files such as appliance admin configura...
CVE-2020-13281
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
For GitLab before 13.0.12, 13.1.6, 13.2.3 a denial of service exists in the project import feature
CVE-2020-13286
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
For GitLab before 13.0.12, 13.1.6, 13.2.3 user controlled git configuration settings can be modified to result in Server Side Request Forgery.
CVE-2020-15925
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
A SQL injection vulnerability at a tpf URI in Loway QueueMetrics before 19.10.21 allows remote authenticated attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the TPF_XPAR1 parameter.