The New Yorker this week has an interesting piece by the prolific Ken Auletta about Google’s growing efforts to fend off attacks from anti-corporate lobbyist groups and legislators (some of whom see the Internet as a “series of tubes“).
This ties closely to the net neutrality debate, which asks whether telcos, as owners of the “tubes,” have the right to give preferential treatment to different sources of traffic (essentially killing what has traditionally been an innovation-friendly level playing field). But most of the anti-Google sentiment brewing in D.C. focuses on privacy concerns over its ad targeting.
It seems privacy advocates fail to realize, however, that Google’s targeting methods don’t produce data that are read by humans or used for any kind of spying. Google has too much on the line with its core PPC business to ruin everything by using cookie data for some “black hat” purpose. Indeed, the latter would be far less opportune than the welcomed (and quite lucrative) service it already provides.
To that point, I think there is also a failure to realize, as pointed out by Auletta, that Google ad targeting is viewed as valuable content in most cases by searchers. Meanwhile, businesses appreciate the targeted and more cost-efficient advertising opportunities. So all (most) parties involved are happy (except traditional media and ad agencies displaced by Google’s success).
So it would seem that this consumer advocacy lobbying isn’t even representing the true sentiments of its constituents. And for this reason these groups will probably end up crying themselves to sleep on this one. I’m all for consumer advocacy, but in this case challengers seem largely uninformed and driven instead by an irrational disdain (or fear).
Regardless of where you stand on these issues, it’s an engaging article (and in true New Yorker style, a bit long). Auletta also does a nice job outlining the corporate history of Google, some of its mobile efforts, as well as the often mentioned but seldom dissected ethos of its young founders.
Read it online here, or pick up the print magazine; it’s a great way to make 45 minutes go by quickly at the gym.