Can you think of a business model where the business sources raw material from someone, completely free of cost, but sells the final product at a premium?
Well, it does exist with social platforms businesses. The likes of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. These businesses source free content from you. Additionally, they also surveil you for metadata, i.e., data about your behavior. Then sell this to business users and advertisers at a premium price to earn billions in revenue. What do you get? Free email? Is it worth it? I previously wrote about this, explaining why it is a crooked deal.
When someone has your (personal) data, and data about you (behavioral metadata), they ultimately gain the power to control your behavior. Online manipulation has been the ultimate business for these platform companies lately. Whether influencing your buying decisions or influencing your voting decisions, they are doing it all!
When someone has your (personal) data, and data about you (behavioral metadata), they ultimately gain the power to control your behavior.
Moreover, for many businesses, Google's practices work against them. In 2017, Adrianne Jeffries wrote an article, "How Google eats a business whole." The article explains how Google's featured snippets feature systematically killed CelebrityNetWorth.com business.
Google, other social media, and platform businesses have evolved from merely being aggregators to gatekeepers. Being aggregator is one thing, but gatekeeper? It calls for significant responsibility and ethical behavior. Unfortunately, these businesses have poor scores in this very important subject.
A few days ago, Google published an open letter to all Australians, circa 90% of its content was either misinformation or selective statements.
The letter contained exaggerations and unfounded statements such as, "Your Search data may be at risk," which isn't the case. Personalization of searches is anyway serving as an echo chamber and is far from being impartial. The letter also makes a huge (pompous) assumption: "you trust us with your data..."
Moreover, calling its services as free is another such misinformation statement. Google uses our data to monetize and, in turn, gives us the tools to generate that data. Google search and YouTube are provided to users to generate user metadata, which Google sells to advertisers. How does that count to be free? If your employer gives you a laptop to do your work, can they say they are giving you the laptop for free?
In fact, in Google's and many other's cases, you and I are free labor!
This open letter also did not provide any links to the bill it referred to; however, it did have a few links to some pieces, particularly favorable ones. When Google says, "We already pay them millions of dollars and send them billions of free clicks every year," it would appear that they are doing a great charity on their part. But that is not the case at all! They crawl for that news and show them to users to attract more metadata. What is the problem with paying a fair price?
If Google does not want to pay for what it uses (news), stop using news. Anyway, both Google and Facebook have said that news is only about 1% of their content. Then why so much fuss.
In Google's and many other's cases, you and I are free labor!
A lot of you (including me) feel that current mainstream media is not worthy anyway. But that is hardly a question here. Just because mainstream media is not worthy does not mean someone else (who is also equally unworthy) takes over. It is not Google or mainstream media; it is both who need to get their acts together.
In Google's case, as a business, they might want to do whatever it takes to stay afloat and do a viable business. However, it has to be within ethical and legal boundaries. That's the crux of the matter here.
Unfortunately, the current behavior is nothing less than like a bully who is adamantly pushing forward, suggesting that what they say is right. The fact that any organization with high ethical capacity will have a competitive edge in the future goes against such behavior.
Any organization with high ethical capacity will have a competitive edge in the future.
On a side note, you will find it interesting that "Google, Facebook make billions in Australian sales but pay less than $40m in tax." So much for contributing to the economy and country! And it is not only within Australia but for the rest of the world too. Read more on how "Google shifted $23 billion to tax haven Bermuda in 2017: filing."
It is hard to tell whether news-media is right or ACCC is right or Google - all have some good points to ponder. Everyone shows their best when times are favorable. The real character is revealed under pressure and tough time - which is now. If any of these organizations do not show good character, high ethical standards, and do the right thing, people will know.
Their product may be great, but poor ethics ruins it. Google has used its internet power to misinform people and heighten emotions to gain sympathy. People often use your ignorance to sell you something, and they would cross the line if they can.
It is not only our responsibility but also important for our sanity and sovereign life that we remain in control of our own decisions. With the proliferation of data and information, it is hard enough to decide, and it will keep getting harder in the coming years. We must learn to see things for what they are!
Perhaps, many entrepreneurs would take a cue from what is going on right now. It might be a good time to start Australia's own search engine that does not exploit. Not just search engines but also other social media, which has enormous potential to disrupt the economy and social fabric. After all, digital sovereignty is as important as national.
By the way, Google's Chrome is not the only browser, and Google is not the only search engine in the market. There are other equally good search engines and equally good browsers to choose from. Trying them won't hurt. At least you will know the difference and see what is missing or not missing.
There are close to one million employees working in these platform companies, whereas billions of users are affected by what they do. Google once had a motto, "Don't be evil." But now, we, as users, have enormous power to show them what it takes to be considerate and not evil!
It all starts with becoming aware and seeing things for what they really are!
People often use your ignorance to sell you something, and they would cross the line if they can.