Google Lambasted For Building ‘Digital Superstate’

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

A German media boss accuses Google of building a digital superstate and operating a global network monopoly

Google has been heavily criticised in an extraordinary open letter by a German newspaper tycoon.

The letter, in the Frankfurter daily Allgemeine Zeitung, came from Mathias Dopfner, the CEO of Axel Springer, the publishing house behind many of Europe’s best-selling magazines and newspapers, including Die Welt.

Electronic Superstate

Dopfner accused Google of creating an “electronic superstate”, as well as operating a protection racket and a ‘global network monopoly‘ in the digital market. He also said that his publishing house is “totally dependent” on Google and they operate in a climate of fear (of Google).

“The discussion about the power of Google is not a conspiracy theory of diehards,” Dopfner wrote to Google chairman Eric Schmidt. His comments have been – ironically – translated by a Google translation service.

Dopfner complained that Google now occupies a leading role in nearly all areas of “our professional and private everyday life,” including the home, car, healthcare, and robotics. “This is a huge opportunity and an equally great threat,” wrote Dopfner. “The power of Google concerns the economic and political competition. It affects our values, our humanity and our society and the world – from our perspective – especially the future of Europe.”

He said that Google’s “global network monopoly” is neither transparent or fair when dealing with competitors. Dopfner also lamented that the European Commission is not up to the job of handling the problem posed by Google.

“We – and many others – are dependent on Google, we are afraid of Google” wrote Dopfner. He said that because of Google’s algorithms, as well as the fact that the entire Internet advertising market depends on Google, means that companies operate in a climate of fear about Google.

“I have to say so clearly and honestly, because hardly one of my colleagues dares to do so publicly,” wrote Dopfner.

titan drone facebookPrivacy Threat?

Dopfner is also concerned about Google’s recent acquisition of drone manufacturer Titanium Aerospace, and questioned Google’s reasoning behind the deal.

It should be noted that Google has in the past denied reports that it was experimenting with spy drones or UAVs, and it was only last year when Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt warned that drones operated by members of the public posed a privacy and security risk.

Dopfner meanwhile accused Google’s founders, including major shareholder Larry Page of “dreaming of a place with no privacy laws and without democratic accountability.”

Dopfner sarcastically added that the supranational entity Google that is set to become, “they will only do good, of course, and ‘won’t do evil’”. He also denied his comments were part of a “Luddite conspiracy theory”.

“To criticise Google is not to criticise the Internet,” he wrote. “Those who are interested in a flawlessly functioning internet have to criticise Google. For us as a publishing house the internet is not a threat but one of the greatest chances in recent decades.”

Google has so far yet to respond to Dopfner’s comments.

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