30 October 2010

Google Will Track You - Whether You Want It or Not

More for the world of Google wanting to have all the information about you whether you want it or not.

Google is going to track you no matter whether you want to allow it or not. Google has decided that you are actually just a bit of information. And therefore your real persona and your online persona are fair game for the Googleplex.

Check out this post.

Add in the agreements that you make when you sign up for GoogleTalk and other Google applications and you would be amazed at what you have agreed to. So enough of this 4Square Mayor stuff - let's just make people eventually opt out of - rather than opt into Google Latitude. Combined with other Google products like Google Places (formerly known as Google Location) and you can start to see that Google is slowly enveloping all of us.

As an aside I think the reason Google chose "Latitude" and "Places" as brand names is because they learned from Microsoft that standard words like "Windows" are possible trade marks and therefore Google wants to own the concept of "presence" because then they own us. But they do anyway so its really rather academic.

One final thought, when you opt out of Google's clutches you only partially opt out. Google only promises not to use the information to spam you. At no time do they ever agree to stop monitoring you. Meta data (true data about data) doesn't need specific data when you own the entire data set.

And now you can go back to being afraid of where the Googleplex will go next.


These rumours about Google/Opodo are great fun.

Unlikely but fun.

Its the weekend - pretty much wherever you are - so how about a nice rambling discourse on Opodo.

I remember back a couple of years when writing about Google getting into travel was constantly denied by Google. Remember we used to go on about Troogle? Then we heard (on reasonable reporting) that Google were looking to buy Farecast (prior to Microsoft buying them and incorporating that service into Bing). Ok that never happened but now we have Google / ITA. Big, and clearly attracting a lot of interest, angst and unwanted attention.

But something has been bugging me about these deals for a while. Look Farecast isn't ITA. While both on the surface may look like they give great flight data they both come from different sides of the equation. Farecast were always on the side of the consumer - they said don't buy now, buy later (upsetting airlines in the process). ITA, while not exactly the darling of the wider travel industry, seem much more on the industry side than, say, TripAdvisor (who appear to pretty much help consumers exclusively). For example see just how many airlines and meta-search sites are powered by ITA software.

So whatever Google are doing it seems they are focused on "helping" the industry. This is understandable - they could deliver a mediocre consumer proposition (the competitors are good, but don't own travel consumer traffic so are disadvantaged). A mediocre consumer proposition owning "free" travel focused web traffic would deliver a great revenue. No need for doing something exceptional or game changing. Perhaps then some of the pundits who say that Google wont need to bring innovation to the Travel process may be onto something.

As we have seen from large scale players such as Apple and it's iPhone business model - the real darlings of the stock market are those with multiple bites of the revenue stream. Let's look at Google and travel then.

On the media model the players/customers Google would really care about are the companies buying the adverts. On the transactional model (e.g. buying Opodo) they do need to care about consumers quite a lot more. This is something that is unlikely because its an operational business. However it's the consumers would deliver the revenue.

Of course in reality consumers have the money and wear the trousers. Long term, if Google slightly would - naturally - be expected to favour the trade (whatever they say this would happen in my opinion because Googlepus has to "game" the sellers of travel to optimize its revenue) then this leaves a tiny crack for a new entrant to take the pure consumer perspective. Maybe this could be Bing, with their consumer friendly Farecast heritage, could be that company. But that would result in another clash of titanic elephants. Not known for being swift on their feet.

Enough of this talk about elephants. Instead let's consider what would happen if the mega pachyderm Googleplex took the same approach to the travel sector as for example they have taken to other areas they have recently acquired. Instead of these multi-gazillion dollar transactions howabout building a new industry from ten plus startups who either take the consumer perspective or are part of the supply jigsaw. We know Google are running "invite only" events for some of these these travel startups so Big Brother is aware who they are (although I am personally slightly miffed that my invitation went missing the post, apparently!)

The question stands. Either Google go 100% taking the consumer perspective (aggressively helping consumers at the cost of their supplier relationships) or they go the media model, trade helping, route. The nuances of doing both are too tricky for a non-travel specialist.

If Google don't go the consumer backing route then this leaves a hole. It might be a tiny hole but it will be one that as I noted above Bing, with their Farecast system (very consumer oriented) plus many startups can attack them on. Taking this point of view, actually buying Opopo (revenue generated by consumers) may not be quite such a mad idea after all.

OK - confused? Don't be... Google isn't going to buy Opodo. That is just wishful thinking by Amadeus. (or a PR agency trying to build some value for the purchase of Opodo which is such a dead duck).

But stranger things have happened.

29 October 2010

Google - Good Or Bad?

Careless or Stupid
Dishonest or Fiendish
Uncaring or Mean
Superior or Seeking only a master race?

Can Google really be evil? Just because it stretches plausibility doesn't make it not true. The onus on proof of "do no evil" must be on the person making that bold statement - not on the rest of civilization to prove them wrong.

In my view - Google has crossed the lines of both human decency and now more likely several laws in multiple countries. While this piece is on Google's streetview product/service - it clearly shows what happens when Google has a dominant position and/or the capability to do evil, it ACTUALLY does it. In the case in question, one has to ask the basic question, what if they did this and no one had found out?

When I discussed the Googleplex’s interesting denials earlier this year about its “accidental” collection of wifi data – I made the point that it was far from plausible/possible that the data collection could be accidental.

So far Google has made two retractions. The first one was that yes they did indeed capture personal data not just SSID and open Wifi details, the second far more serious admission is that they have kept the personal data for a very long time and still have not deleted it. Indeed, Google is not even making much of an effort to eradicate the personal data.

In privacy discussions lately, I have been amazed at the very lax approach to privacy taken by some large sections of our society. From a societal perspective as a whole it would seem that privacy has a low priority. In geographic terms – there is a general assumption that privacy is not a big deal in America. In Asia and the middle east the view is that privacy is expected to be monitored at the Government level only Australasia and Europe appear to champion the cause of privacy. On a generational basis the declining Boomer generation appears to be concerned with it but from Gen X onwards, security and privacy are just assumed to be OK. So far I have not seen a definitive study on people’s attitudes to security so I have gleaned this from many different perspectives.

Perhaps the final straw of this whole debacle is that Google has committed to deleting the data “as soon as is convenient”. It takes but minutes to do that – write a piece of code that erases this stuff from the database should be a trivial exercise for the Googleplex wonks given all the other stuff they can do to mine data.

Since I know that (A) some of my wifi ports were open when the street view was taken of my house and (B) Google still holds this data – I must be a member of the injured class.

With the Rapleaf + Facebook/MySpace Apps story over the past two weeks, the issues of what Google is doing makes chilling reading. In exposing what Rapleaf does by searching for data and capturing it from disparate but readily available public and semi public information sources from the web that are easily available just think what Google can do with all its exabytes of data that it holds on us and our behavior. Google is like an incredible octopus (perhaps we should call it the Googlepus from now on). Everyday it increases the number of Touchpoints that it has with humanity. I doubt there are now many people on the planet who are not in some way touched by the web – knowing or unknowingly in an identified fashion. Google has to stop these practices.

Over a pleasant evening with a former client in India this week – he asked a very poignant question that I had not considered before. Is Google’s behavior deliberate? He cited the increasingly arrogant positions that Google has taken in the ITA battle. His point was that Google is daring the US authorities to either ban them from taking over ITA or worse have remedial action that might include an anti monopoly action to break up the company. In my view with full hindsight, Microsoft’s 7 year battle over the browser pails into insignificance in comparison with what Google now knows about us and their control. Why the US Department of Justice has not launched an investigation into Google seems now to be a very scary thing. One thing for sure is true. We have created a commercial “Big Brother”. And he really does manage the Googleplex.

Perversely on my part I don't think that Google should be actually prevented from buying ITA judging by prior decisions from the US various departments. But if you then consider what can be done and then look at the request you can see why the Expedia cabal are scared.

Returning to the subject of Streetview are my assertions scare mongering or worse? Actually there is a lot of evidence to support my position and views. For example let’s consider the way Google dealt with its admission earlier this year that it had “by mistake” collected information. In a June 9 letter to the Energy and Commerce Committee, Google director for public policy Pablo Chavez asserted that Google "mistakenly included code in our software that collected samples of 'payload data'" from private WiFi networks. That sounds a reasonable enough explanation. But a PRIOR application for a patent indicates that Google had (and continues to have) every intention of collecting as much data as it possibly can and using it. And darn it if Google had even filed a PATENT application in January of 2010 that supports this position that Google actually has a mission to assemble as much information as possible about US residential and commercial wifi networks (and we must assume other markets since it admitted to collecting data in 30 countries).
Google’s patent application makes frequent indeed repeated reference to 'capturing' packets, including paragraph [0055], which states that the system will enable geolocations so long as the equipment being used 'is able to capture and properly decode a packet...'
Read the patent here: http://insidegoogle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/US20100020776.pdf
Read the letter from Google to the US Energy and Commerce Secretary here: http://insidegoogle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/LtrWaxman071910.pdf
Over the past few months I have written several Blog posts on my opinions about Google and what supports these views. It just makes me so darn nervous to see their behavior and the abuse both potential and now actual that they can put their power towards.

Here are a selection of posts you might want to read:


And if you want to be really paranoid about it, you could like other bits of information and become a serious conspiracy theorist. Like for example as the Washington Post reported in July that Google now holds several significant contracts to supply search and geospatial information to the U.S. government. In addition, White House records show that Google executives have been holding meetings with U.S. national security officials for undisclosed reasons.

If you wish to read more on this story – starting with the UK’s Daily Mail which has been one of the major advocates for the pursuit of Google on this subject – then follow some of these links.

I thank you for reading this piece.

Consumerwatchdog.org - http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/corporateering/articles/?storyId=35944
CNET Reporting - http://news.cnet.com/8301-30686_3-20005051-266.html
Daily Mail May 2010 - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1279178/Google-rapped-watchdog-spying-Britons-web-habits-mistake.html
The Truth or The Fight – Privacy Advocates http://www.thetruthorthefight.com/?p=6819
BNet (CBS) http://findarticles.com/p/news-articles/daily-mail-london-england-the/mi_8002/is_2010_Oct_25/google-finally-admits-spying-computers/ai_n55860471/

Now - you can be afraid - very afraid....

Amadeus – Slow or Prescient?

Amadeus likes to pride itself on its technological prowess. In my view regular readers to this blog will know I am very uneasy over some of their business practices and how they have started to exert some severe pressure on both its customers and its competitors

However I believe that it may have gone a bit too far in showing how it can control things – by pushing out an implementation by TWO MILLENIUMS!

Check out this image culled from one of their recent product enhancement announcements.

I think it shows they have a distinct attitude to working on security! So I have to wonder is Amadeus becoming the Google of the Travel Industry?

Now there’s a thought.

With a tip of the hat to Professor Andrew for the link. Ping me directly if you would like a copy of the actual link address. Its public but I don't want to appear TOO hard on Amadeus.


26 October 2010

Google's TV: Harder Than Flying

Seems like Google cannot get much respect for some of its products.

A great post from Buzz Feed CEO Jon Steinberg compares the new Google TV designs for remotes to be easier than "Flying a Cessna" arguably the easiest plane to fly.

Check out the story and the images. http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2010/10/25/buzzfeed-president-flying-easier-than-using-sony-google-tv-remote

So message to Google - better not try and end run the ITA acquisition


Rate Parity - Evil or Not?

Rate Parity Battle Ensnares Sabre

For years the battle to bring rate parity to the hotel world has been a somewhat hit or miss affair. In the North American market where the market pays retail this is common behavior. In the rest of the world where retail is not the norm in pricing rate parity is both harder to achieve as well as much more complex.

Many people have attempted to bring this to a sense of rationality – but this has only been partially successful.

As the rate distributers and checkers get more and more sophisticated, those who commit to making rate parity work have tried to up their game. However is that good behavior for the consumer or bad?

In fact if the rate parity program starts to affect overall pricing, then it could be considered a way of raising and fixing the price. And it seems someone finally noticed

It all started with a pissing match between Skoosh .com and its larger brethren Sabre’s lastminute.com and Priceline’s Booking.com. In September – Skoosh up’ed its game by reporting both to the UK”s Office of Fair Trading, (OFT). BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11330463

Much to the chagrin of the larger players – the Skoosh decided to put the matter to the extreme test. By filing a formal complaint with the OFT..

The OFT has formally started its investigation into the practice and has notified several of the players accordingly.

The end result could have a profound effect on the long term practice of rate parity maintenance. For those who make a living out of trying to monitor and enforce rate parity – you have now been officially warned that the practice will be under some pressure. Given the other rate practices that are under the microscope – such as hotel tax rates, the hotel industry needs to be careful not to upset the UK government. So better start thinking about how else you would like to ensure that your rates are correct across the board

Memo to OFT. Good luck with this topic. And if you would like some help to give me a call.


With a tip of the hat to Hotel Internet Help who has a good story on the subject it can be found here: