Jon von Tetzchner, the internet pioneer behind the Opera and Vivaldi web browsers, has accused Google of abusing its dominance of internet search and advertising in order to harass smaller rivals.
Von Tetzchner’s accusations comes just months after Google was fined €2.4bn by European Union anti-trust authorities for abusing its dominance of internet search in order to divert users to its own services ahead of rival companies’.
It also follows a failed court case launched by Streetmap, an online service that accused Google of unfairly promoting Google Maps in its search results.
In a no-punches-pulled blog post, Jon von Tetzchner speaks of how, despite developing a Chromium-based browser, he has to disguise the fact that he is not Chrome from Google Docs, and has even had his Google Adwords campaigns suspended for questioning the data collection activities of Google’s Chrome browser.
Two days after my thoughts were published… we found out that all the campaigns under our Google AdWords account were suspended – without prior warning
“I had several interviews where I voiced concerns about the data gathering and ad targeting practices – in particular, those of Google and Facebook. They collect and aggregate far too much personal information from their users.
“I see this as a very serious, democracy-threatening problem, as the vast targeting opportunities offered by Google and Facebook are not only good for very targeted marketing, but also for tailored propaganda. The idea of the Internet turning into a battlefield of propaganda is very far away from the ideal.
“Two days after my thoughts were published in an article by Wired, we found out that all the campaigns under our Google AdWords account were suspended – without prior warning. Was this just a coincidence? Or was it deliberate, a way of sending us a message?”
In exchange for being reinstated in Google’s ad network, their in-house specialists dictated how we should arrange content on our own website and how we should communicate information
Eventually, the issue was sort-of-resolved but in the most irritating of ways.
“In exchange for being reinstated in Google’s ad network, their in-house specialists dictated how we should arrange content on our own website and how we should communicate information to our users.”
Von Tetchzner continued: “A monopoly both in search and advertising, Google, unfortunately, shows that they are not able to resist the misuse of power. I am saddened by this makeover of a geeky, positive company into the bully they are in 2017.
“I feel blocking competitors on thin reasoning lends credence to claims of their anti-competitive practices. It is also fair to say that Google is now in a position where regulation is needed. I sincerely hope that they’ll get back to the straight and narrow.”
Google, unfortunately, shows that they are not able to resist the misuse of power – Jon von Tetchzner
In addition to the conclusion of an antitrust investigation over Google Shopping, the company is also facing an investigation into its dominance of the mobile market through Android, which could mean an even bigger fine.
The complaint comes despite the fact that Google helped Opera to take-off during the 2000s when Opera became the first browser to come with an integrated search function.
Google helped bankroll the company by providing it with a cut of revenues from users using that search function to make Google searches, enabling Opera to profitably go free.
Today, Chrome dominates web browsing around the world, despite the availability of a number of good alternatives.
However, these days, Google is keen to persuade internet users to adopt its own Chrome web browser instead, alongside its own Android operating system in which it controls the apps that are downloaded – moves that critics say have handed unprecedented power over the internet to handful of companies.
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