FOUNDER OF web browsers Opera and now Vivaldi has written a scathing blog post warning Google "it is time to return to not being evil".
In a no-pulled-punches piece, 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 not being nice about Chrome.
"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?"
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."
Now for us, this is a subject close to our hearts. We've lost count of the number of times that tech companies that have tried to tell us how to write our copy, or try and give us their own copy to use - and we've always said no. All the news in the main site is independent and unfettered. So to be put in a position where you are forced to do what the "big guy" wants you to is particularly abhorrent.
So if it's true, then we're a bit aghast. Google has power. And power comes with responsibility. And this is pretty irresponsible.
Von Tetchzner goes on: "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 has recently been found guilty of antitrust offences in the EU over its shopping app, which are set to cost it £10bn. An investigation into its dominance through Android is under way which could mean an even bigger fine.
But market dominance is one thing. Abusing market dominance? Well, that's quite another. We're not taking sides here, but it's very interesting to hear someone stand up and say they are being squeezed by a big company that isn't Uber, this loudly. µ
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