One of Europe’s most powerful media tycoons has accused Google of seeking to create a digital ‘superstate’ outside the control of national regulators and privacy laws.
Mathias Döpfner, head of the giant German multi-media company Axel Springer, says Wir haben Angst vor Google: “We are afraid of Google.”
“I have to say so clearly and honestly because hardly any of my colleagues dares to do so publicly.”
Döpfner expressed anxiety about Google’s ambitions, including its development of driverless cars and the purchase of drone-maker Titan Aerospace. Writing an open letter to Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Döpfner said: “Google not only knows where we are going in our cars, but also what we do while we’re driving. Forget Big Brother – Google is better!”
He expressed worries about Google’s dominance of the search engine market and quoted from Schmidt’s own book: “With the exception of biological viruses, there is nothing with such speed, efficiency and aggressiveness that spreads like these technology platforms, and this also lends its creators, owners and users new powers.”
Döpfner writes: “Today there is a global network monopoly.”
He noted that as long as the debate was only about “the expropriation of content (the use of the search engines, for which no one wanted to pay) only a few have been interested. But that changes when the same thing happens with the personal information of people. The question of who owns the data will be one of the key policy issues of the future.”
“No one knows as much about its customers as Google.” Addressing Schmidt, he went on: “You yourself have said in 2010, ‘We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking.'”
But, said Döpfner, “Only dictatorships want transparent citizens.”
He then quoted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in this context: “Those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear.” Döpfner said this was not a state of mind for a liberal society.
He asked if Google may be planning a way to operate in a legal vacuum, “without the hassle of anti-trust regulators and privacy protection? A kind of off-shore super state?”
He called Google “the all-determining spider in the web. Google is the world’s United Bank of Behaviour Currency. That’s impressive and dangerous.”