Google: Evil or just overworked?

Google: Evil or just overworked?

Summary: According to some pundits, Google has replaced Microsoft as the leading "evil" empire. As long as Google is top dog in the search market, there's little they can do to avoid the sour grapes from competitors, but with a little effort they could satisfy some of their critics and improve their services at the same time.

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According to some pundits, Google has replaced Microsoft as the leading "evil" empire. As long as Google is top dog in the search market, there's little they can do to avoid the sour grapes from competitors, but with a little effort they could satisfy some of their critics and improve their services at the same time.

Fredric Paul's article touched off a discussion with some colleagues of mine, who agreed that Google abuses has become careless thanks to its "monopoly" with AdSense by (among other things) callously dropping AdSense participants for alleged click fraud without a reasonable appeals policy. A request for an explanation fell on deaf ears, and my colleague was left with the impression that Google "would have been more likely to work with me," if it weren't in such a strong position.

Google has two problems,  both of which could be solved by opening the doors a bit to its community (as well as a little code.)

The first problem is a technical one -- how to detect and deal with attempted abuse of its AdSense system. Google can't afford rampant click fraud, and apparently the problem is too great to have staffers look over every possible fraud attempt. So, Google looks for fraud in an automated fashion, and that opens the door to false positives.

False positives mean that legitimate participants on AdSense are occasionally booted out of the system, and that leads to the second problem -- ill-will towards Google and AdSense. Couple that with the lack of manpower to handle false positives, and Google being accused of being evil, callous, or monopolistic.

The solution? Google should pick a group of trusted AdSense members to serve as an external advisory council to look over AdSense abuse, suggest policy, and maybe even open up Google's appeals process.

Google's applied the "many eyes" approach to research on image recognition and so forth, it might be a good idea to also apply it to AdSense. Not sure how it would work exactly, but they could have a group of "trusted" AdSense users who could look at the cases where another user has been targeted as an abusive account -- AdSense users overall have a vested interest in keeping the system fair, and Google could harness its community to deal with the manpower issue.

By enlisting its community in dealing with AdSense abuse, Google could not only improve its service and save labor, but also build loyalty with those users and avoid losing AdSense accounts that aren't really attempting to abuse the system.

What do you think? Is Google really "evil," or just overworked? What approach should Google take to solving this?

Update: Updated to better reflect my colleague's position on Google.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Google, Legal

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20 comments
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  • Evil.

    When a company...ANY company...has the size and reach of Google, sooner or later bad things will come out of it. Egos always get in the way.

    M$, the original AT&T, etc.

    And Apple is fast approaching the point of careless regard for its customers as well.
    IT_Guy_z
  • neither Google is just a service

    Im not force to use google at all , My boss dont force me to use google at all ... so Google is not Evil at all ... Its there if i want use it, i can if i don't, i dont use it ....

    So google is not evil and as long as they will kick MS ball i will love them with all my heart.....

    If and IF google become evil like all monster will find a way to put it down like a mad dog like all monsters.
    Quebec-french
    • Impessed.

      Considering you speak French natively, you type very good English and didn't have any trouble understanding it, keep up the good work.
      Malinko
      • thx you :)

        i try my best
        Quebec-french
  • RE: Google: Evil or just overworked?

    Absolutely correct I think, this policy of external people with trust to Google can really help good
    hearted publishers on the web. My account was too
    disabled in March 2008, and after providing proof of
    evidence via different sources and tracking my self, Google did not re instantiate my account, leaving me
    no choice to go to other ad networks such as adbrite
    etc.
    Although still now i would love to have adsense
    back(it pays darn too good!), but my trust at googles
    support policy mentioned that your application for
    remmitance would be read by humans, was broken.

    I think an online petition movement could be started
    up, and google be advised on this issue with its
    possible solution and with the help of the community,
    may be good hearted publishers like me and your colleague could get restore their trust in google.
    samzbest
  • Sour grapes from competitors?

    [i]According to some pundits, Google has replaced Microsoft as the leading 'evil' empire. As long as Google is top dog in the search market, there's little they can do to avoid the sour grapes from competitors[/i]


    One, it is not sour grapes, and secondly, we are not competitors of Google.

    The "Evil Empire" nomenclature now affixed to Google has come from us users who can now see what Google has been, and what they feel they are entitled to in terms of the data they collect on us.
    GuidingLight
    • hahahahaha

      You make it sound like you believe that you have some
      right to that data that is collected about you. You provided
      the data to various commercial and governmental agencies,
      it is their data now. Google may have indexed it and made
      it easier for people to acquire and sell said data but it is
      not yours and you have no ownership claims to any of it
      (unless otherwise granted by the courts).

      If you use an ATM, rent or purchase a home, car, boat or
      appliance, use a credit or debit card, you give out data (of
      which if inaccurate you can be prosecuted for under
      various laws).
      If you subscribe to a magazine, web site, or service,
      participate in surveys, or anything else that asks for
      information, that data now belongs to whomever you gave
      it to, thus they can do anything they want with it.

      What exactly is your issue (given that the 3 credit agencies
      will actually sell your credit information for a buck) since
      you have already given up a lot of information and privacy
      anyways?

      Besides, all sites collect information on you in one form or
      another. Anything from shopping habits, entry and exit
      data (where you came from and where you went to from
      said site) to even how long you were on the site are
      collected on any site (search engines, porn sites, banking
      sites, shopping sites, marketing sites, etc.).

      Exactly what is your issue and why do you care what they
      do with their data?
      B.O.F.H.
  • The Google browser replaces mine

    I browse and my Yahoo browser disappears and is replaced by a Google browser.
    BALTHOR
  • RE: Google: Evil or just overworked?

    Evil. Anyone who wants to steal your data and sell it back to you is nothing but evil. Remember Chrome and the clause where any data sent through it became property of Google? Tell me how that is not evil. Yet Google's employees just sit around all day playing with office toys.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Fair enough point

      I think Google would have done much more for their image without that stupid EULA in Chrome.

      [i]Yet Google's employees just sit around all day playing with office toys. [/i]
      But I don't quite get what this has do do with it. Makes them sound apathetic, not evil.
      AndyCee
      • Loverock has a rich fantasy life.

        "[i]Yet Google's employees just sit around all day playing with
        office toys.[/i]
        But I don't quite get what this has do do with it. Makes them
        sound apathetic, not evil."

        This is Loverocks (and perhaps others) fantasy, it bears no
        basis in fact. It is sort of like saying that M.I.T. is a party
        school (as they have a reputation for elaborate
        pranks/hacks).
        B.O.F.H.
    • RE: Google: Evil or just overworked?

      If they just sit around playing with office toys, how do they have time to be evil? :-)
      Zonker_z
    • Loverock is...

      ...just an automated script programmed to troll ZDNet looking for references to Google. He (it) has nothing original to say. Try Googling (heh!) Chomskybot for a similar automaton.
      subl33t
  • Two most evil

    Google and Fair Issac
    no nonsense
  • It's just their way of doing it and their attitude.

    For them, somethings like 'please support the site by clicking at the banner" are also considered a fraud. All the activities that lead user to click an ads without any means to navigate through the advertised sites should be banned.

    As a result, if they detect that there are many users click the ads and do not navigate through the site (i.e closing the browser right away.), you will also be banned. And that's not evil. It's just their way of doing it and their attitude of what is wrong and what is right.
    Dealing
  • It's their utter lack of transparency, attitude

    Google's utter lack of transparency and holier than thou attitude puts them in the same spot microsoft was 10 years ago.
    kraterz
    • Re: It's their utter lack of transparency, attitude

      Well, that's why I suggest Google bring in community here -- to give them some transparency in the process. I'm not sure how that would affect their attitude, but I think it's generally pretty difficult to cop attitude when you're working with a larger community.
      Zonker_z
  • RE: Google: Evil or just overworked?

    Google has been making its users unhappy with the account blocking policies in Gmail as well. Also, having a community oversee AdSense in the same way Google has leveraged the community for tagging Images would not work in my opinion. This is because AdSense abuse happens real time i.e. when a particular user abuses the system while accessing his site. Image tagging, on the other hand, happens in the background and only the results appear in real time.
    SanketVasa
  • Evil -- and more so...

    ...than Microsoft ever thought of being!!!! Should need no explanation!
    Mr_Wizard
  • RE: Google: Evil or just overworked?

    I have an investment in a software company that owns a patent that would eliminate click fraud-Haven't been able to get Google to take a look which is surprising (or not) given what's at stake for all concerned...
    click VC