Will Germany Scrutinize Google Web Search More Closely?

July 14, 2014

Several years ago, I learned a hard-to-believe factoid. In Denmark, 99 percent of referrals to a major financial service firm’s Web site came via Google. Figuring prominently was Google.de. My contact mentioned that the same traffic flow characterized the company’s German affiliate; that is, if an organization wanted Web traffic, Google was then the only game in town.

I no longer follow the flips and flops of Euro-centric Google killers like Quaero. I have little or no interest in assorted German search revolutions whether from the likes of the Weitkämper Clustering Engine or the Intrafind open source play or the Transinsight Enterprise Semantic Intelligence system. Although promising at one time, none of these companies offers an information retrieval that could supplant Google for German language search. Toss in English and the other languages Google supports, and the likelihood of a German Google killer decreases.

I read “Germany Is Looking to Regulate Google and Other Technology Giants.” I found the write up interesting and thought provoking. I spend some time each day contemplating the search and content processing sectors. I don’t pay much attention to the wider world of business and technology.

The article states:

German officials are planning to clip the wings of technology giants such as Google through heavier regulation.

That seems cut and dried. I also noted this statement:

The German government has always been militant in matters of data protection. In 2013, it warned consumers against using Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system due to perceived security risks, suggesting that it provided a back door for the US National Security Agency (NSA). Of course, this might have had something to do with the fact that German chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the first high-profile victims of NSA surveillance, with some reports saying that the NSA hacked her mobile phone for over a decade.

My view is that search and content processing may be of particular interest. After all, who wants to sit and listen to a person’s telephone calls. I would convert the speech to text and hit the output with one of the many tools available to attach metadata, generate relationship maps, tug out entities like code words and proper names. Then I would browse the information using an old fashioned tabular report. I am not too keen on the 1959 Cadillac tail fin visualizations that 20 somethings find helpful, but to each his or her own I say.

Scrutiny of Google’s indexing might reveal some interesting things to the team assigned to ponder Google from macro and micro levels. The notion of timed crawls, the depth of crawls, the content parsed and converted to a Guha type semantic store, the Alon Halevy dataspace, and other fascinating methods of generating meta-information might be of interest to the German investigate-the-US-vendors team.

My hunch is that scrutiny of Google is likely to lead to increased concern about Web indexing in general. That means even the somewhat tame Bing crawler and the other Web indexing systems churning away at “public” sites’ content may be of interest.

When it comes to search and retrieval, ignorance and bliss are bedfellows. Once a person understands the utility of the archives, the caches, and the various “representations” of the spidered and parsed source content, bliss may become FUD (a version of IBM’s fear, uncertainty and doubt method). FUD may create some opportunities for German search and retrieval vendors. Will these outfits be able to respond or will the German systems remain in the province of Ivory Tower thinking?

In the short term, life will be good for the law firms representing some of the non German Web indexing companies. I wonder, “Is the Google Germany intercept matter included in the young attorneys’ legal education in Germany?”

Stephen E Arnold, July 14, 2014


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