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Google's Dangerous Game

Google's rise to the top of the Internet pile may be unprecedented, but it also evokes fear and paranoia. Some of the concerns are justified. Media and technology companies around the globe are angered by the fact that Google profits enormously from the distribution of their content.

And it's not just copyrighted videos on YouTube: There's also Google News, which culls news stories and brings them to a centralized, personalized hub, and Google Search, which compels goods sellers and content providers alike to make their content more visible to Web users by bidding against one another for placement in Google's sponsored listings. Even telecommunications firms have a problem with the search giant; Google Earth and YouTube command a significant amount bandwidth, which they argue they shouldn't have to provide for free. They need the search giant's distribution, but they may be losing money because of it.

Meanwhile, Google's massive store of information about its users could help it grow ever bigger. But it's playing a dangerous game here: not only does the Web giant retain search data, it also has email, calendar, document, content (video) and soon, perhaps, medical and precise location (thanks to mobile phones) data, too. But there might be a consumer backlash one day, which means it would help if it would take greater steps towards transparency about its practices.

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