Four other Big Brothers:
(I started this back when Microsoft tried to buy Yahoo!, but I’ve only just not gotten a chance to finish up).
We all know about the potential “Big Brother”hood of Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo!. Here are four other organizations with massive databases or the potential to collect extensive personal data.
Amazon, the other data hoarders – Amazon has perhaps the most complete database of the web outside of Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. They own Alexa, which keeps detailed statistics on web traffic of the entire web. Alexa helps maintain archive.org, which includes an extensive backup of as much of the web as possible. They also have their own Google-based search engine a9 and host database apps. And all of this is just gravy for their extensive consumer data from amazon.com.
eBay, merchant monopoly – So far the government has resisted Internet sales tax. But eBay’s cut of their auctions and Paypal transactions almost constitutes a sales tax in and of itself considering the number of transactions that use these services. Also, they own what amounts to the biggest Internet telco, Skype. They have (or have the potential to collect) data on who buys what, who pays who what, and who calls who. To top it all off, they own an approximate 25% share in Craig’s List (and they own a Craig’s List competitor, Kijiji).
Wikipedia Foundation, truth and authority incorporated – Wikipedia is on its way to “owning” truth. We all probably know better, but we’ll all still trust Wikipedia entries without checking references more often than we should. In many cases, I search Wikipedia on a subject before I search Google – and more often than not, a Wikipedia entry is the top listing for a topic on Google. Often I’ll never even end up looking at a Google search for a subject because I’ll just look at the references and external links from a Wikipedia article. I believe Wales’s side of this story, but the potential for conflict of interest at Wikipedia is huge. The transparency and “crowd sourced” accountability temper this, but to what extent? It’s worth noting they now have a private wing – Wikia, which has started a search engine service.
IAC/Interactive Corp , or: who? – This huge company owns dozens of recognizable Internet brands, but hardly anyone has heard of them. If they started pooling all their data and mining it, what could they do? They’ve got one of the “other” big search engines, ask.com. They’ve got huge reserves of data for potential mining of social information from sites like match.com and evites, which could give them data on par with Myspace or Facebook. They’ve got a popular web based RSS reader, Bloglines. They could mine all sorts of consumer preference data from sites like Citysearch, Lending Tree, and the home shopping network. One of their businesses already attracted criticism years ago and remains a juggernaut in its niche: Ticketmaster.