In Germany, they have a term for silicon valley companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook, the big beasts of the internet that have come to dominate our online lives. They are known as the datenkraken. The word means data octopuses, and it is intended to frighten – in Norse myth, the Kraken was a murderous sea monster.
Today’s datenkraken do not drag mariners into the deep, but they have tentacles that reach around the world, gathering the data of private citizens on a scale that, since Snowden’s revelations about US surveillance, has created huge unease in Europe.
Last Monday, the European Commission’s outgoing competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, decided to reopen his five-year investigation into Google’s search rankings. Finishing the job will fall to Almunia’s replacement, the former Danish finance minister Margrethe Vestager. Her colleague, Europe’s new digital economy commissioner Guenther Oettinger, has already made his feelings known. On Wednesday, he said Google’s market power could be limited, adding that he would work to ensure that the search engine’s services preserve neutrality and objectivity.
The message from Brussels is clear, according to Ian Maude, new media expert at Enders Analysis: “Google is the new Microsoft. As far as the regulators are concerned, it is the big bad wolf.”
Aside: I love the German method of creating new words.