Comment: Why Germans Are Afraid of Google

There has been an interesting article in the NYT: Why Germans Are Afraid of Google. All in all, it mentions important points but the argumentation could be a bit more elaborate. [All quotes are taken from the article linked above].

And truth be told, Germany is not a great place to be a big tech company these days.

Yep, I agree. But it’s not because of regulations etc. but rather because of the lack of infrastracture: Want to get fiber somewhere? Good luck.

Google is often spoken of in dark terms around cafes and biergartens.

Maybe in Berlin-Kreuzberg but that’s an overstatement. And if you need the symbol of biergartens to evoke mental associations with Germany: bad choice.

Even a figure as dominant in the global economy as Mathias Döpfner, the chief executive of Springer, Germany’s largest publishing house, said he was “afraid of Google.”

Yes he is. Because together with some other publication houses, Springer initiiated the Leistungsschutzrecht, a reactionary law passed by a lulled Bundestag that aims to compensate the company’s incompetency in adapting a new business model on the Internet.

On the other hand, the force of anarchy makes Germans (and many other Europeans) shudder, and rightfully so. It’s a challenge to our deeply ingrained faith in the state. […]
The German voter-consumer will always trust the state more than he will any private company, no matter how ardently it insists on being a good guy.

Faith in the state? Please don’t generalize.

I think there’s a slight majority of particularly elder people blindly trusting the state because it seemingly protected them from Communism back in the days. They use the Internet mostly for work or private life-management (online banking, taxes, etc). Many don’t understand the enormous disruption driven by the Internet.

Then there are the so called digital natives. These are the ones that are lobbying for net-neutrality, privacy and decentralization right now. They are only a tiny percentage of their age group but they have a strong influence in politics, e.g. the Chaos Computer Club, Digitale Gesellschaft e.V. et al.

Finally, there are the adolescents of today: people from twelve to early twenty. The older ones of this age group might have grown up with an Internet that was open and just beginning to lock down. The younger ones never experienced something else: American services dominate the usage-time and make money personal data and the lock-in effect of their cloud platforms. Most people of this generation blindly trust these companies and many of them are apolitical.

When problems appear, we look to “Vater Staat” — the Father State — to protect us.

See above.

Indeed, the reason politicians like Mr. Gabriel — who has said “we must tame Silicon Valley capitalism”— go after Amazon and Uber is that it is a surefire way to get votes. Even politicians who are normally pro-deregulation, like Mr. Oettinger, know it’s smart to come down hard on tech companies.

If it wants to succeed here, Silicon Valley needs to comply with the particularities of the German and European market. We love technology, but we want it delivered on our terms. In Germany, cowboys should remain in the movies.