The French National Assembly and the French Army Ministry announced that they are going to stop using Google as their default search engine. According to Wired news website, the institutions will instead use Qwant, a French and German search engine that reportedly does not track its users.
Sputnik discussed this with Gary S. Miliefsky, a globally recognized cybersecurity expert, inventor and founder of numerous cybersecurity companies including Netwave, QuickBuy, NetClarity and SnoopWall.
Sputnik: In your view, why is France taking this stance against Google?
Gary S. Miliefsky: Well it’s very interesting because Emmanuel Macron loves international things and Google is becoming more of an international company than a YS company. In fact, Google wants to set up offices in China and help the Chinese government create a search engine that includes censorship. But it may be that Macron, very left-leaning, wants more privacy for his citizens and no censorship, it is very interesting and I don’t know if it’s a scandal for Qwant or not or just smart technology integration, but Qwant appears to be riding on top of Microsoft’s Bing.
Sputnik: That’s very interesting, can you tell us about the obligations of that?
Gary S. Miliefsky: It means either the French government isn’t aware of this and thinks that Qwant is a completely French-German developed private search engine, and they probably don’t understand the technology or it could be what we call a meta-engine where you don’t have the engineering horse power to develop your own search engine but you do want to add some privacy controls. For example, there is Startpage that admits that they will use Google search results but then they scrub them and they blind Google from how they got those results, so when you go to Startpage Google doesn’t know you’re there. So they may be doing a similar thing to accelerate their ability to get great search results.
Sputnik: What does that mean to Google when companies do that? I’m just wondering if that’s of any benefit at all to Google?
Gary S. Miliefsky: More revenue to Microsoft and Bing, and I believe Qwant does have an advertisement partnership with Microsoft.
Sputnik: I’m just wondering about this technology where you’re scrubbing the results and not allowing Google or another company to collect your data…
Gary S. Miliefsky: Their revenue model is to know everything they can about you; they call it a spyware not a search engine, they want to know so much about you so they can sell you as the product and Microsoft also wants to do the same with Bing. So when companies put a metacrawler or a front-end engine on top of their engine and then anonymize IP addresses and try to hide who’s asking for what search results, it makes it much harder for those manufacturers of search engines to make the money they want to make.
Sputnik: Is that a big threat to them? Do you think that a lot more companies will start doing this?
Gary S. Miliefsky: Sure, it’s a cool idea, VPNs, virtual private networks, have been around for a while, and the search engine companies have been trying to circumvent them with cookies and other technologies to track people who are trying to reclaim their privacy and trying to be anonymous. Companies like Qwant are saying: “Hey, we’ll do all the scrubbing for you,” so Google or Microsoft or whoever they might contact for search results, they will know exactly what human being typed into the search as long as you can trust Qwant.
Sputnik: Experts are saying that this is really sort of France pushing to regain control over their own and their citizens’ data and that there were actually some kind of security risks that were behind taking this decision. Can you elaborate on what security risks might be alleviated by switching to Qwant?
Gary S. Miliefsky: There is US law that passed called the CLOUD Act — The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, and I think it bothered the French government that the US government has a right to stretch its arms into search results or data in other countries because of the CLOUD Act. So their way of saying, that we’re going to push back and create almost a virtual nation-state wall on the Internet, so if you want to use in-country search engines and in country data storage and companies that have no connection to the US, so that the US government cannot leverage the CLOUD Act to collect information overseas.
Sputnik: Some actually have said that France and the EU are becoming digital colonies; do you think that is the case?
Gary S. Miliefsky: Absolutely, although in the way it’s a start of a pushback, For example, I liked the GDPR, that is the EU’s regulation that you will pay fines in significant amounts if you have a breach. For example, Facebook had a breach and they owe the EU $1.6 billion, it’s a percentage of your revenue, that’s a big deal. So when you say that we want to have digital sovereignty and we want to give our citizens their privacy, as long as you can trust your government with helping you get your privacy back, that’s a great thing.
Sputnik: And that’s another question, do you think you can trust your government with helping you get your privacy back? Would you trust your government?
Gary S. Miliefsky: To some degree, every country has its laws and every the country has its spy agencies that do their dirty work, but in normal circumstances when you want your privacy and its your records and if you want them scrubbed, for example, the EU which France is part of, this GDPR says that an EU citizen can have all their Google data removed from Google when they requested it. Now will Google actually do that? Can they even do it technically? These are the big questions.
Sputnik: There have been other European countries that have also been speaking out against Google and Facebook and that have taken measures against tech giants especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, what consequences can this have on those companies’ operations in Europe? And do you think we’re going to see, perhaps, Germany or other countries also adopting similar stances?
Gary S. Miliefsky: Yes and I think it’s great for, we’ll call it the global economy, where more innovative companies that care about privacy confide in the business model that works. Let me give you a quick example. Years ago, I used to pay a lot of money for Microsoft Windows for myself, my employees, my family. Then suddenly Windows 10 came out and it was free. Do you know why Microsoft is giving away Windows 10?
Sputnik: To collect your data.
Gary S. Miliefsky: Exactly, they’ve learned from Google: you can make more money turning the consumer or the business people into the product and then sell them and sell their data, so the idea of companies that will find a way not to sell your data is very attractive to me and folks which actually care about citizen sovereignty and privacy.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.