If the internet was considered the land of knowledge, then Google would be the key used to access it all. For most people in the world, this is the case; a majority of all internet searches go through Google’s search engine. However, high usage doesn’t mean Google is the best search engine.
If you ask the United States Department of Justice, Google’s majority share in the market isn’t natural, but is instead the result of the company paying cell phone manufacturers to make Google the default search engine on their web browsers. This action by Google has allowed them to soak up over 90% of the market share for search engines in the U.S. The ongoing lawsuit against Google is looking to prove that the search giant’s actions violated antitrust law. Although the case is still undecided, it revealed Google as a monopolist that poses a threat to innovation and competitiveness in the market. Stopping support of a company that has halted innovation in a field that is essential to how we receive information should be easy, but it isn’t always plausible, especially for students and businesses that depend on Google’s services for everyday work or studying.
While this trial means a lot for those in the search engine market, what does Google’s position as the dominant firm in the search engine market mean for a regular person? As Google has expanded its reach to be a part of most searches on the internet, avoiding everything that the company curates is increasingly more difficult. By taking up 70% of the search advertising market, Google has made it difficult to not have your data used to show targeted ads; they are selling your personal data. Alongside selling data, Google also has been able to halt innovation that could lead to alternative search engines with different specialties. While most people aren’t looking to go work for a search engine or start up their own, Google’s monopolistic power makes it difficult to not be affected by it.
Given the controls on the market Google has, we should stop supporting the company to promote innovation and limit the data that Google is able to sell. However, how can we go about stopping our support of a company that is almost too large to avoid?
To stop using every Google service is a near-impossible task, especially as a student. All University of Michigan emails are Gmail and part of a larger Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals that the University has a deal with. By trying to boycott Google’s services, you would virtually forfeit your ability to do any work for classes or research, putting your degree at risk.
For those not in school, a boycott of Google’s services would be easier. However, many businesses also rely on Google’s service to run their companies, which would also jeopardize the livelihoods of those who work for those companies. Even for those who don’t rely on Google to conduct work or classes, avoiding Google on certain devices may prove to be difficult and tedious, since Google is automatically a part of most mobile devices.
Besides boycotting the company, what else can you do? For a student, it may seem like a hopeless cause, but there are still actions that can be taken. The most important of these is to avoid Google whenever possible. Although you can’t stop using Google completely, not using it whenever possible can help protect your privacy and aid alternative search engines. Companies such as DuckDuckGo and Ecosia provide these search engine alternatives while also offering some additional benefits by promoting privacy or using some of their profits to plant trees.
In addition to using alternatives, educating yourself and others about the monopoly Google holds is another important strategy to combat the tech giant. Alongside education, reaching out to your representatives and senators pending the result of the trial is an effective way to take action. Letting them know that you don’t agree with the hold Google has on the market lets them know that their constituents are pushing for action that they can help bring to fruition.
While abandoning Google is nearly impossible, being aware of the current situation at hand isn’t. Mindfulness of how you use Google is half the battle. This is especially important when taking into account the power Google has to control the information you see when using the service. Such an influence can result in intentional or unintentional biases in what is being shown to the consumer, and at times result in misinformation. Letting those who use Google know about this control can help them fight against these biases created in the algorithm, and let them be more mindful about the information that they find.
While that’s part of the battle, the other is to trust that our nation’s legal system will help bring those who violate antitrust laws to justice. Convenience is something that many of us take for granted, but giving up a sliver of it — by looking toward alternatives and being more mindful of the information that appears when you search in order to prevent a company from having more influence than any individual person in our government — is well worth the sacrifice.
Thomas Muha is an Opinion Columnist. He writes about issues relating to social media and the internet. He can be reached at email@example.com or on X @TJMooUM.