Death and taxes aren't the only things guaranteed in life - human error will never be eliminated, and greed will eventually be exposed. This week, Greece and the recording industry experienced the latter, while Google received a taste of the former.
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Stamping Out a Greece Fire
Even with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill dominating the front pages for the past few weeks, Greece's financial debt issues have still been managing to steal a few headlines. On Sunday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said he will not rule out investigating and taking legal action against the banks that are believed to have taken advantage of Greece's financial instability. Both the Greek government and the country's citizens are blaming banks for causing its issues. The claim is that the banks funded hedge funds that bet against governments, Papandreou told CNN on Sunday.
This week, Greece plans to redeem $10.7 billion worth of bailout money in order to partially pay off its existing debt. The funding is coming from monies set aside by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for just such an emergency, but other countries that may also need to utilize the funds are worried that Greece's dependence may be digging too deep into the pot. The EU and the IMF have appropriated 110 billion euros (US$143 billion) in funds for Greece's bailout.
It's estimated that Greece's debt is currently approximately 125% that of its GDP. (For more, see Greece: The Worst-Case Scenario.)
Google Street View Is Watching
On Friday, May 14, California-based internet company Google admitted to "mistakenly" collecting website data from open wireless networks with its Google Street View cars. On the company's blog, it was revealed that the Street View cars were accidentally programmed to collect the private information while recording data for its popular mapping/GPS database.
In its blog post, Google recanted on a previous report that payload data (data sent over the internet) was not collected. According to the company, an engineer working on an experimental project four years ago developed a piece of code that would read publicly-broadcast WiFi data. Google assures that it did not use any of the data in its products. It also said that secure information sent over unsecured networks (credit card numbers, passwords) was not transmitted, though websites visited, email addresses and phone numbers may have been.
Google will be hiring a third-party to review the data collected and the software issue, and provide confirmation that all data is disposed of permanently. It will also be internally auditing its procedures to ensure similar issues do not arise in the future.
In its official blog post, Google claims, "The engineering team at Google works hard to earn your trust - and we are acutely aware that we failed badly here. We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined to learn all the lessons we can from our mistake."
OK, Go Independent
In April, former Beatle, current Knight and the coolest guy with a ukulele, Paul McCartney, announced that he would be handing over his post-Fab Four catalog of approximately two-dozen albums to independent record label Concord for re-distribution. This is coming after EMI Records Group PLC lost its exclusive rights to those albums, which include much of McCartney's successful works, including his Wings hit, "Band on the Run."
This week, indie rock group OK Go delivered another blow to EMI by officially ending its relationship with the label, in order to release its music on front-man Damian Kulash's independent label, Paracadute. To date, Paracadute has only signed one band - OK Go.
This divorce in business is coming at a time when sales of digital and physical copies of CDs and songs are down by 12% year-to-date. With customers having more accessibility to music via YouTube, iTunes and unauthorized downloads, artists are increasingly turning to self-publishing and distribution in order to build their audiences.
Though bands like OK Go are not breaking any records sales-wise, their accessibility to fans through online means has made the band a complete success story without heavily relying on the slowly-dying major label industry. OK Go's most popular album, "Oh No", sold 271,000 copies, according to Nielsen Soundscan, the music industry's current tracking system. (For more, check out Facing The Music: The Recording Industry's Power Struggle.)
Though it may seem like the world is crumbling around us - Google is inadvertently watching our every move, one of the oldest established countries in the world is falling prey to a new-school financial concept and the music industry is in restructuring mode - it's important to remember that industries, countries and organizations rarely fully develop without first experiencing rock-bottom.
Feeling uninformed? Check out the financial news highlights in Water Cooler Finance: Greece Is Burning And Buffett's Under Fire.