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Conflict of Interest

Pondering why so many "watchdogs" are AWOL on Google

I got to wondering why so many supposed "public watchdogs" are AWOL on Google's threat to privacy, when I was reading the LA Times excellent editorial where they ponder the question: "Why is Youtube Hoarding Data?" 

Other than the New York Times last year taking Google to task for StreetView in "Watching your every move?" the editorial boards around the country have be uncharacteristicly silent on Google's unprecedented collection of more private information on more people than any time in history, while being ranked worst in the world on privacy by Privacy International.  

Google's Privacy Lip Service

This post documents the pile of evidence that Google just gives lip service to privacy matters.

  • A few days ago, Google quietly and begrudgingly complied with California privacy law by putting a privacy link on its home page. Kudos to Saul Hansell's New York Times blog which spotlighted Google's privacy intransigence.

I will analyze Google's privacy policies to show why it was no fluke that privacy watchdog, Privacy International ranked Google worst in its world survey on privacy and called Google "hostile to privacy."

First, consider the way that Google finally posted its privacy link on its home page. While it may now be in compliance technically, it sure isn't embracing the letter or the spirit of privacy law. 

Where's the outrage and media when Google isn't a neutral gatekeeper?

Where's the free speech outrage when Google, the Internet's Ultimate gatekeeper, blocks free speech on the Internet in clear violation of the FCC's net neutrality principles?

  • Many bloggers "received a notice from Google last week saying that their sites had been identified as potential “spam” blogs. “You will not be able to publish posts to your blog until we review your site and confirm that it is not a spam blog,” the Google e-mail read" per the New York Times Bits blog by Miguel Helft.      

Google's well-known dominant share of the search market makes Google the Internet's primary gatekeeper and self-appointed organizer of the world's information. As I have written repeatedly, Google has more unaccountable power over the world's information than any entity in the world, see here, and here.

Why do the media listen and report on Free Press, Public Knowledge, and other consumer groups when they make a federal case out of alleged net neutrality violations by broadband companies, but are totally silent when Google violates the very principles they allege to cherish and fight for? 

Is the "Long Tail" just a Tall Tale?

A new article/study by Harvard Business School Professor Anita Elberse challenges the validity of the Silicon Valley mantra/theory that the Internet created a new "long tail" of demand for niche products that would ultimately undermine and overwhelm the offline trend towards "big hits."  

  • Thank you to Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal whose excellent article: "Study Refutes Niche Theory Spawned by Web" brought the new Elberse research to my attention.
    • From Mr. Gomes article: "Prof. Elberse looked at data for online video rentals and song purchases, and discovered that the patterns by which people shop online are essentially the same as the ones from offline. Not only do hits and blockbusters remain every bit as important online, but the evidence suggests that the Web is actually causing their role to grow, not shrink."

Why this is such important new research is that much of the Silicon Valley 'pixie dust' that fuels so many of the new business models involving social networking, crowdsourcing, etc. is predicated on the "Long Tail" book/theory by Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson.

eBay held accountable for being a 'fence' for counterfeit goods

eBay was just found guilty, again, of being a "fence" for counterfeit goods, but nevertheless remains unrepentant vowing to fight against "uncompetitive commercial practices at the expense of consumer choice."

J. Edgar Google: Information Is Power + No Accountability

Kudos to Danny Dover's tremendous post: "The evil side of Google? Exploring Google's user data collection" where he comprehensively assembles all the types of personally-sensitive-information that Google routinely collects on Internet and Google users.

  • Mr. Dover also exhibits exceptional clarity of thought in describing Google as "first and foremost a data company" despite conventional wisdom that describes Google as a search engine company or despite Google's description of a technology company. 

Why is J. Edgar Hoover/J. Edgar Google an apt analogy? 

Google unfairly represents AdWords as an "auction" process; it is not

Google unfairly represents that it competitively conducts 'auctions' for keywords in AdWords; Google even has an "auction policy." However, if you look up the definition of "auction" one finds it is the public sale of property to the highest bidder

  • The big problem here is that Google's auction does not sell property to the highest bidder.

If Google were interested in fair representation and truth in advertising, Google would represent Adwords as Google's algorithmic secret selection process or GASSP.

  • That's because Adwords is a really a mysterious 'Black Box' system, that is secret, non-neutral, non-transparent, non-auditable, and non-appealable.
  • Google probably thinks its "unfair" to expect the world's leading Internet advertiser to respect fair representation and truth in advertising laws...

Great piece on academic's concerns about Google's influence -- in Boston Globe

Drake Bennett of Boston Globe did a great job of highlighting some fresh new concerns about Google's extraordinary influence that I had not heard before -- see "Stopping Google."

  • Here's the conclusion of the piece in order to encourage you to read the whole article:
    • "But there is a reason "Google" has become a verb: Google has so outpaced its rivals that it has begun to look like a monopoly, a necessity where users have only one real option. And the more we come to rely on Google, the more Google may have to listen to the rest of us."



Google Adwords discriminating against small businesses for slow loading?

In thinking about my recent post about how Google Adwords now formally discriminate against slower-loading sites by raising their minimum bidding price, I realized that small businesses and the "long tail" are probably most hurt the most by Google's new "quality score" policy.

  • As I previously explained, Google has a subjective, non-transparent, non-auditable, or non-appealable "quality score" variable whose purpose is to maximize Google's revenue -- not to award the keyword to the highest bidder.

This new Google policy discriminates most heavily against small businesses because they:

  • Have relatively the least resources, time and ability to technologically redesign their website to adapt to Google's arbitrary changes; and
  • Are least able to afford adapting their business model to Google's favor -- away from slower-loading display ads -- to faster-loading search ads.

Bottom line: Google is well aware that small or "long tail" businesses, for all practical purposes, have no other comparable choice for online advertising, so they believe they can safely exert their market power here with impunity. 

Google Adwords not neutral -- charging more for slow loading sites

Google AdWords announced a new net neutrality double-standard that may also be an anti-competitive practice, in that Google will start discriminating against slower-loading websites by charging them higher prices. 


Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths