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Conflict of Interest

What's Google got to hide? Google's CEO Schmidt ducks questions from the real free press

I couldn't help to notice yesterday that Google CEO Schmidt didn't take any questions from reporters who were in attendance or meet with the reporter pool afterwards, which is customary for speaking venues like Dr. Schmidt's speech Monday at the Economic Club of Washington.

What's Google got to hide in Washington?

  • Could it be that Google does not think that questions of a leading corporate CEO, who is now Chairman of the New America Foundation think tank concerning: antitrust, privacy, consumer protection, good government, transparency, openness, tax, net neutrality, and broadband Universal Service -- are not considered legitimate questions or fair game in Washington?
  • Do public questions of public leaders seeking ambitious changes in public policy and public discourse, not warrant an open forum for questions from a free press in a democracy?

Bottom line: It appears the only kind of "free press" that Google embraces is its advocacy group ally that calls itself FreePress, which is the operation which de facto runs point for Google's net neutrality public policy agenda in Washington.

Relevant Washington questions to ask Google CEO Schmidt at his speech Monday in Washington

Given that Google CEO Eric Schmidt is delivering a major speech at the Economic Club of Washington Monday June 9th lunch, given that Google's business model is all about delivering "relevancy" to users, and given that Google's public policy mantra is "openness," I have assembled some suggested Washington-relevant questions for reporters and others to ask Dr. Schmidt at and after this open forum.

  • The subjects of the questions are: antitrust, privacy, consumer protection, good government, transparency, openness, tax, net neutrality, and broadband Universal Service

Antitrust: 

  • If, per the FTC, search is a "unique" or separate market, why wouldn't a search-partnership between #1 Google and #2 Yahoo be illegal collusion when Google already partners with #4 AOL and #5 Ask.com -- and when the four search partners would comprise a de facto search cartel controlling over 90% of the revenues in the U.S. search market?

Privacy:

  • Should consumers and Congress be concerned with Google exploiting a privacy regulation loophole to offer personal health records management, when independent watchdog group Privacy International ranked Google worst in the world on privacy and Google refuses to comply with California law requiring posting Google's privacy policy prominently on its home page?  

Consumer Protection:

Unleashed: Transcript of Griffin/Cleland talk on Google, net neutrality, monopolies, click fraud, privacy

For those who like the written format, here is the link to the transcript of Chip Griffin's interview of me on all things Google.

This interview turned out to be one of the most comprehensive and in-depth discussions I have had on all things Google -- that's been captured for web listening or reading.

We discussed:

Google's free speech double standard "for the good of humanity"

A Bloomberg article highlights yet another Google double standard.

  • A Bloomberg article by Janine Zacharia reports on how Google takes down content that is found objectionable by individual countries in: "Google Diplomats Bend Free Expression to Preserve Global Power."

The Google double standard is that Google takes down content objectional to other countries but refuses to largely comply with the legitimate bipartisan request of the Senate Homeland Security Committee to take down terrorist branded content designed to incite violence against Americans and others around the world. 

Why a Lack of Openness Sullies the Integrity of Google's Ad Auctions

Does Google warrant the current exceptional leap-of-faith in the integrity of its dominant ad auction model, given its near total lack of openness, transparency, independent auditability, or third party oversight? There is a growing body of evidence that Google does not.

  • The New York Times article today by Miguel Helft: "The Human Hands behind the Google Money Machine" is a must read for anyone following Google or concerned about the openness and transparency of public markets. It is also a little treasure trove of fresh information on Google.

Why a lack of openness sullies the integrity of Google's ad auctions.

First, it is widely accepted that public markets operate best when open and transparent.

Google's ad auction model has become one of the world's most important public markets. Google is increasingly becoming the world's primary public information broker. Google brokers: 

  • Information for over 700 million search users worldwide, over three to six times their nearest rivals;
  • Advertisement placement for over a million advertisers several times more than their nearest competitors;
  • Monetization for over a million websites several times more than their nearest competitors.

Google is also not open or transparent.

More evidence on "Can you trust Google to obey the rules?"

The New York Times' Hansel followed up on his Google privacy policy post that prompted my broader analysis "Can you trust Google to obey the rules?"

After I finished my "Can you trust Google to obey the rules" analysis, I realized there were past posts and examples that I could have included but didn't. 

  • For those who are new to this topic or those who want to further explore if "Google is accountable to anyone" I have included a smattering of additional evidence for my thesis that Google systematically chooses to not obey the rules that others are expected to follow -- that you might find eye-opening...

 From my earlier post of 1-18-08: 

"Google.org Tax Treatment?

"Google CEO: Get Ready for Cellphone Ads" -- Google sees users as "targets" to stalk

I had to chuckle when I saw the headline: "Google CEO: Get Ready for Cellphone Ads" on the US News and World Report Blog.

  • Google can't help but salivate over how valuable "targeted" ads could be on the most personal of devices -- the cell phone.

While Google's standard line is that Google is all about the "user" -- stories like this shed light on the truth -- it's really all about Google.

Google's self-centered, megalomaniacal mission to organize the world's information to be accessible and useful to Google -- blind Google to the very different privacy reality of the cellphone world:

Can you trust Google to obey the rules? Is Google accountable to anyone?

In monitoring Google as closely as I do, it has become increasingly clear that Google does not believe it has to obey the rules, standards, regulations and laws, that others routinely obey and respect. Google increasingly operates like a self-declared, virtual sovereign nation, largely unaccountable to the rules and mores of the rest of the world.     

  • There is plentiful evidence of Google's unaccountability; see the following analysis peppered generously with source links. 

The impetus for this analysis and documentation was Saul Hansel's outstanding New York Times Blog: "Google fights for the right to hide its privacy policy." 

  • In a nutshell, Mr. Hansel spotlighted how Google is refusing to abide by the Network Advertising Initiative's rule that its members must display a link to their privacy policy on their home page; and that this industry self-regulatory body is expected to bend its rules specifically to accomodate Google.
  • This is no isolated incident, shirking the accountability that most everyone else respects is near standard operating procedure for Google. 

Is Google accountable to anyone?    

First, can public shareholders hold Google accountable?

"Googolopoly" the Board Game -- Kudos to Box.net for their great sense of humor!

Kudos to Box.net blog who created a clever Googolopoly board game modeled after the Monopoly board game most have us have played at one time or another.

  • Per Box.net: "...One day we got tired of being serious about the situation and came up with Googolopoly, a game where you can take part of ruling the internet even if you don’t work in Mountain View. The goal of the game is to use Google shares to buy as many properties as you can without landing in the deadpool and losing your stock. As with any great board game, there’s a very real metaphor to what’s going on…. What happens when the Google monster gobbles up all that is left in the web world, is present on your cell phone, desktop, and even controls your health information? For all their product excellence, the threat of amassing this much data is too serious to ignore."

I would be remiss if I didn't link to my own, differently spelled, www.googleopoly.net website which includes some of the most in-depth and serious analysis of Google's growing market power.

For those who wonder -- why should I care:

There's no constitutional free speech protection for inciting terrorism; Google-YouTube and NYT are off-base

The New York Times in it's Sunday editorial: "Joe Lieberman, Would-Be Censor" needs to go back to school on what is "constitutionally protected free speech," because they obviously don't understand the full Constitution or context.  

  • The brouhaha here is that Senate Homeland Security Chairman wrote a letter to Google-YouTube requesting that they take down terrorist content "intended to encourage violence against the West." (My first post on this is here.)
  • Almost immediately, Google-YouTube essentially stiff-armed the Senate Homeland Security Committee in a blog post that said no to most of their request. (My second post on this is here.)

I suggest the New York Times editorial board and Google-YouTube go back to the Constitution, which importantly protects freedom of speech in the First Amendment, but also makes the Supreme Court in Article III, the essential final arbiter of what the Constitution says and means in everyday life -- not the New York Times or Google-YouTube authority-wannabes.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths