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Why FTC's $22.5m Google Privacy-Fine is Faux Accountability

If one fact-checks and puts in perspective the FTC's expected $22.5m privacy fine of Google -- for bypassing millions of Apple Safari users' privacy and security settings to add a tracking cookie to track users browsing activity -- it looks like faux FTC accountability of Google. Close scrutiny of the FTC's oversight record of Google's exceptionally bad consumer record and very long privacy rap sheet suggests that Google could have little to fear from the FTC on pending privacy or antitrust enforcement going forward, despite PR and optics to the contrary. Unfortunately, the evidence to date indicates the FTC's enforcement oversight of Google has had minimal accountability or deterrent effect on Google's behavior.

To be fair to the FTC, the FTC does not have all the legal authority it needs to fully address the Google privacy enforcement problem, but that being acknowledged, many poor FTC decisions have further self-limited the FTC's ability to confront the exceptional Google enforcement problem.

I. Google appears to enjoy faux FTC Accountability.

Google's Picking a Third Antitrust Fight in Becoming a Domain Registrar

Is anyone paying attention to the profound antitrust implications of Google applying to ICANN to become the world's largest domain registrar for Internet Taxonomy 2.0 -- the next generation of Internet addressing and classification of information? Giving the world's dominant search engine -- that is already under antitrust investigation on four continents for favoring Google content over competitors' content -- the additional market power of controlling the allocation of new keyword domain-names which Google would then index for publishers, rank for users, and monetize for advertisers, is an unquestionable conflict of interest and a recipe for more Google monopolization.

ICANN's original Internet taxonomy 1.0 involved truly "generic" top level domains as like .com, .org, .net, .gov, .edu, .mil, organized around institutional purposes and around geography to recognize sovereign nation authority like .US, .UK, .JP, .NZ, etc.

My WSJ Letter to the Editor -- Google and Microsoft Antitrust Cases are Different

Kudos to the WSJ for publishing my Letter to the Editor challenging the central assumption of the WSJ editorial questioning antitrust action against Google because consumers benefit from Google's free search. My letter pointed out a false assumption begets a false analogy and an incorrect conclusion.

The text of my letter follows:

"The conclusions of The Competition Versus Google editorial rest on the false market assumption that Google search users are customers when they are not.  Consumers using Google search pay Google nothing. Consumers are the product Google sells to advertisers and publishers. This false market assumption begets a false market analogy between the Google and Microsoft antitrust cases, because unlike Google, Microsoft's consumers were also Microsoft’s customers. Free market competition and antitrust law excel at serving customers’ market interests, which may or may not be consumers' interests. Incorrectly conflating these different interests confuses the real market forces and problems at work here."


 

Evidence FTC Tipped Google to Mobile Ad Dominance

New evidence indicates that the FTC's lax Google antitrust enforcement -- in approving Google's acquisition of AdMob with no conditions in 2009, despite FTC staff recommendations to block it as monopolistic -- have enabled Google to extend its dominance of PC search and advertising into mobile search and advertising.

Mobile Payments Ignite New Competitive Free-for-All

Mobile technology advances are dramatically increasing the intensity of competition broadly online and offline. The technological convenience of using a smart phone, tablet etc. rather than a card or cash to pay for goods and services, wherever one may be, is igniting a competitive free-for-all.

  • That's because the technological shift to devices rather than cards creates a huge potential competitive opportunity for most everyone in the competitive ecosystem to potentially disintermediate other industries -- i.e. Wrest control of the customer relationship, customers' private information, interests and metadata, and also the bundling of marketing coupons and promotions, in markets with transactions in the trillions of dollars annually.

Activists and regulators who fear a potential new communications "opoly" lurking around every corner -- in need of preemptive government intervention to protect consumers from the convenience, savings and benefits of a highly-competitive marketplace -- need to take a breath, enjoy, and get out of the way of this amazing technological convergence and innovation over mobile payments.

Google's Googlomerate Valuation Mess - Is Motorola an Albatross?

In anticipation of Google formally closing its "transformative" Motorola acquisition, investors soon will have to figure out the appropriate new valuation model/multiple for GOOG-MMI. Arguably, few major companies have undermined or confused their valuation model/multiple more for investors than Google, which acquired a major company that is it's investment, financial, operational, and cultural opposite.

 

Google vs. the World

Google is battling law enforcement in the U.S. and around the world on three different legal battlefronts: antitrust, privacy and property. Why is it only Google that is under serious law enforcement investigation for so many different serious infractions in so many countries around the world? According to a top Google lawyer, “Google’s leadership does not care terribly much about precedent or law” per Stephen Levy’s book In The Plex. That very rare scofflaw attitude, combined with the vast amount of evidence cataloged below, strongly suggests Google is not the innocent victim it claims to be, but a dominant perpetrator of systematic violations of law around the globe.

Only Google is battling law enforcement around the globe with the defiant stance that:

Why the Verizon-Cable Agreement Increases Competition

 

Reports that the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Verizon Wireless-Cable agreement spotlights an old truism: What one looks for, one sees. What the Government ultimately sees here largely will depend on whether the Government looks backward through an analog competitive lens or looks forward through an Internet competitive convergence lens. In a nutshell, if they look backwards with 1996 cable-telco Silo-Vision lenses, they will see an agreement not predicted in 1996; however if they look forward with 2012 Internet-Vision lenses that see 4G LTE wireless, iPhones/Android, VoIP, DBS, video streaming, Netflix, cable modems, DSL, FIOS, Skype voice/video file-sharing, cloud-computing etc. – they will see an agreement that is not at all surprising or problematic given the competitive context of today and the future.

Twitter’s Realpolitik & The Sovereign-ization of the Internet

Reports that “Twitter Can Censor by Country” is a perfect example of how the world is changing the Internet. Change is a two-way street. Conventional wisdom that only assumes the Internet is changing the world risks being blind-sided by the Internet’s underappreciated exa-trend: how the world is changing the Internet.

See my Forbes Tech Capitalist post: "Twitter Realpolitik & the Sovereignization of the Internet" to learn about Twitter's new realpolitik and how sovereign powers will increasingly be asserting themselves vis a vis the Internet.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths