Google turned 25 years old in September 2023. In that same month, it also faced off with the U.S. Department of Justice in a historic antitrust trial over the company’s signature product, Google Search. What an appropriate way to celebrate the “Don’t Be Evil” giant’s birthday!

The trial began on September 12 and ended on November 16. Closing arguments took place on May 2-3. The federal judge’s verdict, expected this summer or fall, could be the most consequential check on Big Tech since 2000, when Microsoft lost a trial over anticompetitive acts to promote Windows and Internet Explorer.

While awaiting the verdict, we’re stockpiling balloons and saving for a Continuous Confetti Cannon. We’re also updating our Google Timeline of Scandal and Strife.

This update covers Google’s latest offenses against privacy, copyright, and decency. The CreativeFuture Big Tech Fine Tracker (patent pending) had previously reached a total of $4,676,771,000 (billions – that’s a huge number), so we’re bringing it up to date with new fines and a rash of legal settlements.

It’s the least we can do as a belated gift for Google’s 25th anniversary!

July 12, 2023 – Congress Says Google Obtained Sensitive Taxpayer Data

After seven months of investigation, Congress concluded that Google, as well as Meta, improperly received private information from major tax preparation companies. Taxpayer data flowed to Big Tech via tracking pixels, segments of code that spy on internet users. The leaked data included contact information, income, tax break eligibility, and personal details like filing status – so much so that a former FTC official called the breach “a five-alarm fire.” Trying to shift blame, Google and Meta said their policies prohibit clients from mishandling sensitive information. However, the FTC and state attorneys general could sue Big Tech, as well as tax companies, for breaking promises to protect privacy.

August 17, 2023 – Senators Ask FTC to Investigate YouTube for Tracking Kids

U.S. Senators are alarmed by new evidence that Google’s YouTube facilitated collection of children’s data, possibly in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The evidence came from a report by the ad research company Adalytics, which found ads for adults on almost 100 YouTube videos intended for children. Clicking the ads led viewers to product websites, where they were tracked with code from Google and other tech giants. In September 2019, Google agreed to a $170 million settlement with the FTC and New York’s attorney general, which had accused YouTube of violating COPPA. Now, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) want another investigation to find out if Google is STILL profiting by illegally collecting children’s data and targeting them with ads.

September 6, 2023 – To Celebrate Birthday Month, Google Settles Lawsuit over App Store

Google agreed with all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., to settle an antitrust lawsuit over the 30% commission that Google charges for transactions in Google Play, its app marketplace. The lawsuit was filed in July 2021, and it was scheduled to go to trial in November 2023. The settlement, though not its exact terms, was announced shortly before the DOJ trial over Google Search began. Eventually, we learned that Google paid $700 million to make this headache go away.

Fine Tracker: $5,376,771,000

September 14, 2023 – Settlement Spree Continues with $93 Million for Violating Californians’ Privacy

Throwing big money at yet another legal problem, Google agreed to pay $93 million to settle a lawsuit that accused it of deceiving consumers and violating their privacy. According to California’s attorney general, Google led users to believe they could prevent tracking of their movements by disabling Location History. Google made it difficult for users to tell whether Location History was enabled or disabled. In fact, Google collected geolocation data from users who had disabled Location History. The lawsuit details many dirty tricks, but Google claims any issues were fixed long ago. Somebody’s hand must be getting sore with writing all these settlement checks!

Fine Tracker: $5,469,771,000

November 13, 2023 – Google Has No Good, Very Bad Day in Antitrust Trial

An economist testifying in Google’s antitrust trial disclosed that it pays a whopping 36% of ad revenue – far more than would seem reasonable in a fair market – to remain the default search engine on Apple’s Safari browser. When Google’s CEO testified on October 30, he claimed EVERYONE prefers Google because it is THE BEST search engine. As the DOJ has pointed out, though, Google PAYS other tech companies BILLIONS to funnel users to Google Search. The information leaked today shows just how favorable the revenue sharing agreement is to Apple, which, for mysterious reasons, has NOT developed a competing search engine. As one courtroom observer wrote, “Google’s lead counsel, John Schmidtlein, was visibly upset.” If Google is going to hire lawyers that may have to explain away inconvenient facts, perhaps it should look into ones with better poker faces.

November 28, 2023 – Google Harmed Clients by Placing Their Ads on Banned Sites

In a 270-page report, the brand safety firm Adalytics showed that Google violated the wishes of Fortune 500 companies, the U.S. government, and other clients by serving their ads on inappropriate or illegal websites. Examples included websites of piracy enterprises, porn distributors, and sanctioned entities based in Iran. In addition, Google placed alcohol ads on websites meant for children. Many advertisers had opted out of using the Search Partners Network (SPN) because members of the Network are not disclosed. As an added precaution, some submitted lists of websites to exclude from ad campaigns. Google placed ads on the SPN or banned sites anyway. The stress of this fraudulent activity has us reaching for another drink – as previously advertised on “,” according to Adalytics. 

December 11, 2023 – Federal Jury Condemns Google Play as Illegal Monopoly

According to a federal jury, Google abused its market power to capture revenues that should have gone to app developers. As Epic Games successfully argued, Google locked Android users into its app store, Google Play, through various means, including secret payments to other software companies to keep them from opening alternative app stores. Then, Google charged developers up to 30% for sales on Google Play. In 2021, Epic essentially lost a similar case against Apple, but in September 2023, Google settled a related lawsuit from the DOJ. If the jury verdict survives appeal, developers could be freed from extortionate Google App Store fees. That’s why Epic’s CEO was “beaming” and ecstatically shaking hands with his opponent’s lawyer like a new father.

January 10, 2024 – Did Google Lay Off 1,000 More Employees Out of Greed, or Just for Kicks?

A company spokesperson would not provide specific numbers, but an estimated 1,000 engineers have lost their jobs as Google continues streamlining operations to increase profits. To see how much Google was hurting, we pulled its latest quarterly report, which showed a net income of OVER $73 BILLION for 2023. Investors aren’t in a panic to offload stock, so Google could probably afford to retain its current employees AND hire additional engineers to improve areas of key weakness, such as content moderation and platform safety. We guess Google plans to fix its problems AFTER Hell reopens as a ski resort.

February 5, 2024 – Google Will Pay $350 Million Settlement After Trying to Cover Up Security Breach

Google agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Rhode Island on behalf of investors, who lost money after Google tried to cover up a security breach in Google Plus, a social media platform launched in 2011 and discontinued in 2019. Google discovered that it had failed to protect user data in March 2018. Fearing a scandal of Cambridge Analytica’s magnitude, Google did not inform users or investors. The Wall Street Journal exposed Google’s misconduct in October 2018. Google paid $7.5 million to settle with users in 2020; now, it will pay $350 million to compensate investors, including the pension fund for Rhode Island’s government employees.

Fine Tracker: $5,819,771,000

March 1, 2024 – Google Can’t Get Its Shit Together, as Evidenced by Its AI’s Racially Diverse Nazis

Should CEO Sundar Pichai be fired, so soon after Google’s 25th birthday? There were grumblings to that effect inside Google after its AI depicted Black Vikings, lady popes, and World War II Nazis of color. Since OpenAI debuted ChatGPT in late November 2022, Google has rushed to catch up to the Microsoft-backed leader in AI technology. In February 2024, Google rebranded its chatbot (then known as Bard) as Gemini after adding image generation capabilities. By late February, Gemini’s portraits had offended both sides of the culture wars, but a journalist explained that the scandal was a symptom of Google’s “[o]rganizational dysfunction.” Whether or not Pichai finds a fall guy, will Google finally learn to prioritize launching safe, reliable products instead of madly chasing profits? We would laugh if we didn’t want to scream.

March 20, 2024 – France Fines Google $270 Million for Violating News Copyrights

According to France’s antitrust regulator, Google owes $270 million for breaking promises to compensate news publishers when reusing their work. Since 2019, French laws have required large search engines and social media platforms to negotiate fair licenses for news media, as outlined in the EU’s Directive on Copyright. In 2022, Google paid a fine of €500 million (currently $541 million) for flouting those laws, and it promised to start respecting news copyrights. Now, Google has once again been caught using other people’s work without their knowledge or consent. We would be happier about Google’s punishment if we had any hope that Google might change its behavior.

Fine Tracker: $6,089,771,000

April 1, 2024 – Google Settles $5 Billion Class-Action Lawsuit for $0

This outrageous headline is no April Fool’s joke. According to details released today, Google will delete user data and change certain business practices to settle a class-action lawsuit over the Chrome browser. In 2020, Chrome users sued because Google marketed Incognito mode to its users as a privacy tool while it actually continued to track users’ online behavior. The plaintiffs originally sought damages of $5,000 per affected user, which amounted to $5 billion! They have dropped this demand in the final settlement agreement, but Google still must delete improperly gathered data, correct misleading explanations of Incognito mode, and offer users more options for protecting privacy. After the class-action settlement, Incognito users may still sue Google as individuals, but will the individual claims add up to a whopping $5 billion? If the number of individual claims is as many as the readers of our Google Timeline – well, no, it will not.

April 12, 2024 – Google Throws Tantrum over Another Online News Bill

Similar to measures previously debated in Australia and Canada, the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA) would require Google to share profits from ads on news links with publishers of the original articles. Sounds fair, right? It’s also a practical way to stop Big Tech from cannibalizing journalism completely. Unfortunately, profiting from other people’s work is Google’s favorite business model, so it raged against the proposed “link tax” and delisted news sites in search results for some of California’s internet users.  As California State Senator Scott Wiener observed, “Google is having a temper tantrum.” NOT a good look for a company that just turned 25.

May 15, 2024 – Google Can’t Let You Google That, Dave

Even though AI continues to generate potentially dangerous “hallucinations,” Google will implement AI Overviews for 1 billion users by the end of 2024. As the tech giant explained at its annual conference for software developers, it has already begun testing AI Overviews on some U.S. internet users, who receive AI-generated answers to certain queries ahead of the usual results. Hyping the product, Head of Search Liz Reid announced, “Google will do the Googling for you.” Although she claimed that AI Overviews spur people’s curiosity to explore the internet, which leads them to other websites, online publishers and other businesses fear that they will lose even more traffic and ad revenue to Google. We suspect they are right, because Reid’s claim didn’t pass the smell test – AND she wouldn’t support it with data from product tests. We guess Google simply cannot let anyone interfere with its mission to keep users on its own site.

Fine Tracker Total: $6,089,771,000

By our count, Google has spent almost $1.5 billion on fines and legal settlements just since its birthday month. Remember – we don’t report every fine or settlement around the world, so the real total is probably more. EXCELLENT WORK, Google!

If we were going to blow $1.5 billion on a 25th birthday bash, we wouldn’t know where to start. We guess that is what we get for having some integrity. Unfortunately, $1.5 billion is insignificant to a company worth over $2 TRILLION.

As far as we can tell, Google happily spent spare change to resolve some pesky legal troubles. Then, it got back to its preferred forms of celebration: invading privacy, infringing copyrights, abusing market dominance, and above all, raking in shit-tons of money.

Let’s hope the court makes the right decision in Google’s antitrust trial. Let’s also hope for penalties significant enough to affect the tech behemoth.

If Google can continue treating fines and legal settlements as the cost of doing business, we might see another 25 years of The Google Timeline of Scandal and Strife. Good news for the 17 of you that read these all the way through – for which we thank you! 🤷🏼‍♂️