Little brat brother Facebook has been hogging the media attention lately, but CreativeFuture hasn’t forgotten about the tech industry’s Mother of Malfeasance, Google.
We’ve been keeping track of recent misdeeds, and we do NOT like what we see. Neither do numerous governments around the world. Let’s hope somebody can put Google in a corner. Otherwise, there’s no reason to believe the $1.5 trillion behemoth will change its pattern of misbehavior.
As this issue of The Timeline of Scandal and Strife shows all too vividly, Google continues to trample on data privacy, the free market, intellectual property, and even its own policies against hate speech.
But hey, who has time to worry about values? Not “
Don’t Be Evil” Google. The Silicon Valley mother has been too busy maximizing profits at the expense of creatives, users, and its own employees.
January 5, 2022
French authorities fined Google €150 million (over $165 million) for failing to let users reject cookies in a simple, streamlined manner, as required by the EU’s e-Privacy Directive. Google was already fined €100 million (over $120 million) in December 2020 for similar violations. Now, if Google doesn’t fix the problem within three months, it will owe an additional €100,000 (over $110,000) per day. Maybe that will finally light a fire under the trillion-dollar data hoarder.
January 6, 2022
The U.S. International Trade Commission has agreed with Sonos that Google infringed FIVE of its patents in devices like smartphones and speakers. Google will no longer be allowed to import products violating those patents. If Google had to pay Sonos to license its technologies, though, then the tech behemoth would owe Sonos around $50 million/year, some experts estimate. It sounds like Google is getting off easy with the import ban.
January 7, 2022
A judge for the National Labor Relations Board has ordered Google to share records of communications with IRI Consultants, the firm Google retained to help with a union-busting effort codenamed “Project Vivian.” Google claims that many documents it exchanged with IRI are protected by attorney-client privilege, but as the judge pointed out, Google didn’t hire IRI Consultants for legal advice. In fact, Project Vivian’s purpose – according to one Google manager – was “to engage employees more positively and convince them that unions suck.” It really does sound like SUCH a great place to work. Google settled the lawsuit in March.
January 14, 2022
Details previously redacted but now released from a December 2020 lawsuit support claims that Google cheated advertisers and publishers, using stolen profits to increase its own monopoly power. For example, Google charged advertisers the second-highest bid price, but it actually only paid publishers the third-highest rate, cutting publisher revenue by 40%. Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleges that Google used that money to rig ad auctions behind the scenes so that its products and services would gain unfair advantages over those of competitors. Clearly, Google believes it should “go big or go home” when committing crimes.
January 18, 2022
Google didn’t just work to cement its ad monopoly on its own – it also conspired with Facebook to rig ad auctions. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, reportedly played an instrumental role. Maybe she thought she was leaning in… but it looks more like she was leaning out. As of June 2022, she is the EX-Chief Operating Officer.
January 24, 2022
Remember when we learned how Google tracks Chrome users while they browse in Incognito mode? Well, turns out, it’s grabbing other location data from its users that it shouldn’t have… once its users have opted out of geolocation services. Therefore, Attorneys General from Texas, Washington state, and Washington, D.C., are suing under a consumer protection act. Their message to Google? Shame on you for “bold misrepresentations.” We’ll see if a federal jury agrees.
February 2, 2022
Purdue University has accused Google of infringing a patent for software code, which was incorporated in Android Studio without permission. Since Google wouldn’t meet to discuss licensing terms, Purdue University decided to sue. If Google still won’t come to the table, Purdue University says it’s ready to sue over other instances of Google’s patent violations, too.
February 7, 2022
The European Commission already decided to fine Google $2.7 billion for self-preferencing in Shopping search results. Now, PriceRunner, a Swedish comparison-shopping company, claims it suffered $2.4 billion in losses due to Google’s anti-competitive behavior. Google’s response? “PriceRunner chose not to use Shopping ads on Google, so may not have seen the same successes that others have.” Real-world translation: “Jeez, maybe PriceRunner should have used our tools instead of trying to compete with us…”
February 16, 2022
Although Google says it’s implementing more private advertising technologies, Gizmodo explains why we should remain skeptical. The bottom line: user privacy is NOT consistent with Google’s targeted advertising businesses. Incidentally, Meta disagrees with Gizmodo – applauding its rival’s privacy initiative – which should tell you everything you need to know about Google’s motives.
April 13, 2022
Thanks to AI, Google autocomplete has been “deadnaming” trans celebrities (dredging up their birth names instead of respecting their chosen names), as well as prompting users to make other transphobic queries. Sadly, this is just one example of how AI can reflect and reinforce dangerous prejudices, according to research in the publication Them.
April 14, 2022
According to a suit filed in federal court, Google bought Waze to neutralize the last rival left standing in geolocation software. After securing an illegal monopoly, Google increased prices to reap astronomical profits from app developers, who must pay to integrate products with Google Maps even though the service is free for everyday users. If the lawsuit succeeds, any app developer charged a fee by Google for using Maps functionality since 2018 may be entitled to damages.
May 18, 2022
The Spanish Data Protection Agency fined Google €10 Million (over $10.5 million) for “two very serious infringements” of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). When European users asked Google to delete certain personal data, Google frustrated the EU’s Right to be Forgotten requirements by illegally forwarding details to the third party Lumen, a U.S. group that studies data removal requests. Was Google hoping to take advantage of academic cover? Or is it simply too busy collecting comprehensive data on all of us to bother with meatspace’s pesky laws?
June 6, 2022
Google failed to remove YouTube videos containing anti-Italian slurs and unsubstantiated criminal accusations against John Barilaro, the deputy premier of New South Wales from 2016–2021. Since Google ignored its own hate speech policies and profited from ad revenues on libelous content, a federal Australian judge awarded Barilaro damages. What Barilaro would really like is an apology, but Google and YouTube have yet to say they’re sorry. They’re probably too busy totaling up their ill-gotten profits.
June 15, 2022
In Brazil, the Google Play Store has been doling out apps from ad-supported piracy operations, some of which outrank legal streamers in popularity. Following a report from the Brazilian news source Tecmundo (Tech World), TorrentFreak showed that one piracy app had over 5 million downloads, 83,000 reviews, and 4.6 stars. “It’s as if I had subscribed to all these streams,” enthused one satisfied customer, “only without paying anything.” Does Google (a) not read Portuguese, (b) tacitly condone piracy, or (c) need to invest more resources in enforcing rules against copyright infringement? Hint: It can’t be (a), because there’s Google Translate.
June 30, 2022
According to numerous international civil society groups, Google continues to invade user privacy without obtaining informed consent. In the European Union, Google appears to have violated the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation by making it complicated to opt out of data collection and failing to disclose how personal information will be used. In the USA, which lacks comprehensive data privacy regulations, Google could be in trouble for deceptive business practices and violations of consumer protection laws. Now, let’s play Google offstage with an alphabetical list of countries where complaints, public admonitions, or threats to sue have been made, shall we? Deep breath – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and the U.S. of A.
Have you noticed any striking patterns in Google’s conduct?
When it comes to data privacy, Google makes it difficult to opt out of tracking but also keeps tracking those who think they have opted out.
When it comes to competitors, Google either buys and buries them or manipulates the market to give its products an unfair advantage.
Google just takes what it wants, regardless of the desires or well-being of others. Meanwhile, corporate lawyers present dubious justifications as they scramble to cover Google’s … assets.
More and more people are piercing the lies, so Google’s misconduct may eventually catch up to it. Unfortunately, in the meantime, look for Google to just keep creating more and more stories that will fill the pages of our Google Timeline of Scandal and Strife.