Once again, Google’s Year in Search campaign has taken credit for a staggering volume of human ingenuity and effort.
According to the 2022 video, Google has guided personal transformations for people young and old. It brought us post-pandemic exuberance at the Rio de Janeiro Carnival. It masterminded Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian occupation. It even promoted progressive casting for the live-action Little Mermaid.
Likewise, Google seemed to claim responsibility for Sheryl Lee Ralph’s awe-inspiring Emmy® acceptance speech – not to mention every other historic achievement by a woman of color, including Sydney McLaughlin’s 400-meter hurdles record and Katya Echazaretta’s trip to space.
Clearly, the world was blessed – “more than ever,” to quote its latest Year in Search video – by Mother Google, who gave her faithful flock all that was good and true and beautiful in 2022.
Too bad Google remains one of the world’s richest con artists, exploiting people’s creativity, mining our private information, and monetizing personal data through micro-targeted ads.
It’s high time for a reality check, and we can’t wait to administer it via another installment of The Google Timeline of Scandal and Strife. Unlike a penicillin shot, this treatment takes the form of a highly warranted kick to Google’s ass.
For good measure, we’ll also keep a running total of Google’s fines – but limited to the ones reported in this update, since it’s almost impossible to keep up with them all. Read on to see the grand total – a figure that would make the bogeyman shudder.
July 18, 2022
For Courtroom Misbehavior, Google Must Pay Opponent’s Legal Fees
Because Google tried to stall off a $5 billion lawsuit, a U.S. federal judge in California has ordered the tech behemoth to pay $971,000 in fees for the opposing lawyers. Filed in 2020, the lawsuit seeks class-action certification to sue Google for tracking Chrome users while they browsed the internet in Incognito mode, which Google misrepresented as a private option. Legal expenses for the plaintiffs mounted as Google remained behindhand in providing witness lists and relevant evidence. Therefore, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen ordered Google to pay part of the plaintiffs’ attorney fees. In poker, you only slow-roll opponents when you have a winning hand. Google tries it when afraid of losing.
Fine Tracker: $971,000
July 27, 2022
Google Once Again Averts “Cookiepocalyspe,” Keeping Our Privacy in Jeopardy
Despite past promises, Google has announced that it won’t implement its Privacy Sandbox, intended to stop third-party tracking of your data, until the latter half of 2024. In the meantime, Google’s Chrome browser will continue to allow third-party tracking cookies, the cornerstone of Google’s micro-targeted ad business. Initially, Google promised to disable third-party cookies by 2022; subsequently, it rescheduled the “cookiepocalypse” for 2023. Since improvements for user privacy have been put off once again, we’re pretty sure that this story is about a dystopia maintained – not an apocalypse averted.
August 8, 2022
Google Punches Down to Punish Former Collaborator
Google has sued its former collaborator Sonos, alleging the speaker manufacturer has infringed seven Google Voice Assistant patents. In January, the U.S. International Trade Commission banned import of certain Google products because they were found to infringe five Sonos patents. Now, according to a Sonos spokesperson, Google has retaliated with spurious claims because it hopes to “grind down a smaller competitor.” Of course, Google would never abuse the law to bully a rival, so we’re sure the present dispute is a simple misunderstanding. NOT.
September 14, 2022
Google Must Pay Over $4 Billion as Ordered Four Years Ago, Says EU Court
The EU’s second-highest court confirmed that Google must pay over $4 billion in fines, almost precisely mirroring the previous order of the European Commission. The executive body levied a €4.34 billion fine in 2018 because Google unfairly stifled competition. Specifically, Google pressured smartphone manufacturers to use the Android operating system without modifications and to preinstall 11 Google apps, including Search, Chrome, Play Store, YouTube, Maps, and Mail. The court approved fines up to €4.125 billion, which means Google’s appeal shaved off almost $250 million. Although we hope the difference is not enough to cover the tech behemoth’s legal expenses, we also hope Google won’t further drag the case out by using its go-to legal strategy – temper tantrums.
Fine Tracker: $4,000,971,000
October 20, 2022
Competition Commission of India Fined Google $161.9 Million, Then Additional $113 Million
After a multiyear investigation, the Competition Commission of India fined Google $161.9 million for abusing its dominant position in markets for smartphone operating systems (Android), online search (Google Search), web browsers (Chrome), video platforms (YouTube), and app stores (Google Play Store). Android software powers 97% of India’s 600 million smartphones, and India has more users of Google services than any other country. Less than one week later, the Competition Commission fined Google an additional $113 million for violations specific to the Google Play Store. Among other things, the government ordered Google to start allowing third-party payment processors.
Fine Tracker: $4,275,871,000
November 14, 2022
Will Record-Setting $391.5 Million Settlement Deter Google from Secret Geolocation Tracking?
Claiming that problematic practices have already been corrected, Google agreed to pay $391.5 million to settle a lawsuit from 40 state attorneys general. According to prosecutors, Google tricked users by gathering geolocation data while letting users believe tracking was turned off. Notably, private data was collected even when apps didn’t require it. Although the settlement broke the record for multistate privacy lawsuits, the amount paled in comparison to to Google’s revenues – over $69 billion in just the third quarter of 2022.
Fine Tracker: $4,667,371,000
November 29, 2022
Google Will Pay $9.4 Million to Resolve Deceptive Advertising Complaint
After an investigation by the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and seven state attorneys general, Google has promised to pay $9.4 million to avoid prosecution for deceptive advertising. In a scheme carried out during 2019-2020, Google hired radio hosts at 12 major networks to praise the Pixel 4 phone – without trying it first. The FTC documented 29,000 instances of false endorsements, including puff pieces Google wrote and radio hosts delivered. Of course, since Google’s annual revenue is expected to exceed $280 billion, the tech behemoth can write the settlement off as the cost of doing business – that business being invading people’s privacy.
Fine Tracker: $4,676,771,000
December 21, 2022
Google Continued Doing Business with Ad Facilitator for Manga Piracy Ring
In a damning study, ProPublica discovered that Google’s Display Network helps to sell ad space for publishers of misinformation, porn sites like Female Prison Pals, and manga (Japanese comics) piracy rings. While pressuring its competitors to identify digital ad sellers, Google discloses names for only 23% of its own, and web domains for only 11%. As ProPublica further demonstrated, Google continued doing business with a Bulgaria-based company even after learning that it placed ads on manga piracy sites and used bots to increase traffic artificially, defrauding advertisers. Ads from major, reputable brands – as well as from Google’s own, disreputable brand – appeared on the piracy sites. Of course, Google profits from such transactions, so it had little incentive to clean up its act until ProPublica asked for comment.
By following the money, we arrive at a less flattering portrait than the one from Google’s Year in Search. From just headlines curated for this timeline update, the CreativeFuture Big Tech Fine Tracker (patent pending) calculated a monstrous total of $4,676,771,000.
Unfortunately, those headlines and fines don’t represent an exhaustive account of Google’s outrages. And since Google’s Display Network remains a “black box,” as ProPublica ably showed, who knows what crimes the tech behemoth is still aiding and abetting?
Despite efforts by regulators around the world, we’re still a long way from true accountability. Many people rely on Mother Google – but contrary to what The Year in Search would lead viewers to believe, the tech behemoth’s ubiquity is a curse rather than a blessing.