Tag Archives: Advertising

Google’s Advertising Revenue Is Under Major Threat In Australia

Earlier this month a court in Australia reversed a lower court’s decision and ruled that the ads Google allows to run on its search engine are “misleading and deceptive”. I wrote more about this in another post – click here.

After this ruling by the Federal Court, Google was caught completely off-guard (typical Google arrogance of course) and they definitely were not expecting it to go in that direction. It also extremely worries Google and could set a threatening precedent to their business model. Google is concerned that the Australian court’s decision could be copied by other courts in different countries and it will hurt their bottom line. Google’s ad revenue is worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Australia alone.

Google will fight the court’s decision tooth and nail to avoid this from spreading and to make sure their money-making machine is protected. The company has less than 14 days to appeal the decision to a High Court. What Google is most concerned about is protecting their money and not making sure that their users are protected. This isn’t the first time that the company has gotten themselves in deep trouble over their ad business. The US government forced Google to pay up half a billion dollars for aiding and abetting a con artist commit his crimes (I will post an update story on this soon ,which I forgot to post).

The point is that Google has repeatedly shown that they are willing to accept money from every advertiser, every company, and even criminals if they can get away with it. They obviously have very little ethics and I sure wouldn’t trust them. Be careful clicking on those ads.

This Australian legal battle against Google is a very interesting one to watch.

ABC News in Australia did a fantastic report on this story. The video is below and if you want to read the transcript, you can go to their website – click here

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Australian Federal Court: Google’s Ads Are “Misleading And Deceptive”

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

An Australian court said that Google engages in “misleading and deceptive” conduct because of the ads it chooses to display. Google was sued last year for misleading its users but a lower court didn’t think Google was liable for what its advertisers do and ruled in favor of Google.

But The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) appealed this decision in the Federal Court and won. This is a major defeat for Google who thought it could get away scot-free but now has to comply with this new ruling.

The issue involves advertisers buying keywords and placing ads using the name of a major competitor. So when a Google search engine user clicked on an ad thinking they were going to be directed to the website of a particular travel agency, they would actually be redirected to its competitor’s website. Google’s AdWords program permitted all sorts of companies to engage in this deceptive act to trick users. These companies bought search terms that returned Google’s sponsored results and redirected users to websites of rival companies.

For example, a company called CarSales bought search terms and ad space from Google. The company’s ad included this headline in their advertisement: “Honda.com.au”. When Google users clicked on that ad they thought they were going to Honda’s website but they were actually redirected to CarSales’ website.

The ACCC’s Chairman, Rod Sims, said in a statement:

“The ACCC brought this appeal because it raises very important issues as to the role of search engine providers as publishers of paid content in the online age,” Sims said. “This is an important outcome because it makes it clear that Google and other search engine providers which use similar technology to Google will be directly accountable for misleading or deceptive paid search results”

Google is upset and “disappointed” by the court’s decision. Obviously, it believes that it’s completely innocent *yawn*. Google is throwing its advertisers under the bus by claiming that it is totally their fault for misleading customers – Google claims that it just gives these advertisers the platform to show their ads and isn’t involved any further.

Yeah, whatever…

The Federal Court is forcing Google to pay the ACCC’s court costs and Google must implement a compliance program.

For more information:

The Register, “Google ads ‘misleading and deceptive’” – click here

The Australian, “Google ads ruling hands win to watchdog” – click here

CNET, “Google charged with ‘deceptive’ conduct in search ads” – click here

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Back Off Google, Please! A Defense Of Privacy

Megan McArdle is a senior editor for The Atlantic. She published an article today titled “Take My Privacy, Please! A Defense of Google“. Needless to say, I disagree with her arguments and I have to respond by writing a point-by-point rebuttal against some of the things she wrote. To read her full article, please click here.

“People love to freak out about incursions on their privacy. And by ‘people’ I mean cable news shows”

  • Yes, people do love to protect their privacy. Those ‘freaked out’ include: several consumer advocacy groups, state attorneys general, members of the US Congress and Senate, the White House, the European Union, several Asian countries, privacy commissioners from around the world, bloggers, and the average person.

“A week ago, Google implemented a plan to aggregate (most of) the data they collect from the many, many products they offer. Not to collect new data. Not to publish or disseminate that data in a new way.”

  • Google’s new privacy policy allows it to collect more personal data by combining data. The consolidation of personal data to combat “the faceless web” (as Google put it) will allow Google to easily figure you out better. It allows Google to take your personal data from YouTube, Gmail, the search engine, and other products –which will then allow them to give you one identity. They want to see users as a single person across all of Google owned products. This will further eliminate anonymity and discourage users from tailoring their identity based on what they’re using. Combining data is a deliberate act of collecting new data. It also allow Google to use that data in new ways, such as selling your personal information to advertisers who want a clearer image of exactly who you are and they can disseminate your data on different Google products.

They’ll sell information about every prescription they fill at CVS — or every pint of Haagen Dazs at Safeway — in exchange for a steady infusion of $1 coupons. They’ll hand off information about the timing of their daily commute in exchange for a couple of minutes saved at a toll booth every day. They’ll let Amazon track their diaper and book purchases because they would rather not re-enter their credit card number every time they want to buy something

  •  We don’t live in a world where people choose to share absolutely nothing about themselves. There can be a healthy amount of personal information we are willing to give away – if we feel it is necessary, beneficial, and controlled. The examples you listed are choices people willingly made for themselves to make their lives easier. Those people who made those choices know the full consequences and can limit the damage to their privacy. Google collects so much information it rivals any government spying around the world to keep track of citizens. Google admits it has very sensitive information about us and their products are ubiquitous. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to escape Google, even when you’re not on a Google owned website. Google has numerous tracking tools to keep a watch on Internet users all the time. Internet users have no idea just how much Google collects about them, where they are being spied on, how they can opt-out, or even if their information is safe. At least if I give my personal information to a store, it’s kept limited to that one store. Google follows users everywhere. So please, stop comparing apples to oranges.

“I think people get a pretty decent bargain when they hand over their personal browsing, search, and email data to Google”

  • It’s far from ‘pretty decent’. Google is gouging us, it’s a total rip-off. Google’s currency of choice is personal data not dollars. Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising – the company sells our personal data without our explicit consent for huge profits. Google harvests huge amounts of personal data, including but not limited to: age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, politics, financial information, every website we visit, your location, and the list goes on and on. Google is just one company and this one company knows us better than some of our closest friends. This is not just a simple hand over of a bit of information of here and there – as you tried to downplay it – this is downright alarming and an invasion of our privacy.

Google does its darnedest to sell you stuff you would probably like to buy

  • Those creepy – and yes they’re totally creepy – so called ‘personalized’ ads actually don’t work well. Tracking companies that serve these mutated ads are not doing a very good job of figuring out exactly what we want to buy.  For example, a child might research material on Ford cars for a school assignment and then a few hours later that child receives ads for Ford cars when they never intended on purchasing a car. Now the child knows that somebody was creepily looking over their shoulder and is now trying to sell them something they don’t want. It doesn’t make me want to buy more, it makes me suspicious and it’s a total turn off. If a company gets too aggressive in trying to sell me something, I will buy from their competitor.

This is a fact you cannot change

  • We’re working on it.

If Google… can’t scrape and sort your data…Less of the free stuff you like

  •  Fear-mongering. All we want is to take back control of our personal data and limit the damage to our privacy. It will not result in the doomsday scenario where there will be no Internet. The world won’t end in 2012 and the Internet will still survive if we take back control of our personal data.

Google shrank and simplified their privacy policy…”

  • There is good simplification and then there is bad simplification. The simplification to make something more understandable to the average person is a good thing, but Google hasn’t done this. Google’s new privacy policy takes a few hours to get through and it’s confusing. European regulators have said that Google’s new privacy policy is difficult to make sense of “even for trained professionals”. The new privacy policy also leaves out important details about people’s rights for specific products they use.

 Finally, that little bonus part you wrote to make the Washington Post look bad – again, you’re desperately comparing apples to oranges. By the way, The Atlantic has a ton of trackers on its website – I picked up at least 6 ad networks and 9 ad companies (this doesn’t even include the social networking buttons that track you too). The Atlantic is one of the most tracker infested sites I have come across yet.

And Ms. McArdle, since you care so little about privacy – then please publish everything about yourself that Google has ability to track and share it with the whole world. Let’s see all your searches, all the videos you’ve been watching, who all your friends are on Google Plus, let’s see what you’ve been chatting about with your friends on Gmail, and let’s watch your Hangouts too! Who cares about privacy, right? Privacy is soooooo last millennium.

For more information:

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Will Greater Internet Privacy Protection Result In The Loss Of The “Free” Internet?

Alright, look – I have a bone to pick.

Yes, I do! Something makes me uncomfortable – it actually ticks me off.

I’m uncomfortable about some of the stuff that’s being written to defend Google’s spying; some of the nonsense that’s being published to fend off legitimate criticism of Google. I have read through countless news articles since I started this site and, let me tell yeah, I think it’s a disservice to your readers if you do not give them the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

First of all, I’ve seen some really great articles published, which have done the correct thing to fully inform readers of all the implications of using any of Google’s products or services. I’m glad those articles have been written and if you are responsible for those articles - I want to thank you for doing a great job these past several weeks.

On the flip side, and very much in the minority these past several weeks, are people who for some reason can never see Google as doing any wrong. There is always a defence for every Google lie, for Google tracking users, for Google collecting even more information about us, and pretty much anything Google says or does. Sometimes the arguments they use to defend Google seem so outrageous to me that it leaves me to think that these people must be paid by Google one way or another (although some have included disclaimers that they actually have family members who work for Google).

Anyway, I’m not going to speculate on the reasons why some people will always defend Google’s actions – they might be in denial. However, I must offer a rebuttal against two of the most repeated arguments used to defend Google:

The first of which is that the burgeoning Internet revolution to demand back our privacy from Internet companies (such as Google) and advertisers will only result in us losing the “free” Internet. There is this doomsday scenario that they portray will completely result in the destruction of the Internet as we know it today.

The rationale behind this fear-mongering by Google and their partners in crime is that if Internet users do not allow their personal information to be harvested, combined together, and then meticulously analyzed by these companies – we will only be hurting ourselves in the long run. They blackmail us into forfeiting our information so that we may use their services – yes, I’m gonna go there – I think it’s a form of extortion!

They demand grossly unreasonable amounts of personal information from us so that we may have the privilege of using the Internet. But the Internet is not a privilege – it is becoming increasingly a way of life. As more and more of our lives become intertwined in the virtual world – it is almost impossible to not have some sort of online presence if we want to be an active member of society.

Demanding we sell our souls to these companies in exchange for entry in the necessary global community is unethical and should also be legally reprehensible. A blogger named Max Tatton-Brown who had a piece published on Wired UK wrote:

“It’s also another fascinating example of the sense of entitlement people feel to free online services (news, search, maps, encyclopaedias) — and how that is at odds with their understanding of how these companies make money…Google [has] recently done an excellent job of including unmissable banners for their users that explain how they make money and where privacy fits with that.”

Excuse me, Max, but Google’s services are not “free”. There is definitely a price we pay for using those services. We pay with our privacy and the forfeiting of our personal data – this is the currency that Google greedily accepts and will never willingly settle for less. This price we pay is exorbitant! Frankly, Internet users are being gouged and ripped-off by Google! We pay through the roof to use their services. Every time we plug-in our unfiltered thoughts into their search engine, it’s recorded by Google; every time we send and receive an email on Gmail; it’s read by Google; every time we watch that silly YouTube video, it’s noted by Google! Everything we do is constantly tracked all over Google and even on websites not owned by Google via their tracking devices!

I demand a refund from Google, ASAP! I also want them to give me a receipt of my purchases, chop-chop! I want to know exactly how much they took from me and if their charges on my online privacy credit card is a reoccurring expense! Come to think of it, if we had to choose between paying with our privacy or paying with cold hard cash – I rather pay with cash thank you very much. At least this way, I can more easily keep track of just how much Google is really costing me and hold them accountable.

Right now, we know very little about how much debt Google is putting us through. Recent surveys have shown that, although the vast majority of people are deeply concerned about lack of privacy on the Internet, a very small percentage actually know just how damaging it is and what exactly to do about it. Google has people in the dark about what it’s truly costing Internet users to continue using Google products and services – this to me is a form of theft.

Furthermore, isn’t it ironic that Google now has the audacity to lecture Internet users for demanding “free” service? Wasn’t Google the same company, just a few weeks ago, that so publicly denounced anti-piracy bills that would have enforced copyright laws on the Internet? It was Google that was accused by other companies of aiding and abetting Internet users to download free material. It was Google that was trying to fend off copyright owners who wanted to protect their material from mass consumption without any monetary compensation.

My oh my, haven’t the tables turned on Google? If anybody is responsible for this supposed culture of entitlement for free material, Google has nobody to blame but itself. It is Google who fueled, led, and cultivated this culture from the ground up. Now that this entitlement for free stuff has the potential to hurt Google’s bottom line - it’s suddenly a bad thing. Ha! Well, tough luck! You reap what you sow, Google!

Oh and by the way, there are many great services on the web that have been designed to be completely free. It’s amazing what a community of people can do when they pull together their talents to create wonderful free content and services for people, without any hidden costs.

The second argument, and is closely related with the first, is that advocating for greater online privacy protections will ultimately result in the stifling of innovation. Max wrote,

“Bearing in mind that we as a society are receiving tools from these companies that are pushing our civilisation to entire new levels of sophistication, what cost should we be prepared to pay for this? Is it really outrageous to meet that by being shown even more relevant adverts more unobtrusively than ever?”

I categorically reject this argument. Google has used this argument to blackmail governments around the world to permit the company to continue their tracking of Internet users. It’s ridiculous to say that online consumers have to give up everything of themselves so that Google can continue doing what it does.

There are many successful companies that have been built around the concept of free content because people got together to make it happen. Also, keep in mind that because Google’s business model depends on over 90% of its revenues to come from advertising, it will always side with its number one customer – which is the advertisers. The average Google user is not Google’s customer, you are Google’s product!

Google makes enormous profits from advertising – about $40 BILLION every year. If governments demand Google to stop tracking users so that it protects their personal data, gives them greater online freedom, and puts a halt to creepy mutated personalized advertisements – then we will all be better off for it. And guess what, Google will still earn huge profits. Perhaps it won’t hit the same gigantic number it has become accustomed to, but I guarantee you that you certainly won’t be seeing Google at an Internet company food bank any time soon. Google might experience a bit of withdrawal pains from its addiction to gigantic profits from selling our personal data without our full consent, and Google might throw a hissy fit – but it’ll eventually get use to it.

Demanding stringent and comprehensive online privacy protection laws will not throw the baby out with the bath water. Installing free anti-tracking add-on tools to your browsers will not damage the “free” Internet. Adopting a “Do Not Track” button on all browsers and requiring default settings on all web browsers so that it automatically blocks third-party tracking cookies will not result in the bankruptcy of Google.

Therefore, for heaven’s sake, stop the fear-mongering and misinformation coming from Google and their minions. We have a right to privacy and Internet freedom. We shouldn’t have to choose between two extremes: it’s either you have zero privacy or you have zero Internet. C’mon! Whatever!

Google seems to love forcing users pick between two extremes – they don’t believe in a middle option. Just like how they refused to listen to several consumer advocacy groups and US Attorneys General to give users an opt-out option from their new more intrusive privacy policy – instead Google said you either fully embrace their new policy or hit the road. It just shows how arrogant and confident they are in their position that they could muster up the gall to tell users to quit using Google services altogether as form of an ultimate opt-out.

Well, Google better be careful what they wish for because it might just come true. As more and more people educate themselves on the damaging consequences of using Google services, many will eventually completely opt-out for good.

Greater privacy protection laws will not damage Internet freedom, quite the contrary; it will only increase freedoms and privacy.

You can read Max Tatton-Brown’s full article by clicking here

For more information:

ITWorld, “Will Do Not Track kill the ‘free’ Internet?” – click here

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The New Google Privacy Policy Is: You Have No Privacy

 One of the most talked about days since late January, when Google announced to the world that it will be changing its privacy policies, is finally here for some and will soon arrive within a few hours for others. This much dreaded day has really made people think more seriously about their privacy on the Internet and the steps they need to take to protect it.

I have read through countless news articles over the last several weeks and I can say that I have definitely learned a lot. If there is anything good that came out of Google’s lack of respect for their users’ privacy, it certainly is the fact that it woke more people up from their blissful slumber – myself included. I’ve always had this romantic image of Google as being that cool company that builds brilliant products for us to enjoy. For some reason, I always thought Google was different, that Google had a culture that subverted the ways things had always been done. I always thought Google was on our side.

But, I was thinking foolishly. I’ve found out that Google is like any other company and, in some cases, even worse. Its number one priority is raking in the tens of billions of dollars it earns yearly by selling our personal data to advertisers. There have been many voices that shouted and demanded to be heard these past several weeks. They demanded Google to listen to their concerns and stop its harvesting of our personal information. In response, all Google has done was give use disingenuous statements and lies – come to think of it, it seems like Google actually became even more smug and resolute about their plans.

They refused to hear our pleas and refused to give their loyal users the respect they deserve. Nope! Instead, Google sneered and spat in our faces. They couldn’t care less about their users – because for a company that makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising, the average Google user will always, always come in second. The advertisers come in first. You are not Google’s customer, you are Google’s product!

Yet, it is the average user who made little ol’ Google the global juggernaut it has grown up to become! We are the ones who watched your videos in the billions, we are the ones who entrusted our queries by plugging them into your search engine, we are the ones who flocked to your email service to chat with our friends, we are the ones who spent hours building you up! Now, how did Google repay us? By ignoring us! By vowing to change its privacy policies to create a new more intrusive one that will combine all our personal data across all of Google services so that Google can create “the faceless web”!

Well, Google, we’re not gonna take it anymore! It’s over! You have fallen in the hearts and minds of millions of your users who once placed you on a pedestal – but not anymore.  No more! And don’t you dare think that we’ll return, you already took us for granted. You’ve fooled us once, you won’t fool us twice.

The past couple of days I have seen traffic on my site skyrocket like never before. People are obviously concerned and are hungry for knowledge. They desperately want to know how they can better protect themselves. I’m glad I can be a very small part of the Internet revolution as more and more people demand greater online privacy protections. One person here and one person there might not stand a chance against Google – but, collectively, we have strength in numbers. Google doesn’t stand a chance! Google gains and retains power by promoting ignorance, by keeping the masses in a pacified state. However, consumer advocacy groups and individual privacy protection activists gain and retain power by spreading knowledge! We tackle the juggernaut head-on by taking the opposite approach.

So, Google can continue on its stubborn destructive path, but we won’t be silenced. The fight will continue on. It’s still full steam ahead for us too and we’re willing to fight toe-to-toe. March 1 might already be here or soon to arrive, but our work does not stop here. It’s only the beginning. We can’t be complacent with our privacy. We can’t just throw ours arms upwards in frustration and say “I’m done! It’s futile to resist! I’m tired!”. That’s exactly what Google wants you to do. They think people will eventually, at the very least, forget if not forgive too.

But we need to send back a message to Google, in no uncertain terms, that we will neither forgive nor forget. No way! Personally, I will continue keeping an eye on Google and giving you as much information as I can gather so that you can know more about this company.

In the meantime, we can all take the necessary steps to limit the damage to our privacy by deleting our search history on all Google services. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), illustrates how you can do this – click here

I highly recommend you disable third-party cookies on your web browser. If you follow the links on EFF’s website, you will find an illustration on how to do that too. Make sure you to double-check your browser’s security and privacy settings and increase it to its maximum level.

Uninstall Google’s chrome browser and toolbar – don’t ask the fox to watch your henhouse.

For added security use an anti-tracking add-on tool for your browser. Google owns many tracking devices which track your movement all over the web on literally millions of pages. So you’re not just vulnerable on Google owned websites, but on all websites that Google has a tracker on. An anti-tracking tool will prevent Google from spying on you. I wrote about this before – click here

Finally, share privacy and security knowledge with your loved ones. Make sure they are protected too. Also, keep the fight alive by urging your representatives in government to pass stringent and comprehensive online privacy laws to protect you. Americans have barely any laws to protect them – but there is now an initiative by the White House to protect your privacy. This initiative will only become successful if Google doesn’t strip it of meaningful protections. Americans, get your voices heard on this one.

For more information:

NPR, “Google to ramp up online tracking” – click here

NPR, “Google and privacy: is it time to give up?” – click here

NPR, “Protecting your privacy amid Google privacy changes” – click here

Forbes, “Will Google delay its new privacy policy?” – click here

CNN, “How to prepare for Google’s privacy changes” – click here

Wikipedia, a full list of Google products – click here

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Disappointing: Only 12% Of Google Users Are Aware Of Google’s New Privacy Policy!

 Shocker!

…actually it’s not so surprising – it’s actually depressingly to be expected.

Anyway, guess what, according to a new poll released the other day, only 12% of the British public has bothered to read through Google’s new privacy policy.

The survey and research was conducted by Big Brother Watch and YouGov. They found that despite the fact that 92% of those included in the survey use at least one of Google’s many services – almost half….yes HALF of them didn’t even know that Google is changing its privacy policy. The precise number is actually 47% of those surveyed, which is absolutely disappointing.

Google announced earlier this year that it will combine all your personal data from all of Google’s services (Gmail, YouTube, search engine, Picasa, etc.) into one detailed profile of you. This combination of data is an effort by Google to make it easier to figure you out better and destroy anonymity. A Google spokesperson said that the company wants to eliminate “the faceless web“. Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising. They plan on making it more efficient to sellyour information to advertisers, which is big business for the company. Google earns about $40 BILLION a year in cold hard cash by monetizing your personal data. Sweeeeeeeet! Ka -CHING!

But it’s not so sweet for the vast majority of us who are the victims of this invasion of privacy. Ever since Google announced that they were going to combine our personal data, there has been an unprecedented amount of criticism hurled at the company. It probably caught Google off-guard because this massive company is used to getting a disproportionate amount of good press, while its dirty secrets are often swept under the carpet. Their unofficial company motto was “Don’t Be Evil” – but, as the late Steve Jobs once said, that’s “bulls**t!”

In my other posts on this site, I wrote about how Google received greater scrutiny from members of the US Congress and Senate, dozens of US Attorneys General, several consumer advocacy groups, several other companies, European regulators, and so many more. All are deeply concerned about Google’s increasing desire to harvest more of our personal data and Google’s lack in fairness.

Google has attempted to swat away privacy complaints by launching an awareness campaign to alert the public of its impending alteration to its privacy policy and terms of service – but evidently it failed. This despite the company trying to give itself credit for going through “exceptional lengths” to notify the public. Even the Chairman of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said last Sunday that “nobody reads online privacy notices”. He’s right, nobody does!

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said:

“The policy was only announced six weeks ago and, as Google knows from its advertising business, six weeks isn’t a long campaign – it’s very short. Neither consumers nor the regulators have had long to get their heads around the changes. It’s bad the way it’s been decided that it’s coming in and Google hasn’t reached everyone.

“The impact of Google’s new policy cannot be understated, but the public are in the dark about what the changes actually mean. If people don’t understand what is happening to their personal information, how can they make an informed choice about using a service? Google is putting advertiser’s interests before user privacy and should not be rushing ahead before the public understand what the changes will mean.”

Google’s new privacy policy will go into effect this Thursday, March 1st, 2012. Many people are still in the dark about what Google plans on doing with their information. The average person needs to take greater care of their privacy and educate themselves about the implications of using Google’s services. You don’t want to unwittingly sell your soul to the devil. Get proactive about your security, actively advocate for comprehensive Internet privacy laws to protect you, and spread the message to family and friends.

Remember, you are not Google’s customer – you are Google’s product!

For more information:

PCPro, “Only one in ten Google users have read privacy changes” – click here

The Telegraph, “Google users ignore major privacy shakeup” – click here

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US Federal Trade Commission Chairman Gives Candid And Revealing Talk About Google

Yesterday, the chairman of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Jon Leibowitz, was a guest on the C-SPAN show “Newsmakers”. He was interviewed by Brendan Greeley, writer for Bloomberg, and Juliana Grunwald, a writer for National Journal.

It was a very interesting interview and Mr. Leibowitz revealed many things that I will share with you in a moment. First of all, I have to acknowledge how wonderfully Brendan Greeley performed. He was prepared with tough questions to ask the chairman. I thought he did a great job making sure he could get the most out of the chairman.

The interview was about 30 minutes long and here are the highlights (a link to view the interview video is located at the bottom of this post):

  • 04:00 – “We called for more transparency because nobody reads online privacy notices…”  - Jon

This is so true. Nobody reads them.

  • 04:20 – “…choice because consumers should have the right not to have their information collected…your computer is your property…people should have the right not to have their information collected particularly about sensitive issues.” - Jon

Again, very true! It’s our personal data and our property. Google should have no right to profit off and sell our personal data to advertisers without our explicit consent

  • 04:53 – “There seems like there’s two buzz words here and I’m gonna try to see if we can explain both of them. There’s self-regulatory, which is what the industry is pushing…and then there’s a word that kept on showing up in the White House report which was stakeholder approach…it doesn’t seem like the two of those are gonna work very well together. You have the industry taking care of itself and you have the White House suggesting that you get industry plus private watchdog groups plus Congress getting together to figure out the best approach…it seems like Washington is where the stakeholder goes to die.” - Brendan

Right on, Brendan! Self-regulation is absolutely nonsense and ineffective. How can you let Google and the advertising companies police themselves? It doesn’t make sense. This whole Privacy Bill of Rights proposal that the White House eventually wants to make law will not amount to much if Google and its advertising minions are allowed to dominate the upcoming negotiations to fully develop this bill. An independent body needs to keep an eye on Google.

  • 11:16 – “I’m not too sure many people will opt-out. I happen to like getting, you know, ads that relate to the things I’m interested in – so we sense is not too many people will opt-out” – Jon

Jon! Jon! Jon! What are you thinking?? You don’t mind getting creepy targeted ads? You don’t mind these tracking companies spying on everything you do on the web so that they can analyze the perfect ad for you? This is ridiculous.

I have written on here before about a store that sent baby ads to a pregnant teenage girl before her parents even knew she was pregnant – click here

There was also an article where a man said he rather have his daughters spied on by tracking companies so that they can target ads for them, rather then his daughters seeing random ads that could potentially include…heaven forbid…a Viagra commercial! Kids see random ads all the time on television, magazines, and on billboards – I don’t think it’s going to damage your children. Forfeiting your child’s privacy to prevent them from seeing irrelevant ads for their age group and gender is really pathetic – click here

But Jon is correct on one thing – people do not opt-out when the opt-out of tracking option is not the default setting. It’s not that people want to be tracked, it’s because people don’t know better. The fact is that many people don’t change the default settings of their web browser. They also don’t look around to make sure their privacy and security settings are set to its maximum level. Google and their advertising minions know this fact already.

  • 12:14 – “Other than saying that [Google] have been clear and that it’s a very binary and somewhat brutal choice that they’re giving consumers…I can’t say much more and I’ll just leave it at that, but we’re aware.”Jon

Exactly. Google is telling its users that they have to either take it all or leave it all. There is no middle option. First of all, they need to tell users the whole truth about why they’re changing their privacy policies - which is to make it easier to sell your information to advertisers. Then they need give users an option to opt-out of this data harvesting. Shame on Google!

  • 12:20 – “‘Binary and brutal was plenty’” – Brendan

Ha!

  • 12:23 – “Perhaps too much” – Jon

Nope. You’re just being honest.

  • 12:26 – “You’re suggesting that they be more explicit about what they do and I wonder if they were completely upfront…about what they are doing with your information whether there would be a market at all. I wonder if I would sign up for a service that said ‘in exchange for this free way to get in touch with your family and friends we’re going to sell information about you’. In a way, they are misrepresenting what their fundamental purpose is” – Brendan

Again, excellent job Brendan. Google is definitely lying to its users. Google is not changing its privacy policies to simply give you a better experience. It is changing it to make it easier to sell your personal data to advertisers. Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising. You are not Google’s customer, you are Google’s product.

Now, Google says that they don’t “sell” your private information to advertisers, they simply “share” it. Google thinks we’re stupid, ha-ha. Selling….sharing…whatever…a distinction without a difference.

  • 12:46 – “I’m not sure everybody is selling information about consumers” – Jon

Jon! Jon! Jon! What are you saying? Selling….sharing…a distinction without a difference!

I got the impression that Jon was hinting at something here, almost like he was trying to say that another company sells your information even more than Google – that other company being Facebook. That’s only because Facebook is a social networking site that requires you to share a lot more personal information about yourself. But Google launched Google Plus last summer and said that its own social networking site will now be an “extension” of Google itself. In addition, unlike Facebook, Google has multiple services all over the web and it has multiple tracking devices all over the web. Google’s tracking devices are on millions of websites. So enough of the “pick between the lesser of two evils” game – just protect our privacy!

Afterwards Brendan asked him if it would be possible to have a ratings system for privacy policies, something similar to the ratings system for movies and television shows.  Jon replied back saying that the advertising industry can come up with that system themselves and that it might not be such a bad idea. But then, Brendan replied back pointing out it wouldn’t be taken seriously because, again, that would be self-regulation. You need an independent body to check these things.

  • 14:28 – “It does seem like we’re still talking about a self-regulatory approach” – Brendan

I know! Enough with this self-regulation nonsense. It does not work!

  • 15:19 -”I also think, speaking for myself not the commission…privacy legislation has a place and if we could come up with… a comprehensive balanced, Congress could, set of guidelines….that would be probably a good thing” – Jon
  • 17:12 – “This is not a year Congress is going to pass a lot of legislation…but it is a year we should be working on privacy and so the best way to do it is….government using its bully pulpit and pushing very hard for the best self-regulatory standards” – Jon

Even though self-regulation won’t do anything to really protect Americans online, you just have to settle for less because Congress cannot pass a new law during an election year…well, doesn’t that suck? But we’re not going to settle for less. We don’t want to give Americans a false sense of security!

  • 20:00 – “It feels like Do Not Track is an answer to a browsing habit that’s about 3 years old in the sense that more and more people get their information over the Internet through apps and through their mobile devices…how do you keep the FTC from always fighting abuses that are 3 years old.”  - Brendan

Yet again, excellent job Brendan!

  • 20:45 – “We’re not a regulatory agency. We’re an enforcement and policy agency, so it’s harder for us to set up rules in advance, so…you’re right…it’s a tricky question…responding to how do we make things better going forward as opposed to correcting mistakes a few years ago…we try our best using the tools that we have” – Jon

Um…okay….thanks?

A few minutes later, between 22:50 -23:19, Brendan asks an important question about the differences between how the United States protects its citizen’s online privacy versus how the Europeans do it. Europe has very stringent laws in place to protect privacy.

Then, between 23:45 – 24:31, Jon admits that the European system emphasizes regulation and the American system emphasizes enforcement. He then claims that both systems essentially want to protect their people equally and that he doesn’t think the American system is that far behind Europe as some people like to believe.

It’s funny that Jon claims that the American and European systems are essentially equal, but then he admitted earlier that the American system falls short due to a lack of regulation!

Then, in around 24:40, Juliana brings up the “right to be forgotten” plan that the European regulators are now working on to implement that will give Internet users the right to demand Internet companies delete all personal data about them when asked to do so. She then asks if this should be an idea the United States should seriously consider as well.

In response to this question, in between 24:51 -25:55, Jon rambles on about how children need to be protected because they are the most vulnerable, but he fails to really answer the question. Keep in mind that – although it is absolutely important to protect children and it’s nice to bring that up and all – BUT there are already federal laws in place to protect children under 13. Older children and adults have absolutely no real protections online whatsoever! The European “right to be forgotten” will give everybody, young and old, their privacy back! All Americans are vulnerable.

Then, around 26:25 – 26:54, Brendan brings up another great point. He says that independent watchdog groups like The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) play a very valuable role. He says that EPIC almost functions as a regulator for the FTC because when they bring up complaints to the FTC that is when the FTC starts to finally take action (as they did with Google’s first attempt at social networking called Google Buzz, which launched in 2010).

  • 26:55 – “I do think that they perform an enormously valuable role…we want the best information we can from the smartest people who think about these issues” – Jon

They do, indeed. Thank goodness for these groups!

For a video of the full interview, you can watch it on C-SPAN’s website – click here 

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Google Promotes The Use Of The N-Word On Black History Month

Okay, that headline above is pretty striking and shocking but sadly it’s the truth. I found something on Google’s video sharing site, YouTube, that annoyed me and I want to share it with you.

On YouTube, in order to watch music videos you have to watch the vast majority of those videos on a channel called VEVO, created by several major record labels and Google. Each music artist who has music under the ownership of one of the three major record labels (Universal, Sony, and EMI) has their music on YouTube. For example, music by Michael Jackson will be under the name “michaeljacksonVEVO”. Only Warner Music Group, which is one of the big four major record labels, has refused to allow their music on YouTube.

This VEVO service was introduced into YouTube back in November 2009 and officially launched a month later. Prior to this agreement, the music videos on YouTube, uploaded by the average user, were routinely targeted by the record labels who would send out legal requests to have their material removed from Google’s video sharing website. Eventually, they agreed that instead of fighting about having the material on the website, they could instead strike up a deal.

Google met with the record label executives and after several negotiations they came up with VEVO. VEVO would allow the labels to have their music on the site under their own official channel. It became a joint venture between Google and the labels. Google loved the fact now that since the music videos were on YouTube  and on official channels, they could start charging advertisers a lot more money to play their ads on those videos; prior to this agreement, advertisers where resistant to placing their ads on videos uploaded by the average user of the site.

This was great for Google because now they don’t have copyright owners handing them legal requests to take down their videos anymore and they can now make big money off these videos. Google and VEVO spilt revenue on their joint venture.

But in the eager desire to cash in, Google often forgets about ethics. As long as Google can make that extra dollar, it does not care how it was obtained. I will give you a few examples:

Under these official music videos, there are commercial ads bordering the videos. These ads let people know about other music or it promotes artists managed by the record labels who are involved with VEVO.

That Michael Jackson “Black or White” video screen capture that I took (scroll down to the bottom of this article to see it), has one of those ads bordering the actual video. It is advertising a new song by rap artists Jay-Z and Kanye West, which was uploaded to YouTube just this past week.

Now, imagine wanting to just relax and lift your spirit by listening to some old classics by the late Michael Jackson. His song “Black or White” is about looking past race and accepting all people for who they are. It’s a great song to listen to any time of the year, but especially on Black History Month.

So there you are on wanting to peacefully enjoy the video, but then right there in front of you in large letters is the N-word! I mean Google – are you kidding me?!?

Millions of people watch videos on YouTube and recently Google came out with new numbers saying it streams over a billion videos per day. This is a huge exposure and it also means the audiences comes from all walks of life, from all over the world, and are of all ages.

With this much exposure, why is Google so irresponsible with what it releases on its site? We know that in rap music the use of the n-word, gay slurs, and use of sexist terms to demean women is rampant. It is part of the culture of rap music and it’s extremely controversial. But at least there was still a clear escape from it. If you did not want to be exposed to that then you can get away from it and don’t have to listen to it.

You would not hear explicit music and the use of the n-word on mainstream broadcast television or on mainstream radio – so why does Google lack standards of its own? Why must people, young children, be exposed to the n-word and make it seem like it is a mainstream word that everybody uses or approves of?

If they did not think that the n-word would be offensive, then they would not have censored out two letters from the word to put on the site, as if it makes it any less offensive. They obviously knew it would offend people, then why have the word up at all? Disgusting.

This is also around a time when Google is developing a product called Google TV so that they can tap into the television market to gain even more advertising revenue. With such low standards and ethics from Google, let’s hope their project fails. The Google TV project has already lost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ironically, just this past week, Cary Sherman, chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America wrote an op-ed piece published in the New York Times harshly criticizing Google. Mr. Sherman condemned Google’s abuse of its platform on the Internet to use its websites to make political statements and he made a clear distinction between Google’s lack of standards and standards mainstream broadcast networks voluntarily adhere to:

“As it happens, the television networks that actively supported SOPA and PIPA didn’t take advantage of their broadcast credibility to press their case. That’s partly because “old media” draws a line between ‘news’ and ‘editorial’…Google [does not] recognize the ethical boundary between the neutral reporting of information and the presentation of editorial opinion as fact.”

Google has gotten in trouble before with the ads it places on its websites. Just last summer, the United States government forced Google to pay half a BILLION dollars to settle a controversial case surrounding the selling of illegal drugs. I will discuss this further in future posts.

I have also seen advertisements on Google’s YouTube homepage of half naked people wearing barely anything. Again, this is a site visited by all age groups. It seems to me that Google pays very little care for the children that access their sites daily. I have written on here before about the Google employee who was caught harassing and going through private information of 4 young children.

Google was also recently made to apologize to a concerned parent who complained to the Federal Trade Commission after Google asked for the social security numbers of young children to be submitted in order to be eligible for a “Doodle” contest.

Google also recently allowed children as young as 14, to participate in a program that would allow Google to access the computer information of those children. All activity those kids do on the internet would be sent to Google and, in exchange, they will be given a $5 dollars gift card every three months.

It’s obvious to me that Google lacks basic decency, standards, and ethics. Shame on you, Google! Shame – On – You!

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Microsoft Warns People That Google Is Indeed Spying On Your Every Move

Microsoft has joined a plethora of bloggers, websites, magazines, television programs, and companies (ie. Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace) to strongly condemn Google’s lack of privacy and good practices. Microsoft has taken the step to create a public awareness campaign to inform people of Google’s privacy policies and what it means to them.

The Microsoft campaign ads will be featured in major American newspapers all over the country every day this week. The campaign, entitled “Putting People First”, will be viewed by thousands of people and will add to the many voices who have been denouncing Google’s company practices.

The campaign brings up the point that Google is collecting a treasure trove of personal information about you every time you use any of their services, which I have already emphasized on this site. That information Google collects from you is sold to advertisers for billions of dollars. Google makes 96% of its revenue from advertising! 96% of Google’s wealth is your personal information which has been transformed to cold hard cash to benefit Google. This is what Microsoft’s Frank Shaw said about the campaign:

“The changes Google announced make it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information. We take a different approach… And to help remind people of these alternatives, we’re placing a series of ads in some major newspapers this week.”

Today, within just a few hours after Microsoft’s campaign for public awareness, Google attempted to defend itself with a company employee writing a blog post on the official Google blog.  Betsy Masiello, Google’s policy manager, basically took some quotes from Microsoft and labelled them as “myth”. She accused Microsoft of doing the same thing as Google by combining user information across different websites the company owns.

Most of the Google blog post is totally disingenuous, especially the part where Ms. Masiello claims that advertisers who pay Google have no way of collecting personal data about you because  Google attempts to hide traceable personal data about you from the advertisers. Also, keep in mind that Google itself is an advertiser too! Those Google ads that advertise Google services or Google owned mobile devices stalk you all over the Internet because Google knows your personal information. I particularly find it annoying when Google claims their privacy violations are there to better serve users. No, it’s most definitely not. It’s not about efficiency of search, but rather to sell your information to advertisers. Ms. Masiello ended her blog post with this bit, referring to Microsoft:

“…it’s best to focus on our users rather than negative attacks on other companies. Onwards!”

Shortly afterwards, Microsoft responded to Google by basically saying that Google shouldn’t try to drag Microsoft down with them and that they don’t abuse their privacy policies. The Microsoft spokesperson made sure to highlight that Microsoft does not read through their users personal emails, whereas Google does this all the time. And why would Google read through Gmail users personal interactions? You guessed it, to “show ads that are relevant to you” (As admitted by Google’s Betsy Masiello).

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Google Shares Have Plummeted Like Never Before

Recently, Google lost big in earning and stock price. Shares of the company plummeted significantly and this is extremely rare for a company like Google. It has everybody worried and scratching their heads as to what wrong. The future of the company is a huge question mark right now as analysts do not know exactly what to make of Google.

Some think that this is a disastrous trend and have sold off their shares of the company so that they can save themselves from a slowly sinking ship.

You can read about 8 arguments to avoid Google here

CNBC article that explains the recent revenue and stock problems of Google, click here

Analysts spilt on Google’s future, click here to learn more

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