STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Google Hoax? … and a Rhetorical Question
By Staff News & Analysis - February 12, 2013

Gadgets Report: Google Pays $700M to Apple for Prominent Mobile Search Placement … Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe also gets grilled about high prices by Australian regulators … According to Morgan Stanley (MS) analyst Scott Devitt, Google Inc. (GOOG) paid about $700M USD to Apple, Inc. (AAPL) in 2012 to solidify its monopoly on mobile search traffic … Google's dominant position in mobile and desktop search has drawn scrutiny. Google recently agreed to make certain changes in the U.S. to placate the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), but Microsoft and others claim the FTC let Google off too easy. In Europe Google is looking to settle a similar antitrust spat with more extensive promises and fairness guarantees. – DailyTech

Dominant Social Theme: Google has grown to a dominant force in technology by being the best. Also, it does no evil.

Free-Market Analysis: All the large players in the technology field use what we call money power to establish dominance and Google is no different in this regard. The excerpt above illustrates how Google establishes dominance by paying for the right to be in front of millions of "eyeballs."

But here's a rhetorical question: What if Google were selling its main utility to the highest bidder … its page rankings?

This means that if an individual or group wants to be seen toward the front pages of a "search" they can pay for placement. They can move to the front of the line, so to speak.

From our standpoint, this is bound to be unethical. Those who are featured prominently when a search is made are often considered by the searcher to be the most reliable and most cited sources.

If a newspaper or magazine allowed these sorts of practices, there would be a terrific outcry. Imagine if an editorial appeared on the front page of a publication because the editorialist paid for the positioning but the publication in question did not alert the reader to the arrangement?

And what about that payola scandal back in the 1950s? Weren't DJs demanding money to play certain records – thus bringing specific artists to the attention of listeners while others were denied a similar opportunity?

Now, being a free-market oriented publication, we're not going exclaim, "There oughta be a law!" Nope. There doesn't need to be a law. There just needs to be competition.

And people (like us) should point out questionable practices because the government is surely not going to do it. In fact, from what we can tell, Google is pretty much a bought-and-paid-for adjunct to the US intelligence community.

We've written about that and so have a number of other publications. Both Google and Facebook are thoroughly penetrated by snoops, from what we can tell. In fact, there are plenty of reports that the CIA and affiliated facilities invested in both companies when they were much smaller.

What is certainly true is that Google bosses don't seem especially affrighted about privacy concerns. They keep getting caught but nonetheless continue as if nothing has happened.

Most recently this caught our eye in the Daily Mail: "Google is sued by dozens of customers after 'snooping on 10million iPads and mobiles'" (Paragraphing ours.)

More than 100 Apple product users are seeking compensation in a lawsuit … Google is sued by dozens of customers after 'snooping on 10million iPads and mobiles' … Google is being sued by dozens of customers in Britain who claim it secretly monitored their computers and phones. More than 100 Apple product users are seeking compensation in a lawsuit over claims the internet giant tampered with security software in order to access their personal information.

Some claimants said they felt as if they were being 'stalked' after they were bombarded by phone calls and emails advertising clothes, magazines and bank loans connected to the websites they had visited on their iPhones, iPads and laptops. Campaigners say up to ten million people may have fallen victim – and believe the lawsuit against the search engine could become one of the biggest in British legal history.

'Then it emerged Google had worked around the privacy setting,' Mr Bradshaw, an IT expert, said. 'They tried to argue it was a programming error. But this was not an accident.' Google has previously offered guarantees it would not collect data from those using the Apple internet browser, Safari. But the company harvested details of websites users had visited so they could bombard them with ads, it is alleged. (February 2, 3013)

A company that time after time blithely flouts privacy concerns is one that is seemingly above the law. We doubt that Google executives are all that concerned about the ethical aspects of their actions.

But from our point of view, this is what happens when you mingle intelligence operations with legitimate business. The hybrid uses its government-granted muscle to become a given industry's dominant force … damn the consequences.

After Thoughts

Google and Facebook both seem to fit this profile. Each company is a serial privacy offender and show little compunction about continuing to engage in a variety of unethical practices.

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