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Google charged with antitrust violations by Europe

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by The Wrong Guy, Apr 15, 2015.

  1. The Wrong Guy Member

    Google Charged With Antitrust Violations by Europe

    By James Kanter and Mark Scott, New York Times, April 15, 2015

    The European Union’s antitrust chief on Wednesday formally accused Google of abusing its dominance in web searches, bringing charges that could limit the giant American tech company’s moneymaking prowess.

    The case is the first time that antitrust charges have been brought against Google, despite a yearslong face-off between the company and regulators here. It will almost certainly increase pressure on Google to address complaints that the company favors its own products in search results over its rivals’ services.

    And in a sign that the pressure in Europe would probably expand to other areas of Google’s business, the antitrust regulator, Margrethe Vestager, also said she had opened a formal antitrust investigation into the company’s Android smartphone software.

    “If the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe,” said Ms. Vestager, the European Union’s competition commissioner, referring to Google’s search practices.

    The regulators have focused on accusations that Google diverts traffic from competitors rivals to favor its own comparison shopping site. That led the European Commission to issue a set of formal charges, known as a statement of objections.

    How Google responds in the case — the biggest since the case against Microsoft in the 2000s — and to what degree the accusations hamper its own business or aid its rivals remain to be seen. Google holds a roughly 90 percent share in the region’s search market, and the company contends that in both web searches and Android software it plays fair.

    Continued here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/16/business/international/european-union-google-antitrust-case.html

    EU accuses Google of abusing Internet search dominance | LA Times

    “Dominant companies have a responsibility not to abuse their powerful market positions by restricting competition either in the market where they are dominant or in neighboring markets,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European competition commissioner.

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-eu-google-20150416-story.html

    Google Is Not What It Seems | Julian Assange

    In this extract from his new book When Google Met Wikileaks, WikiLeaks' publisher Julian Assange describes the special relationship between Google, Hillary Clinton and the State Department -- and what that means for the future of the internet.

    https://wikileaks.org/google-is-not-what-it-seems/
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  2. The Wrong Guy Member

    France Armtwists Google Into Revealing Its Secret Sauce Recipe: Search Engine Algorithm

    By Christian de Looper, Tech Times, April 18, 2015

    Senators in France have passed an amendment to a bill that will essentially force Google to link to and promote its main competitors from the Google home page.

    While the bill did not explicitly name Google, the search engine company holds over 90 percent of search traffic in Europe. The new laws will also force search engines to reveal their algorithms in order for lawmakers to verify that the algorithms are fair.

    "Fear of the monopoly power of big American websites is growing in France and Europe," said French lawmakers in their amendment. "The behavior of certain powerful players is threatening the pluralism of ideas and opinions, harming innovation, and obstructing the freedom to do business."

    The news follows a rough few weeks for Google in Europe. Europe's top authority in anti-monopoly, the European Commission, has officially charged the search giant with violating antitrust laws, saying that the company is intentionally promoting its own services and offerings over other companies and their services. The problem follows years of scrutiny for Google, largely because of its dominance in Europe.

    Surprisingly enough, the amendment does not come from the fairly socialist government currently in power in France, but instead comes from the normally business-friendly French right wing. The senators who proposed the bill warned that users of search engines place too much confidence in search engine results, despite the fact that these results are often biased and unobjective. By tweaking the algorithms behind search results, companies are able to unfairly determine what services users end up using.

    <snipped>

    The decision of French senators doesn't mean that the amendment has been put into law. The bill itself has already been adopted by the French National Assembly and the senate will vote on the bill on May 12. It will then be for a joint committee between the Assembly and the Senate to discuss the differences between the bill and its amendment.

    http://www.techtimes.com/articles/4...cret-sauce-recipe-search-engine-algorithm.htm
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  3. The Wrong Guy Member

    Google rejects EU's search abuse complaint | BBC News

    Google has rejected the EU's objections to how it displays shopping links in its search results as "wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics".

    Europe's competition commissioner accused the firm of abusing its dominance in search in April. Her intervention followed complaints from price comparison services that they were being unfairly disadvantaged by the prominence of Google's own ads.

    The US firm has now filed its formal response. Google says its shopping service - which appears as a box of images and links displayed at the top or right-hand side of other results - benefits customers and businesses without unlawfully distorting the market. And it rejects the EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager's suggestion that it should show ads sourced and ranked by other companies within the facility.

    Its defence rests on three arguments:
    • Fact: Google says that the amount of traffic it has directed to the relevant "aggregator websites" has risen by 227% over the past decade, rather than fallen. Moreover, a study it carried out covering four EU nations indicated that dozens of new price comparison services had begun operation, which it believes indicates that it has not choked off competition
    • Law: The search giant denies it has a duty to direct traffic to its rivals. It says its search engine should not be likened to the supply of electricity or gas, since there are many other ways to access the internet
    • Economics: Google believes the EU has failed to appreciate the dynamism of a market where consumers frequently search for goods via the likes of Amazon, eBay and social networks including Pinterest
    Continued here: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-34076597
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  4. The Wrong Guy Member

    From Google Payroll to Government and Back Again

    By David Dayen, The Intercept

    Quote:

    Joshua Wright, whose term as a Republican commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission ended in August, has joined the antitrust practice of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati — the law firm that represented Google before the FTC.

    Being on Google’s payroll is nothing new for Wright. Before he joined the FTC, Google helped fund his academic research at George Mason University, where he will continue to teach while working for Wilson Sonsini. George Mason received $762,000 in donations directly from Google from 2011 to 2013.

    From 2009 to 2011, Wright authored or co-authored at least four publicly available papers supporting Google’s position on antitrust and patent questions. The papers discounted the idea that Google could face federal enforcement for favoring its own sites in search engine requests and restricting advertisers from running ads on competitors. One is literally called “The Case Against the Antitrust Case Against Google.”

    Wright wrote in these papers that Google’s bias toward its own products in search could be evidence of “intense competition,” and that the uncertainty behind Google’s conduct “counsels caution, not aggression.” In three of the papers, he and his co-author disclosed financial support from Google; in one they did not.

    Google habitually uses academia as a third-party validator to mold elite opinion. It has funded dozens of academic studies over the past several years, and worked closely to sponsor and even suggest speakers and invitees for conferences related to its core issues.

    But ties between Wright and Google go so deep that Wright had to agree to recuse himself from working on Google cases at the FTC in order to hush conflict of interest concerns and get confirmed by the Senate. That confirmation went through in January 2013, just after the FTC overrode its own staff recommendations and decided against filing antitrust charges against Google.

    Continued here:
    https://theintercept.com/2016/01/13/from-google-payroll-to-government-and-back-to-google-again/
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  5. The Wrong Guy Member

    Google’s Remarkably Close Relationship With the Obama White House, in Two Charts

    By David Dayen, The Intercept

    When President Obama announced his support last week for a Federal Communications Commission plan to open the market for cable set-top boxes — a big win for consumers, but also for Google — the cable and telecommunications giants who used to have a near-stranglehold on tech policy were furious. AT&T chief lobbyist Jim Cicconi lashed out at what he called White House intervention on behalf of “the Google proposal.”

    He’s hardly the first to suggest that the Obama administration has become too close to the Silicon Valley juggernaut.

    Over the past seven years, Google has created a remarkable partnership with the Obama White House, providing expertise, services, advice, and personnel for vital government projects.

    Precisely how much influence this buys Google isn’t always clear. But consider that over in the European Union, Google is now facing two major antitrust charges for abusing its dominance in mobile operating systems and search. By contrast, in the U.S., a strong case to sanction Google was quashed by a presidentially appointed commission.

    It’s a relationship that bears watching. “Americans know surprisingly little about what Google wants and gets from our government,” said Anne Weismann, executive director of Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog organization. Seeking to change that, Weismann’s group is spearheading a data transparency project about Google’s interactions in Washington.

    The Intercept teamed up with Campaign for Accountability to present two revealing data sets from that forthcoming project: one on the number of White House meetings attended by Google representatives, and the second on the revolving door between Google and the government.

    As the interactive charts accompanying this article show, Google representatives attended White House meetings more than once a week, on average, from the beginning of Obama’s presidency through October 2015. Nearly 250 people have shuttled from government service to Google employment or vice versa over the course of his administration.

    No other public company approaches this degree of intimacy with government. According to an analysis of White House data, the Google lobbyist with the most White House visits, Johanna Shelton, visited 128 times, far more often than lead representatives of the other top-lobbying companies — and more than twice as often, for instance, as Microsoft’s Fred Humphries or Comcast’s David Cohen.

    Continued here:
    https://theintercept.com/2016/04/22...hip-with-the-obama-white-house-in-two-charts/
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  6. Ann O'Nymous Member

    Lobbyists outlobbied by other lobbyists...

    Perhaps, it is the whole lobbying thing that might be reconsidered.
  7. The Wrong Guy Member

    Investigators raid Google Paris HQ in tax evasion inquiry | Reuters

    Dozens of French police raided Google's Paris headquarters on Tuesday, escalating an investigation into the digital giant on suspicion of tax evasion.

    Google, which said it was fully complying with French law, is under pressure across Europe from public opinion and governments angry at the way multinationals exploit their presence around the world to minimize the tax they pay.

    Investigators from the financial prosecutors office and France's central office against corruption and tax fraud, accompanied by 25 IT specialists, took part in the raid.

    "The investigation aims to verify whether Google Ireland Ltd has a permanent base in France and if, by not declaring parts of its activities carried out in France, it failed its fiscal obligations, including on corporate tax and value added tax," the prosecutor's office said in statement.

    Google, now part of Alphabet Inc, pays little tax in most European countries because it reports almost all sales in Ireland. This is possible thanks to a loophole in international tax law but it hinges on staff in Dublin concluding all sales contracts.

    If staff in countries like France finalize contracts with local clients, then the company would be obliged to report the revenues nationally and pay taxes in each country.

    Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Europe, said in an email: "We are cooperating with the authorities to answer their questions. We comply fully with French law."

    Continued here:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-google-france-investigation-idUSKCN0YF1CV
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  8. The Wrong Guy Member

    Google-Funded Speakers Dominate Policy Conferences | Google Transparency Project

    Google’s influence machine extends beyond its courtship of politicians and government officials. A new analysis by Campaign for Accountability shows academics and experts funded by Google have played a major role at academic and government conferences, debating some of the company’s core issues, such as privacy and antitrust laws. Nearly all of them failed to disclose their financial ties to conference attendees.

    Continued here:
    http://googletransparencyproject.org/articles/google-funded-speakers-dominate-policy-conferences

    Tech Money Lurks Behind Government Privacy Conference | The Intercept

    In January, academic-turned-regulator Lorrie Cranor gave a presentation and provided the closing remarks at PrivacyCon, a Federal Trade Commission event intended to “inform policymaking with research,” as she put it. Cranor, the FTC’s chief technologist, neglected to mention that over half of the researchers who presented that day had received financial support from Google — hardly a neutral figure in the debate over privacy. Cranor herself got an “unrestricted gift” of roughly $350,000 from the company, according to her CV.

    Virtually none of these ties were disclosed, so Google’s entanglements at PrivacyCon were not just extensive, they were also invisible. The internet powerhouse is keenly interested in influencing a lot of government activity, including antitrust regulation, telecommunications policy, copyright enforcement, online security, and trade pacts, and to advance that goal, has thrown around a lot of money in the nation’s capital. Ties to academia let Google attempt to sway power less directly, by giving money to university and graduate researchers whose work remains largely within academic circles — until it gains the audience of federal policymakers, as at PrivacyCon.

    Some research at the event supported Google’s positions. An MIT economist who took Google money, for example, questioned whether the government needed to intervene to further regulate privacy when corporations are sometimes incentivized to do so themselves. Geoffrey Manne, the executive director of a Portland-based legal think tank that relies on funding from Google (and a former Microsoft employee), presented a paper saying that “we need to give some thought to self-help and reputation and competition as solutions” to privacy concerns “before [regulators start] to intervene.” (Manne did not return a request for comment.) Other research presented at PrivacyCon led to conclusions the company would likely dispute.

    The problem with Google’s hidden links to the event is not that they should place researchers under automatic suspicion, but rather that the motives of corporate academic benefactors ought to always be suspect. Without prominent disclosure of corporate money in academia, it becomes hard for the consumers of research to raise important questions about its origins and framing.

    Google declined to comment on the record for this article.

    Continued here:
    https://theintercept.com/2016/09/15/tech-money-lurks-behind-government-privacy-conference/
  9. The Wrong Guy Member

    Google Gets a Seat on the Trump Transition Team

    By David Dayen, The Intercept

    Quote:

    Google is among the many major corporations whose surrogates are getting key roles on Donald Trump’s transition team.

    Joshua Wright has been put in charge of transition efforts at the influential Federal Trade Commission after pulling off the rare revolving-door quadruple-play, moving from Google-supported academic work to government – as an FTC commissioner – back to the Google gravy train and now back to the government.

    The Intercept has documented how Wright, as a law professor at George Mason University, received Google funding for at least four academic papers, all of which supported Google’s position that it did not violate antitrust laws when it favored its own sites in search engine requests and restricted advertisers from running ads on competitors. George Mason received $762,000 in funding from Google from 2011 to 2013.

    Wright then became an FTC commissioner in January 2013, agreeing to recuse himself from Google cases for two years, because of his Google-funded research. He lasted at the FTC until August 2015, returning to George Mason’s law school (now named after Antonin Scalia). But Wright also became an “of counsel” at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Google’s main outside law firm. Wilson Sonsini has represented Google before the FTC.

    Wright’s leadership position in the Trump FTC transition flips him back into government work. The FTC has two open seats on its five-member panel, and Chair Edith Ramirez’s term ends in April 2017. So Trump will be able to remake the agency, which has responsibilities over consumer protection and policing anti-competitive business practices, like the employing of monopoly power. Outside of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, no government agency is more responsible for competition policy than the FTC.

    Whether Wright recommends himself to an FTC commissioner slot or not, it’s clear that he would favor those who see only upside from market consolidation. Indeed, in a New York Times op-ed on Monday, Wright explained his view that “a high level of concentration in an industry simply does not mean the industry lacks competition.” He argued that mergers are often good for consumers because they lower prices and improve product quality.

    This flies in the face of a raft not just of common sense, but also of new research from the Council of Economic Advisers, the Federal Reserve, and academics, showing that excessive mergers lead to price hikes, lower productivity, and weakened economic vitality.

    The appointment clarifies to some extent how a Trump administration will operate on antitrust policy, especially as it relates to Silicon Valley. Trump’s personal history on the issue is mixed: He sued the NFL over antitrust violations while a team owner in the rival USFL, but also successfully defended himself against charges that he tried to monopolize the casino business in Atlantic City.

    During the campaign he presented a populist viewpoint on the issue. Perhaps out of personal animus, Trump has shown a particular willingness to investigate large media companies over antitrust, including threatening to blow up the pending AT&T-Time Warner merger (Time Warner is the parent company of CNN) and vowing to investigate Amazon (whose CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post). Because of Silicon Valley’s significant support of the Clinton campaign and Google’s deeply intertwined relationship with the Obama presidency, it was thought that Trump would also go after the tech industry. For example, Trump’s Federal Communications Commission transition leader, Jeffrey Eisenach, once supported breaking up Microsoft.

    But the selection of Wright, one of Big Tech’s biggest defenders in Washington, changes that calculus. Now it look as if Trump’s high-level attacks on his enemies might not flow down to the appointees inside the bureaucracy, who could be more inclined to wave through big media mergers and decline to enforce high-tech collusion.

    Google is currently facing antitrust allegations in Europe. In May, Politico reported that the FTC planned to take a second look at Google’s search bias, three years after they closed an investigation, despite reported recommendations to prosecute from agency staff. Having someone on the Google payroll twice doing hiring for the new Administration may halt any new investigation at the FTC.

    Source:
    https://theintercept.com/2016/11/15/google-gets-a-seat-on-the-trump-transition-team/
  10. The Wrong Guy Member

    EU judges to tackle 'right to be forgotten' again | Reuters

    Quote:

    The "right to be forgotten" - or stopping certain web search results from appearing under searches for people's names - will be debated at the European Union's top court after Alphabet Inc's Google refused requests from four individuals.

    <snipped>

    A Conseil de'Etat statement said the requests from the individuals concerned a video that "explicitly revealed the nature of the relationship that an applicant was deemed to have entertained with a person holding a public office"; a press article on the suicide of a member of the Church of Scientology mentioning that one of the applicants was the public relations manager of that church; several articles related to criminal proceedings of an applicant; and articles about the conviction of another applicant for having sexually abused minors.

    <snipped>

    The case number is C-136/17. A date for the hearing has not been set.

    More at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-google-privacy-court-idUSKCN18C1QX
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  11. The Wrong Guy Member

    Mark Zuckerberg's snub of White House could backfire as Europe goes after U.S. internet giants| CNBC
    • Mark Zuckerberg went to Chicago this week to say that Facebook's new mission was to "bring people closer together" and "strengthen the social fabric."
    • Zuckerberg skipped a White House meeting where a top exec from chief rival Google spoke favorably of the President's agenda.
    • On Friday, Sheryl Sandberg met with U.K. Home Secretary amid mounting European pressure on U.S. internet giants.
    Quote:

    Mark Zuckerberg had a choice to make this week. The Facebook CEO could either go to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, along with nearly every other marquee CEO from the tech industry, or skip it and prepare for a Chicago rally for people who'd created social-support groups on Facebook.

    Zuckerberg, who loudly criticized Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords in early June, chose the latter. Facebook was alone among the five most-valuable U.S. tech firms in not sending a top executive to the White House meeting.

    At that same meeting, a top official from Facebook's chief rival—Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt — sat at the table with Trump and praised the President's pro-business agenda, saying it would create "big opportunities" for U.S. firms.

    The contrast between the two companies, which together dominate digital advertising, is stark when it comes to U.S. government relations.

    Both companies are on the defensive in Europe, where their business and legal practices are under attack, accused of not doing enough to stop the spread of terrorism or protect the privacy of EU citizens.

    Google also faces a fine that could top €1 billion after the EU said it used its search monopoly to favor its own shopping services in search results.

    While Google's Schmidt softened up Trump with praise, Zuckerberg's snub could make it harder to enlist the administration's help as the pressure gets turned up in European capitals.

    Continued at http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/24/zuckerbergs-snub-of-trump-could-boomerang-as-european-pressure-rises.html
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  12. The Wrong Guy Member

    EU slaps Google with record $2.7 billion fine | CNN

    Quote:

    European Union regulators slapped Google with a record €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) antitrust fine on Tuesday, the latest broadside fired at big American tech companies doing business in the region.

    The European Commission found that the U.S. tech giant denied "consumers a genuine choice" by using its search engine to unfairly steer them to its own shopping platform.

    Regulators said that Google must change its behavior within 90 days or face additional penalties.

    "What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules," said Margrethe Vestager, the bloc's top antitrust official. "It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation."

    Google (GOOGL, Tech30) said in a statement that it tries to show ads in ways that are helpful for buyers and sellers.

    "We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today," a Google spokesperson said. "We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case."

    The Commission said that Google acted illegally by giving priority placement in search results to its own shopping service, while relegating results from rivals to areas where potential buyers were much less likely to click.

    170627072006-google-shopping-box-780x439.jpg

    Google Shopping box is displayed above other results.

    It could have fined Google as much as 10% of its annual sales, or roughly $9 billion.

    Vestager said Google's competitors could claim compensation in national courts within the EU. She said hundreds of companies, including some based in the U.S., complained about the way Google displayed its shopping service.

    Shares in Google parent company Alphabet dropped by 1.2% in premarket trading.

    Tuesday's fine dwarfs the previous EU record antitrust penalty of €1.06 billion ($1.2 billion) imposed on Intel (INTC, Tech30) in 2009. Intel has been fighting to overturn that decision ever since.

    Google's regulatory headache in Europe doesn't end with the online shopping case, which dates back to 2010.

    The EU has also accused the Silicon Valley titan of abusing its market position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators.

    It is also investigating the company's ad placing service, AdSense.

    American firms have come under increased scrutiny in Europe on issues related to tax and competition.

    Apple (AAPL, Tech30) is fighting a European demand that it repay €13 billion ($14.7 billion) in back taxes to the Irish government.

    Continued at http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/27/technology/business/google-eu-antitrust-fine/
  13. The Wrong Guy Member

  14. The Wrong Guy Member

    Google ducks $1.27bn bill for back taxes in France | The Guardian

    Court ruling comes after six-year fight with French tax authority over taxes due for years 2005 to 2010, and could have big implications for other US tech firms

    Quote:

    A French court handed Google’s parent company, Alphabet, a reprieve from a 1.11bn-euro ($1.27bn) tax bill on Wednesday in a major victory for the tech giant.

    The decision comes after six years of fighting with the French tax authority over back taxes it claims are due from the tech firm for the years 2005 to 2010.

    The French tax administration argued that Google had to pay taxes in France because the California firm and its subsidiary in Ireland have been selling a service for inserting online ads to clients in France for years through its Google search engine.

    But the Paris administrative court noted that the subsidiary, Google Ireland Limited, doesn’t have a “permanent establishment” in France via the company Google France, also a subsidiary of the US group Google Inc.

    The court added that Google France doesn’t have the human resources or the technical means to allow it to carry out the contentious advertising services on its own.

    The decision will be closely followed by other US companies – including Apple and Amazon – currently under attack for the low rates of tax they have paid in Europe. It is likely to be appealed.

    Earlier this month, the European parliament backed new rules aimed at preventing multinational companies from shielding their European profits in low-tax countries such as Ireland. The rules would force them to give detailed information on where profits are made and to publish data such as employment numbers to show that they are not running shell companies.

    Last year, Google agreed to pay £130m in back taxes to the British tax authorities and bear a greater tax burden in future. The deal came after the company’s tax schemes was criticised in parliament and called “devious, calculated and in my view unethical” by the Labour MP Margaret Hodge.

    Source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/12/google-taxes-france-ruling
  15. Ann O'Nymous Member

  16. The Internet Member

    Some guy at a think tank that gets big grants from Google got fired because he's been writing about the dangers of big monopolies and Elizabeth Warren recently came to a conference he set up. So yeah, Google just demonstrated the danger of big monopolies. We should notice.

  17. The Wrong Guy Member

    EU: Google illegally used Android to dominate search, must pay $5B fine | Ars Technica

    Google will appeal, says EU ignored that Android competes against iPhones.

    Quote:

    The European Commission today fined Google $5.05 billion (€4.34 billion) for violating EU antitrust rules, saying that "Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general Internet search."

    The commission said that Google is violating antitrust law by requiring phone manufacturers to pre-install the Google search app and Chrome browser "as a condition for licensing Google's app store (the Play Store)."

    Google also violated EU antitrust rules by "ma[king] payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed the Google Search app on their devices," the commission said.

    Thirdly, Google allegedly ran afoul of EU rules by deterring manufacturers from using Android forks. Google "has prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google," the commission said.

    DuckDuckGo, a search company that aims to provide more user privacy than Google, commented on the decision via Twitter. "We welcome the EU cracking down on Google's anti-competitive search behavior. We have felt its effects first hand for many years and has led directly to us having less market share on Android vs iOS and in general mobile vs desktop."

    <snipped>

    Today's fine stems from a commission investigation that began in 2015. The EC said:

    Google's practices have denied rival search engines the possibility to compete on the merits. The tying practices ensured the pre-installation of Google's search engine and browser on practically all Google Android devices and the exclusivity payments strongly reduced the incentive to pre-install competing search engines. Google also obstructed the development of Android forks, which could have provided a platform for rival search engines to gain traffic. Google's strategy has also prevented rival search engines from collecting more data from smart mobile devices, including search and mobile location data, which helped Google to cement its dominance as a search engine.

    More at https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy...-android-to-dominate-search-must-pay-5b-fine/
  18. The Wrong Guy Member

    Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China, Leaked Documents Reveal

    By Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept, August 1, 2018

    Quote:

    Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China that will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest, The Intercept can reveal.

    The project – code-named Dragonfly – has been underway since spring of last year, and accelerated following a December 2017 meeting between Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official, according to internal Google documents and people familiar with the plans.

    Teams of programmers and engineers at Google have created a custom Android app, different versions of which have been named “Maotai” and “Longfei.” The app has already been demonstrated to the Chinese government; the finalized version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending approval from Chinese officials.

    The planned move represents a dramatic shift in Google’s policy on China and will mark the first time in almost a decade that the internet giant has operated its search engine in the country.

    Google’s search service cannot currently be accessed by most internet users in China because it is blocked by the country’s so-called Great Firewall. The app Google is building for China will comply with the country’s strict censorship laws, restricting access to content that Xi Jinping’s Communist Party regime deems unfavorable.

    The Chinese government blocks information on the internet about political opponents, free speech, sex, news, and academic studies. It bans websites about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, for instance, and references to “anticommunism” and “dissidents.” Mentions of books that negatively portray authoritarian governments, like George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, have been prohibited on Weibo, a Chinese social media website. The country also censors popular Western social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as American news organizations such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

    Documents seen by The Intercept, marked “Google confidential,” say that Google’s Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the Great Firewall. When a person carries out a search, banned websites will be removed from the first page of results, and a disclaimer will be displayed stating that “some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements.” Examples cited in the documents of websites that will be subject to the censorship include those of British news broadcaster BBC and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

    The search app will also “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, the documents state. The censorship will apply across the platform: Google’s image search, automatic spell check and suggested search features will incorporate the blacklists, meaning that they will not recommend people information or photographs the government has banned.

    Within Google, knowledge about Dragonfly has been restricted to just a few hundred members of the internet giant’s 88,000-strong workforce, said a source with knowledge of the project. The source spoke to The Intercept on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to contact the media. The source said that they had moral and ethical concerns about Google’s role in the censorship, which is being planned by a handful of top executives and managers at the company with no public scrutiny.

    Continued at https://theintercept.com/2018/08/01/google-china-search-engine-censorship/
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  19. The Wrong Guy Member

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  20. The Wrong Guy Member

    World’s Leading Human Rights Groups Tell Google to Cancel Its China Censorship Plan

    By Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept, August 28, 2018

    Quote:

    Leading human rights groups are calling on Google to cancel its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, which they said would violate the freedom of expression and privacy rights of millions of internet users in the country.

    A coalition of 14 organizations — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Access Now, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, PEN International, and Human Rights in China — issued the demand Tuesday in an open letter addressed to the internet giant’s CEO, Sundar Pichai. The groups said the censored search engine represents “an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights” and could result in the company “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.”

    The letter is the latest major development in an ongoing backlash over the censored search platform, code-named Dragonfly, which was first revealed by The Intercept earlier this month. The censored search engine would remove content that China’s ruling Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. It would “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to confidential Google documents.

    Google launched a censored search engine in China in 2006, but ceased operating the service in the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack Google’s computer systems. The open letter released Tuesday asks Google to reaffirm the commitment it made in 2010 to no longer provide censored search in China.

    The letter states: “If Google’s position has indeed changed, then this must be stated publicly, together with a clear explanation of how Google considers it can square such a decision with its responsibilities under international human rights standards and its own corporate values. Without these clarifications, it is difficult not to conclude that Google is now willing to compromise its principles to gain access to the Chinese market.”

    The letter calls on Google to explain the steps it has taken to safeguard against human rights violations that could occur as a result of Dragonfly and raises concerns that the company will be “enlisted in surveillance abuses” because “users’ data would be much more vulnerable to [Chinese] government access.” Moreover, the letter said Google should guarantee protections for whistleblowers who speak out when they believe the company is not living up to its commitments on human rights. The whistleblowers “have been crucial in bringing ethical concerns over Google’s operations to public attention,” the letter states. “The protection of whistleblowers who disclose information that is clearly in the public interest is grounded in the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”

    Google has not yet issued any public statement about the China censorship, saying only that it will not address “speculation about future plans.” After four weeks of sustained reporting on Dragonfly, Google has not issued a single response to The Intercept and it has refused to answer dozens of questions from reporters on the issue. The company’s press office did not reply to a request for comment on this story.

    It is not only journalists, however, who Google has ignored in the wake of the revelations. Amnesty International researchers told The Intercept they set up a phone call with the company to discuss concerns about Dragonfly, but they were stonewalled by members of Google’s human rights policy team, who said they would not talk about “leaks” of information related to the Chinese censorship. The open letter slams Google’s lack of public engagement on the matter, stating that the company’s “refusal to respond substantively to concerns over its reported plans for a Chinese search service falls short of the company’s purported commitment to accountability and transparency.”

    Continued at https://theintercept.com/2018/08/28/google-china-censorship-plan-human-rights/
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  21. The Wrong Guy Member

    France Goes To Court To Censor Google Search Globally | Forbes

    Quote:

    The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is today considering whether the 'right to be forgotten' should be applied worldwide.

    Back in 2014, the ECJ ruled that citizens should be allowed to request that 'inadequate, irrelevant or excessive' be removed from search results, after a Spanish man complained that Google Search was displaying links to the auction notice of his repossessed home.

    In a compromise that looked extremely uneasy at the time, Google dealt with the ruling by complying in Europe, censoring results from google.co.uk, google.fr and so on. Later, it extended the measure to apply to anyone accessing any version of Google Search from Europe. However, anybody using, say, the US site Google.com via a VPN was still able to see the original, uncensored results.

    However, a later 2015 hearing saw France's data protection authority, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), win a clarification that delisting should be applied worldwide.

    Google didn't comply, leading to a $112,000 fine in 2016 - after which it complained to the French courts and ultimately the ECJ.

    Since 2014, Google's latest transparency report shows, it's received around 723,000 requests for removal, relating to 2.7 million links, and has agreed to remove them in 44 per cent of cases.

    This latest case is based on complaints from four people wanting to have certain links removed. One concerns the relationship between the applicant and a person holding public office; another, the suicide of a member of the Church of Scientology. The third refers to criminal proceedings, and the fourth to a conviction for child sex abuse.

    At issue here is whether the information reaches the 'inadequate, irrelevant or excessive' benchmark, and whether public interest should be a factor. However, the court is also to rule on the extent of delisting, and whether it should apply throughout the world.

    A judgment is not expected until early 2019.

    Rather unusually, the court is hearing opinions from civil rights groups who (also unusually) are taking Google's side.

    "This case could see the right to be forgotten threatening global free speech. European data regulators should not be allowed to decide what internet users around the world find when they use a search engine," says Thomas Hughes, executive director of freedom of expression campaign group Article 19.

    "The CJEU must limit the scope of the right to be forgotten in order to protect the right of internet users around the world to access information online."

    Continued at https://www.forbes.com/sites/emmawo...es-to-court-to-censor-google-search-globally/
  22. The Wrong Guy Member

    Senior Google Scientist Resigns Over “Forfeiture of Our Values” in China

    By Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept, September 13, 2018

    Quote:

    A senior Google research scientist has quit the company in protest over its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China.

    Jack Poulson worked for Google’s research and machine intelligence department, where he was focused on improving the accuracy of the company’s search systems.

    In early August, Poulson raised concerns with his managers at Google after The Intercept revealed that the internet giant was secretly developing a Chinese search app for Android devices. The search system, code-named Dragonfly, was designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

    After entering into discussions with his bosses, Poulson decided in mid-August that he could no longer work for Google. He tendered his resignation and his last day at the company was August 31.

    He told The Intercept in an interview that he believes he is one of about five of the company’s employees to resign over Dragonfly. He felt it was his “ethical responsibility to resign in protest of the forfeiture of our public human rights commitments,” he said.

    Poulson, who was previously an assistant professor at Stanford University’s department of mathematics, said he believed that the China plan had violated Google’s artificial intelligence principles, which state that the company will not design or deploy technologies “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.”

    He said that he was concerned not just about the censorship itself, but also the ramifications of hosting customer data on the Chinese mainland, where it would be accessible to Chinese security agencies that are well-known for targeting political activists and journalists.

    In his resignation letter, Poulson told his bosses: “Due to my conviction that dissent is fundamental to functioning democracies, I am forced to resign in order to avoid contributing to, or profiting from, the erosion of protection for dissidents.”

    “I view our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in exchange for access to the Chinese market as a forfeiture of our values and governmental negotiating position across the globe,” he wrote, adding: “There is an all-too-real possibility that other nations will attempt to leverage our actions in China in order to demand our compliance with their security demands.”

    In the six weeks since the revelations about Dragonfly, Google has still not publicly addressed concerns about the project, despite facing a major backlash internally and externally. Earlier this month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai refused to appear at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, where he would have been asked questions about the China censorship. The company has ignored dozens of questions from journalists about the plan and it has stonewalled leading human rights groups, who say that the censored search engine could result in the company “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.” (Google also did not respond to an inquiry for this story.)

    Continued at https://theintercept.com/2018/09/13/google-china-search-engine-employee-resigns/
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  23. The Wrong Guy Member

    Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans to Closely Track Search Users in China

    By Ryan Gallagher and Lee Fang, The Intercept

    Quote:

    Google bosses have forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned.

    The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location — and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have “unilateral access” to the data.

    The memo was shared earlier this month among a group of Google employees who have been organizing internal protests over the censored search system, which has been designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

    According to three sources familiar with the incident, Google leadership discovered the memo and were furious that secret details about the China censorship were being passed between employees who were not supposed to have any knowledge about it. Subsequently, Google human resources personnel emailed employees who were believed to have accessed or saved copies of the memo and ordered them to immediately delete it from their computers. Emails demanding deletion of the memo contained “pixel trackers” that notified human resource managers when their messages had been read, recipients determined.

    The Dragonfly memo reveals that a prototype of the censored search engine was being developed as an app for both Android and iOS devices, and would force users to sign in so they could use the service. The memo confirms, as The Intercept first reported last week, that users’ searches would be associated with their personal phone number. The memo adds that Chinese users’ movements would also be stored, along with the IP address of their device and links they clicked on. It accuses developers working on the project of creating “spying tools” for the Chinese government to monitor its citizens.

    People’s search histories, location information, and other private data would be sent out of China to a database in Taiwan, the memo states. But the data would also be provided to employees of a Chinese company who would be granted “unilateral access” to the system.

    To launch the censored search engine, Google set up a “joint venture” partnership with an unnamed Chinese company. The search engine will “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to documents seen by The Intercept. Blacklisted search terms on a prototype of the search engine include “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize” in Mandarin, said sources familiar with the project.

    According to the memo, aside from being able to access users’ search data, the Chinese partner company could add to the censorship blacklists: It would be able to “selectively edit search result pages … unilaterally, and with few controls seemingly in place.”

    That a Chinese company would maintain a copy of users’ search data means that, by extension, the data would be accessible to Chinese authorities, who have broad powers to obtain information that is held or processed on the country’s mainland. A central concern human rights groups have expressed about Dragonfly is that it could place users at risk of Chinese government surveillance — and any person in China searching for blacklisted words or phrases could find themselves interrogated or detained. Chinese authorities are well-known for routinely targeting critics, activists, and journalists.

    “It’s alarming to hear that such information will be stored and, potentially, easily shared with the Chinese authorities,” said Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with the human rights group Amnesty International. “It will completely put users’ privacy and safety at risk. Google needs to immediately explain if the app will involve such arrangements. It’s time to give the public full transparency of the project.”

    On August 16, two weeks after The Intercept revealed the Dragonfly plan, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the company’s employees that the China plan was in its “early stages” and “exploratory.” However, employees working on the censored search engine were instructed in late July, days before the project was publicly exposed, that they should prepare to get it into a “launch-ready state” to roll out within weeks, pending approval from officials in Beijing.

    Continued at https://theintercept.com/2018/09/21...plans-to-closely-track-search-users-in-china/
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  24. The Wrong Guy Member

    Hundreds of Google Employees Tell Bosses To Cancel Censored Search Amid Worldwide Protests

    By Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept, November 27, 2018

    Quote:

    More than 240 Google employees have signed an open letter calling on the company to abandon its plan for a censored search engine in China, as protesters took to the streets in eight cities to condemn the secretive project.

    The letter was published Tuesday morning, signed by a group of 11 Google engineers, managers and researchers. By early evening, a further 230 employees had added their names to the letter in an extraordinary public display of anger and frustration with Google’s management over the censored search plan, known as Dragonfly.

    The search engine was designed by Google to censor phrases about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest, in accordance with strict censorship rules enforced by China’s authoritarian government. The search platform would link Chinese users’ search records to their cellphone numbers and share people’s search histories with a Chinese partner company – meaning China’s authoritarian government could obtain the data.

    The Google employees said on Tuesday that they believed the company was no longer “willing to place its values above its profits.” They wrote that the Chinese search engine would “make Google complicit in oppression and human rights abuses” and also “enable censorship and government-directed disinformation.” They added:

    Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be. The Chinese government certainly isn’t alone in its readiness to stifle freedom of expression, and to use surveillance to repress dissent. Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.

    In August, 1,400 Google employees protested Dragonfly privately, with many anonymously signing a letter that was circulated inside the company. Organizers of the protests have until now sought to keep their discontent in-house, feeling that negotiating with management away from the media would be the best way to address their concerns, sources said.

    But the organizers have become increasingly dissatisfied with company executives who have refused to answer questions about Dragonfly and engage on human rights issues. That is one of the principal reasons why the employees decided on Tuesday to go public with a new letter, which was not signed anonymously, in what amounted to an unprecedented rebuke to company bosses.

    The authors said they supported a wave of protests against Dragonfly organized by the human rights group Amnesty International, which took place on Tuesday outside Google offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and Spain.

    Amnesty activists were photographed outside Google buildings holding placards that called on the company to “listen to your concerned employees,” “don’t be a brick in the Chinese firewall,” and “don’t contribute to internet censorship in China.” In Madrid, the group inflated a giant Dragonfly and floated it outside Google’s offices in the city.

    Amnesty published a petition calling on Google to cancel the censored search engine. The group said in a statement that the platform would “irreparably damage internet users’ trust” in Google and “set a dangerous precedent for tech companies enabling rights abuses by governments.”

    Google has faced a growing number of protests as its employees have become increasingly organized and emboldened. Earlier this month, the company’s employees staged a mass walkout over management’s handling of sexual harrassment allegations and other grievances. In April, thousands of employees raised concerns about a project that involved the development of artificial intelligence for U.S. military drones.

    Continued at https://theintercept.com/2018/11/27...ncel-censored-search-amid-worldwide-protests/
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