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Google Government Privacy Politics

Google Draws Fire From Congress 212

Posted by Soulskill
from the careful-congress,-they-might-delist-you dept.
bonch writes "Democrat Herb Kohl, the Senate's leading antitrust legislator, has vowed an antitrust probe into Google as one of his top priorities. Others in Congress are criticizing the search giant over several flubs, including scanning personal data over neighborhood WiFi, collecting Social Security information from children in a doodling contest, and sidestepping net neutrality rules through a deal with Verizon. They're also concerned over ties with the administration — Eric Schmidt is a technology adviser to President Obama, Andrew McLaughlin serves as Obama's deputy chief technology officer, and Sonal Shah leads the White House Office of Social Innovation. Google spent $5.2 million last year on federal lobbying, but critics say their increased Washington presence has made more enemies than friends." Reader walterbyrd contributes an article that suggests this is all just a fund-raising ploy.
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Google Draws Fire From Congress

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  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @05:06PM (#35466742)

    to Congress campaigns enough lately.

    • Amen! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Weezul (52464) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @05:26PM (#35466904)

      Yeah, it's called a legislative shakedown. I don't mind google being pushed around by idealistic Europeans, but once America's asshats get into the game, well it's a shakedown pure & simple.

      Google would eventually turn evil once Sergey Brin dies of course, but thus far they ain't too bad. We should encourage Larry and Sergey to push positive moral aims through their company itself, rather than adopting Gate's be evil & then be nice approach.

      • Maybe the government wouldn't go after large corps so much if they paid their taxes.

      • "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
        -- C.S. Lewis
      • by yuhong (1378501)

        It reminds me of the mess caused by both Google and telcos lobbying on net neutrality.

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)
      Oh come now. This isn't about anything as crass as money. It's about fear. Fear drives the political machine and Google makes a really good target. Besides - the telecom / cable / media boys aren't thrilled with Google so who's going to be upset? Whoops. Money rears its ugly head after all.
  • Yep, it's a shakedown. Nothing to see here, move along.
  • by Immostlyharmless (1311531) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @05:07PM (#35466750)
    What about the Son of Acta that was posted yesterday? Or the patriot act? Or the fact that I know while driving to California tomorrow along 8 I'm going to get stopped and searched at least 2 to 3 times by border patrol in complete violation of my 4th amendment rights? I'm not going to say that all of that data mining isn't a treasure trove of information, I'd just suggest this is all a diversion, that if given the chance all those politicians creating a stink would *love* to get their hands on all of it, and that they have *much* more pressing issues at the moment.
    • by SirSlud (67381)

      I'm starting to not wanna be in the US, I've been to maybe 30 states, I'm no stranger down there but man is it getting rather inconvenient, expensive, and stupid. And for some reason, the voices of reason are the ones who are shouted down.

      • by redemtionboy (890616) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @05:35PM (#35466970)
        If you think what the US does is substantially different from the rest of the first world, then you're wrong. The difference is we just bitch about it a lot more. If anything we're just catching up. Amazingly we still have preserved the freedom of speech a lot more than places like the UK, Germany, and Australia.
        • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @06:00PM (#35467160) Homepage Journal

          If you think what the US does is substantially different from the rest of the first world, then you're wrong. The difference is we just bitch about it a lot more. If anything we're just catching up. Amazingly we still have preserved the freedom of speech a lot more than places like the UK, Germany, and Australia.

          Ah, I guess that makes it alright as we continue this downward spiral? C'mon, your argument is that of an elementary school kid: "But they did this, which is worse!!!!" That's so childish. Nothing personal, but it's true - and I doubt you got away with it often in elementary school, thus I'm simply not letting you get away with it now.

          We (the people, this country, it's elected representatives (who often seem to forget who they represent)) need to always hold ourselves to a higher standard, without succumbing to the "well, everyone else is doing it"/"well, they are doing worse" idiocy. Otherwise, we can justify every travesty we commit by finding someone else to point to - and that will accelerate our spiral downwards at an alarming rate.

          • If I hadn't started this, Id mod you up. :o)
          • Oh, I'm not defending it by any means, I'm hugely politically active on the matter. I'm just tired of people saying the US is so much worse off. It's not. We should focus on trying to be a beacon to the world on individual freedoms and liberties. If anything, we should help people realize how much their own country invades on their freedoms.
        • I can't speak for Germany or Australia, but here in the UK we never had free speech nor do we pretend to have it. It seems to be a cultural thing, in that Europeans (and this is obviously a gross generalisation) don't care as much about freedom of speech as USians.

          Of course, we're still doing what we can to roll back intrusive stuff. There's even a Protection of Freedoms Bill [parliament.uk] before Parliament at the moment, along with a new Defamation Bill (designed to tighten up libel law). The Identity Documents Act alre

  • by areusche (1297613) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @05:09PM (#35466772)
    They should do an anti trust probe into real anti trust problems. More specifically one that looks at that ever lovely comcastic company.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 12, 2011 @05:11PM (#35466788)
    Yes, when I think of out-of-control industries that are stamping on the rights of ordinary people, colluding to price-gouge us and passing legislation harmful to American interests, I think Google. Not the RIAA or MPAA or union-busting industries or economy-wrecking fraudulent financial groups or small-business-annihilating megamarts or the military-industrial complex or cable and phone companies. Definitely Google. Please oh please stop them before they voluntarily collect our publicly available SSNs and information we blast out over wireless on clear unencrypted channels.
    • Yes, when I think of out-of-control industries that are stamping on the rights of ordinary people, colluding to price-gouge us and passing legislation harmful to American interests, I think Google. Not the RIAA or MPAA or union-busting industries or economy-wrecking fraudulent financial groups or small-business-annihilating megamarts or the military-industrial complex or cable and phone companies. Definitely Google. Please oh please stop them before they voluntarily collect our publicly available SSNs and information we blast out over wireless on clear unencrypted channels.

      Sadly, though I have mod points, I have already posted in this thread, otherwise I'd mod you up... hopefully someone else will.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @05:15PM (#35466810)

    Disclaimer:

    I am not stating here that this information is correct, but it's certainly worth a read.

    So go ahead, and have a read over here. [goo.gl]

    • by SirSlud (67381)

      Yet to this day poor people still think the government should be financially at behest of the "most successful people".

    • disgusting.

      not sure which I hate more; our 'chosen leaders' or our 'non-elected corporate overlords'.

      they both stink to high heaven.

  • Herb Kohl (Score:4, Interesting)

    by schmidt349 (690948) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @05:22PM (#35466868)

    Herb is kind of above reproach. Having grown up in Wisconsin and actually met the man once, I can say comfortably that he isn't some kind of fundraising whore; he's a principled legislator who will probably get swept out in the next tide of teabagging. So I would be very careful in ascribing any kind of sinister motive to his investigation, or in drawing any conclusions about what the committee's findings will be.

    • I wonder if he's had a recent conversation with Rupert Murdoch on this as part of Rupert's travelling roadshow telling everyone how his competitor for the advertising dollar is evil and how they must be restricted or jobs will be lost? Murdoch has a lot of influence and can use it without actually overtly bribing people.
    • Herb is kind of above reproach. Having grown up in Wisconsin and actually met the man once, I can say comfortably that he isn't some kind of fundraising whore; he's a principled legislator who will probably get swept out in the next tide of teabagging. So I would be very careful in ascribing any kind of sinister motive to his investigation, or in drawing any conclusions about what the committee's findings will be.

      I'm going to quote the AC from above because it has a good list of examples:

      Yes, when I think of out-of-control industries that are stamping on the rights of ordinary people, colluding to price-gouge us and passing legislation harmful to American interests, I think Google. Not the RIAA or MPAA or union-busting industries or economy-wrecking fraudulent financial groups or small-business-annihilating megamarts or the military-industrial complex or cable and phone companies. Definitely Google.

      Can you address this point? If this guy is such a goody-goody, why is he going after Google, who as far as anyone can tell hasn't hurt anybody and whose major offense seems to have been making its competitors butthurt that they have to compete with a company that makes good products available in exchange for nothing more than viewing little text adverts? Instead of going after Comcast, Sony, bankers, etc.?

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>Can you address this point? If this guy is such a goody-goody, why is he going after Google

        If you read the article, they want to investigate if Google's domination over the search business gives them an unfair advantage in other areas by prioritizing their own companies in search results.

        Which is an entirely reasonable thing to investigate. /shrug

        • If you read the article, they want to investigate if Google's domination over the search business gives them an unfair advantage in other areas by prioritizing their own companies in search results.

          Which is an entirely reasonable thing to investigate. /shrug

          I don't see the reasonable. Anybody can buy advertising on Google's search engine and have their site listed on the first page. It isn't like Google is charging higher than market rates for ads to their competitors. Any kind of argument that Google would have to charge itself for the placement, assuming the accounting doesn't already work that way, is just silly. It makes no difference to anyone if they move some money from the left pocket to the right pocket in exchange for the advertising. So the only pos

          • by ShakaUVM (157947)

            >>So if there is any sort of investigation then why does Microsoft get a free pass?

            You should read up on antitrust laws. This was exactly what got Microsoft in hot water during the 90s.

            Or read about how American Airlines manipulated airline search results from their dominance via owning the Sabre reservation system (the first real online ticketing system):
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabre_(computer_system)#Controversy [wikipedia.org]

            You can't use market domination in one segment to gain domination in another.

            • You should read up on antitrust laws. This was exactly what got Microsoft in hot water during the 90s.

              Microsoft is still doing it today. Are their lawyers incompetent?

              Or read about how American Airlines manipulated airline search results from their dominance via owning the Sabre reservation system (the first real online ticketing system):

              From the link it seems that American was artificially putting its main competitors in the back of the search results or removed them entirely. Removing discount flights was especially blatant. But I don't believe there is any allegation that Google is doing any of that. Likewise, I don't think American offered its competitors the chance to buy advertising at market rates in order to have flights that would not normally appear on the first page

              • by ShakaUVM (157947)

                >>Microsoft is still doing it today. Are their lawyers incompetent?

                Haven't been following that story, then? Microsoft now has to offer a choice of browsers in the EU. This would have happened in America, too, except Microsoft started making a lot of campaign contributions and the suit got more or less dropped. (Well, they had to give out "10% off regular price" coupons to schools, which was meaningless, since schools already got better discounts).

                >>Taken literally this means that Fox News can't

                • Haven't been following that story, then? Microsoft now has to offer a choice of browsers in the EU.

                  Not the browser thing, the search engine thing. You go to Bing and you search for 'maps' and the top of the page is Bing Maps. And Bing Maps is the default mapping service in Internet Explorer too, if you want to argue about Bing's lack of market share. So either Microsoft is breaking the law or Google isn't.

                  They can run ads, but they can't prioritize WSJ ads over any other.

                  What does that mean? There are only so many time slots. There is only so much space on the first screen full of search results. If Google wants to put Google Maps as the first thing under "maps" on Goog

                  • by ShakaUVM (157947)

                    >>So either Microsoft is breaking the law or Google isn't.

                    Microsoft doesn't have market dominance. Google does. That's the important distinction.

                    And yes, the law *is* set up to punish winners.

                    >>I could see the problem if they were manually altering the algorithmic search results so that a competitor that should have been result number 3 by algorithm is instead result number 2500,

                    How is that any different from returning Youtube videos as all of the top results, and pushing Metacafe or whatever do

                    • Microsoft doesn't have market dominance. Google does. That's the important distinction.

                      Microsoft doesn't have market dominance in operating systems where they make Bing the default?

                      How is that any different from returning Youtube videos as all of the top results, and pushing Metacafe or whatever down the list?

                      Putting YouTube first doesn't stop people who are looking for Metacafe from finding it easily. The cliche about everyone clicking on the first result is backwards -- the first result is listed first because it's the one that everybody clicks on. Being in the number three spot does not make you invisible. Being in the number 2500 spot does. And on top of that, product search doesn't put Google in the top slot for ev

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Because Google is an easy target. We already know that their acquisition of Doubleclick violated Clayton, the question is what else might they have violated. And taking on a Wall Street darling would definitely send a message to corporate America, that this could happen to you.

        Just because there are other offenders or worse offenders doesn't make Google's violation any less significant, buying up that much of the ad market was an extremely dangerous thing to do.

        • We already know that their acquisition of Doubleclick violated Clayton

          Do you have a cite for the court case where this was proved?

          And taking on a Wall Street darling would definitely send a message to corporate America, that this could happen to you.

          From where I'm sitting the message is that antitrust enforcement is arbitrary and capricious, having everything to do with political advantage, and that therefore companies should make sure their Congress is well-oiled with campaign contributions so that they can keep on doing all of the odious things that aren't being prosecuted while the government does the bidding of AT&T and Microsoft.

          Incidentally, isn't antitrust supposed to be enforced by

  • by redemtionboy (890616) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @05:24PM (#35466886)
    So it's evil when Google mines my data and makes no attempt to hide the fact that they do, but it's ok when congress creates fusion centers that create profiles of average american citizens that have never committed any crimes and places wire taps on phones without proper warrants or just cause. I'm sorry, but I actually feel much safer trusting Google with my information than I do the federal government. Google just wants to make a profit, the federal government wants to control my life.
    • So it's evil when Google mines my data and makes no attempt to hide the fact that they do, but it's ok when congress creates fusion centers that create profiles of average american citizens that have never committed any crimes and places wire taps on phones without proper warrants or just cause. I'm sorry, but I actually feel much safer trusting Google with my information than I do the federal government. Google just wants to make a profit, the federal government wants to control my life.

      Apparently... sad, isn't it? And perhaps I misinterpreted your earlier post I responded to, in which case, my apologies.

    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      I would actually classify both acts as evil.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by williamhb (758070)

      So it's evil when Google mines my data and makes no attempt to hide the fact that they do, but it's ok when congress creates fusion centers that create profiles of average american citizens that have never committed any crimes and places wire taps on phones without proper warrants or just cause. I'm sorry, but I actually feel much safer trusting Google with my information than I do the federal government. Google just wants to make a profit, the federal government wants to control my life.

      Don't be so sure. For instance, Google Analytics tracks you on sites before you can even know the site uses Google Analytics (they require sites to include information in their privacy policy, but by the time you've found the link to that it's already to late, you have been tracked). To "opt out" you have to install a special modification (plugin) to your browser and even then they will not delete the data they have already collected on you. Google does not just want to make a profit -- it's explicit mis

      • At the moment, Google might not be doing much that you strenuously object to with your data. But SCO (Caldera) was a "nice company" before Darl McBride. It is a bad idea to put yourself at the mercy of a company's "niceness". Especially one like Google that has made a number of gaffes recently but still seems to believe it "does no evil" - over time the definition seems to be creeping from "we must only do good things" to "if we're doing it, it must be ok." The time to rein things in and ensure there are appropriate balances is before the company goes SCO on you.

        Never appeal to a man's "better nature". He may not have one. -- Robert A. Heinlein

  • by hsmith (818216) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @05:43PM (#35467030)
    Not donating enough to the various political parties.
    • by sco08y (615665)

      Not donating enough to the various political parties.

      A quick check shows Google and its employees [opensecrets.org] are pretty active politically, and I suspect that if Democrats want more money from them they just have to ask. It could be a shakedown, but there's not a shred of evidence that this is the case beyond vague claims that it's happened before. I find anyone who calls himself an "insider", let alone a magazine that calls itself that, to be consistently full of shit.

      The simplest explanation for why liberal Democrats are conducting an anti-trust investigation is that

      • I think their notions of anti-trust are based on an economic theory consisting of fairness and pixie dust

        Would that be the soy-based product typically used for server maintenance?

  • by mykos (1627575) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @07:33PM (#35467662)
    I'll trade our entire government for one run Google-style. They're better at foreign relations. They're better at having a balanced budget. They know how to treat people fairly. They know how not to waste everyone's time on ridiculous litigation that nobody (except their competitors) is calling for, especially when there's a shitton of far more pressing issues at hand. There are also corporations that behave much, much worse than google.

    Are you reading this, Google? Get on it.
  • by Greyfox (87712)
    Looks like another Congressman is looking for the Santorum [google.com] treatment...
  • by jc42 (318812)

    Others in Congress are criticizing the search giant over several flubs, including ... sidestepping net neutrality rules through a deal with Verizon.

    What? Haven't we been reading in the past few days about Congress discarding the proposed net neutrality rules, the courts tossing out what the FCC had done on the subject, and so on? How can google be "sidestepping" rules that Congress themselves say don't exist?

    Did I miss some news on a recent vote? If so, google news doesn't know about it, either. Asking news.google.com about "net neutrality" gets the story dated Mar 11 about "the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology rejecting the F

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @10:30PM (#35468574)

    Tea Party senator presses for 'vigorous' oversight of Google
    By Jordan Fabian - 03/11/11 03:12 PM ET

    Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) wants a congressional hearing to examine whether Google has run afoul of antitrust laws.

    In a letter to Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), the chairman of a Senate antitrust panel, Lee said that Google's dominance of the Internet search arena prompts the "need for vigorous antitrust oversight and enforcement in this area."

    http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/149039-tea-party-senator-wants-google-oversight-hearings

    So google is an abusive monopolist, and microsoft isn't? How could that be? Oh wait . . .

    In his election campaign, the freshman Utah Republican took $5,000 each from executives of Microsoft and AT&T, two of Google’s biggest competitors; executives at 1-800 CONTACTS gave Lee $7,500 in donations last year.

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/51414450-76/1-800-anti-company-contacts.html.csp

  • Why do you call it fund-raising ? It is called extortion.

The sooner all the animals are extinct, the sooner we'll find their money. - Ed Bluestone

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