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Google Businesses Cellphones The Almighty Buck

Google Bans Hundreds Of Pixel Phone Resellers From Their Google Accounts (theguardian.com) 171

Hundreds of Google users lost their access to their emails, photos, documents, "and anything else linked to their Google identity," wrote the Guardian last week, reporting on "hundreds of people who took advantage of a loophole in US sales tax to make a small profit on Pixel phones" -- and got all of the Google accounts suspended. Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes: "The Google customers had all bought the phones from the company's Project Fi mobile carrier, and had them shipped directly to a reseller in New Hampshire, a US state with no sales tax. In return, the reseller split the profit with the customers," the Guardian adds.

People might ask, in a hurt tone of voice, "why are you doing this to me?" To which the obvious answer is "because we can, and you agreed to these (link to 3000 pages of text) terms and conditions, including our ability to do this"... The only question has been "When?", never "If?"

Update: Google "has reviewed banned users' appeals and re-enabled their accounts," reports The Guardian.
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Google Bans Hundreds Of Pixel Phone Resellers From Their Google Accounts

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  • Click bait much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @12:38PM (#53326881)
    this is already a non story. Google is reactivating the accounts so long as the users promise not to do it again. They'll flush out the shill accounts and give everyone else a smack on the wrist for doing something that's pretty self evidently wrong (scalping).
    • by mi ( 197448 )

      Though being a monopoly is not illegal, using one's monopoly position in one market to break into another is. That was the goverment's claim against Microsoft, which was (alleged to) using their monopoly in desktop operating systems to break into web-browsers... We all cheered the government's prosecution of the company here.

      Now, Google are using their monopoly in search-engine market, to gain in the market of cellular phones and associated services... And we are supposed to give them a pass?

      self evidently

      • 1) Google is not a monopoly. If you even understood what monopoly means you'd realize this just looking at your computer where the desktop uses Bing or Cortana and you can download at least 4 browsers that use different search engines by default. They're not even a monopoly on phones because Apple.

        2) It doesn't matter if scalping is "self evidently" wrong. It's against the laws of numerous states (IANAL but likely all 50).

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          Scalping -- the resale of tickets above face value -- is perfectly legal in Minnesota.

          And it wouldn't exist at all if the tickets were priced originally relative to demand or if they used a reverse auction process that started at very high prices and reduced them in step with demand. The notion that popular tickets should be cheap and abundant is absurd.

        • by mi ( 197448 )

          Google is not a monopoly.

          Yes, they are. Hint, it does not have to be 100% — Microsoft's hold on the desktop operating systems was not universal either. I for one, had used FreeBSD exclusively since 1993, and there were also MacOS and, gasp, Linux. It did not help Microsoft and they got convicted of abusing their monopoly.

          It doesn't matter if scalping is "self evidently" wrong.

          Whether it matters or not, the OP claimed, that it is. And that was simply incorrect.

      • Not alleged, Microsoft was CONVICTED.
    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      They'll flush out the shill accounts and give everyone else a smack on the wrist for doing something that's pretty self evidently wrong (scalping).

      Taking advantage of differing tax rates isn't scalping, it's arbitrage.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        No, it is theft. Basically you want to steal your states services and infrastructure whilst other residents of your state pay your taxes. Not arbitrage unless the definition of arbitrage is being an arse hat.

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @01:41PM (#53327225) Journal
      It certainly is a story. Maybe not because of the rights and wrongs of avoiding taxes or Google's reaction, but because this ought to serve as a wake-up call for anyone relying on an external party for important data or services, especially in cases when it is not easy or possible to switch services or retrieve the data. If the tems of service allow a provider to revoke your access whenever they feel like it, then do not put your data there. And even when that's not allowed under the terms of service, keep in mind that a company can go broke or simply suspend its service in any case.
      • Mod this up. That's precisely the point. Whether this particular excuse is a good reason for Google to close the accounts is beside the point. Google, Facebook, and friends explicitly reserve the right to close your account for no reason. If you depend on a GMail or Facebook account for business or for keeping in contact with friends then this should serve as a warning. It's possible to use GMail safely if you buy your own domain and point it at Google's servers, sync your mail with IMAP, and keep your
    • Next Up: Polls indicate Hillary! Clinton has an 90% chance of making history and winning tomorrow's election in a blowout. Mook the Mook says Trump the Chump should probably just concede and avoid the embarrassment!
    • They'll flush out the shill accounts and give everyone else a smack on the wrist for doing something that's pretty self evidently wrong (scalping).

      ...until the company stops their infinity larger tax avoidance schemes.

    • something that's pretty self evidently wrong (scalping).

      How is "scalping" self evidently wrong? If I own a ticket to a concert or sports event, why is it "wrong" for me to sell it at a market price?

      • How is "scalping" self evidently wrong? If I own a ticket to a concert or sports event, why is it "wrong" for me to sell it at a market price?

        Because you're abusing a market failure, and in fact helping to create it in the first place. You're inserting yourself in the distribution chain, but not adding anything of value.

        • Because you're abusing a market failure, and in fact helping to create it in the first place. You're inserting yourself in the distribution chain, but not adding anything of value.

          This is incorrect. The scalper is providing a ticket to someone who otherwise would have been unable to obtain a ticket he desires - that is definitely value.

          If there is an ethical issue with scalping, it is that some entities attempt to create artificial scarcity by purchasing huge numbers of tickets, usually indirectly through a large number of secondary agents (which is perhaps relevant to this particular news story). However it's harder to argue that an individual selling a few tickets he purchased hims

          • The scalper is providing a ticket to someone who otherwise would have been unable to obtain a ticket he desires

            Huh? Without the scalper, that someone could have bought the ticket directly from the supplier, at a lower price.

            Anyway, I'm not sure what's described in the story qualifies as scalping... The Pixel is not in limited supply (at least not for people with a little patience), and it's not clear at all that the prices were marked up – instead, the resellers seem to have undercut Google's prices by exploiting a tax loophole.

            Google's ban on commercial resale is of course absurd, and I honestly thought that

            • Huh? Without the scalper, that someone could have bought the ticket directly from the supplier, at a lower price.

              I realize this is Slashdot, but - haven't you ever bought tickets to a concert or game, only to find out later you couldn't attend (or to have a friend or date bomb out on you)? If you sell those tickets, you're scalping.

              When I've been in that situation, I've just given the tickets away... but if I'd chosen to re-sell them, I don't think I'd be committing some grievous moral wrong.

            • Huh? Without the scalper, that someone could have bought the ticket directly from the supplier, at a lower price.

              No. The lower price leads to higher demand, so more people want the tickets than there are tickets available. That is why the scalper can make money. If the tickets were priced properly in the first place, there would be no way for scalpers to make money. Do you see scalpers outside the grocery store selling milk at a mark-up? Of course not.

              Because of the higher demand, there must be some other way than price to control demand. Usually it is willingness to stand in line and squander time instead of mo

            • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )

              Huh? Without the scalper, that someone could have bought the ticket directly from the supplier, at a lower price.

              That's simply not true. If there's 200 people who want tickets and only 100 to go around, 100 people will have no tickets. Someone, somewhere, has to choose who gets a ticket and who doesn't. There's no way around that.

              Generally, in a capitalist society, scarce goods are distributed according to the buyer's willingness to pay, because that system works really well. Those who really need it will pay more to get it, while those who could live without it goes without. Everyone is happy (or at least not too

            • Huh? Without the scalper, that someone could have bought the ticket directly from the supplier, at a lower price.

              Only given an abundant supply of tickets. More likely, someone else might have bought the tickets who wasn't quite as interested in the show, but decided to go anyway simply because the tickets were cheap. Scalpers prevent this "priority inversion" by buying up underpriced tickets and reselling them at market price, thus ensuring that those with the greatest effective demand for the tickets are able to attend. The only problem with this scenario is one of the venue's own making—by underpricing their t

          • not much anyway. Actual scalpers don't provide the ticket to someone who otherwise wouldn't have it. They buy up all the tickets and sell them back to people that would have bought them on the show night. The venue owners turn a blind eye because they're shifting the risk to the scalper. the scalpers know their business so they might lose a little here and there but they make it up from people that desperately want to see see the show.

            It also screws the bands. They need to sell out their show and make
            • My kid wanted to see Hanna Montana when she was young, but the $40 tickets were selling for over $1000.

              I am so thankful my daughter is a few years older than yours - Hannah Montana mania was almost scary. Although I guess she did like the Spice Girls, which I'm not sure is any better (although they were more pleasant to look at, from my perspective). She never hit us up for concert tickets though - she just wanted all the movies and videos.

          • by jrumney ( 197329 )

            The scalper is providing a ticket to someone who otherwise would have been unable to obtain a ticket he desires

            He is only unable to obtain that ticket because the scalper has it.

            • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
              The scalper only has the ticket for a short while. He has to sell the ticket to make a profit. Eventually, someone who wants the ticket will get it.
        • Like car dealerships!

    • I don't know if this scalping but I don't know why scalping is self evidently wrong. Yes it may be illegal, but scalping is simply buying something and selling at a profit. I do not see why it is anybodies business what someone does with tickets after they buy them. If they wish to use them as toilet paper just to deny other people the ability to watch an event, so be it. That scenario is of course legal but selling at a profit isn't.

      I do see scalping as slightly unethical, however I see other similar thin

    • This is a GREAT wake-up call for all those people that think that ANY cloud service is a great place to be the only repository for all your photos and other things...

      That's not just Google, but any other cloud document or photo service. Always keep full backups of photos, and figure out how to export emails from whatever service you use for email. If you can't export emails, get a new email provider.

      • This is a GREAT wake-up call for all those people that think that ANY cloud service is a great place to be the only repository for all your photos and other things...

        My original title was something like "the iron fist pokes out of the velvet glove".

    • by khchung ( 462899 )

      Google is reactivating the accounts so long as the users promise not to do it again.

      This IS a story, since when did Google become law enforcement?

      Imagine the outrage here if Apple did the same thing.

    • OP here.

      I've since been told that Google are indeed rolling back to some degree on this. (Been doing thing in "real life" for the last couple of days, so haven't been online.)

      OTOH, Even if the roll back this time, they still retain the capacity to do this again in the future. Which is why I trust them as much as I trust any other online (or indeed, real-world) company. And I maintain my backups on organised rust, keep email addresses in multiple countries, and bank accounts in multiple countries too. Onli

  • by TimothyHollins ( 4720957 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @12:38PM (#53326883)

    Since when was it OK to break the spirit of the law? Is this some post-Trump perspective where tax avoidance is a virtue?

    I can see the problem with Google acting as a vigilante, but taking the side of those that attempt to circumvent US law seems almost anarchistic. Surely "because it's not *technically* illegal" is a childish defense.

    • by klingens ( 147173 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @12:48PM (#53326933)

      In this case, it is ok ever since Google and its corporate brethren dodged paying taxes by playing shenanigans with the tax system in different countries. It's the same here: this worked cause some US state doesn't have a sales tax.
      If Google can arbitrate taxes cause it's "technically not illegal", then so can their customers. Or do you think Google is allowed but their customers have to play by a different rule?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        One is legal and one isnt. Pay ur damn sales tax.

        WA has no state income tax (I like that), its important people dont dodge the sales tax here. Goto Oregon and its the other way around, you automatically lose something like 10% of your income before you see it, at least here you only see the taxation if you spend it.

        • by alexo ( 9335 )

          One is legal and one isnt. Pay ur damn sales tax.

          Google is not a part of the legal system.

    • Since when is it illegal for google, a private company, to permanently ban users for *anything*?

      If I woke up tomorrow and found myself locked out because Google banned people that had used slashdot I'd roll my eyes and move on to the next service.

    • The spirit of the law is being broken all the time by the US government themselves, when they argue that forcing someone to unlock a phone with a fingerprint is not self-incrimination, or that burning a flag technically isn't "speech", or that civil forfeiture is even a thing.
    • by alexo ( 9335 )

      Since when was it OK to break the spirit of the law? Is this some post-Trump perspective where tax avoidance is a virtue?

      Since lawyers and tax accountants were invented.

    • Since when was it OK to break the spirit of the law? Is this some post-Trump perspective where tax avoidance is a virtue?

      I can see the problem with Google acting as a vigilante, but taking the side of those that attempt to circumvent US law seems almost anarchistic. Surely "because it's not *technically* illegal" is a childish defense.

      What US law? No laws were broken. Everything was legal, it is just that Google didn't like it and considered it a breach of their terms of service.

    • if it isn't technically illegal then Google have no right to be acting as judge and executioner, especially since google engage in this exact type of practise themselves to avoid taxes all around the world precisely because it is not *technically* illegal.
  • Eric Schmidt had is nose firmly planted in Obama's and Clinton's behinds, and with the unexpected ascendency of Trump it's no surprise that he's being a good little marching boy for the new Back to Law and Order administration ("We know how to make all of our broken and stupid rules work: enforce them harder!").

    • Back to Law and Order administration ("We know how to make all of our broken and stupid rules work: enforce them harder!").

      Hah! I'll believe that when the IRS is able to hire more people to conduct audits.

  • Moral: Don't go whining about how you were wronged while you were doing something wrong yourself!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wow, now google is the prosecuter, judge and executioner. WTF, I'm really scared, how they can turn off your digital life at the flip of a finger. This is insane, draconian. I don't agree with what the people did, but for Google to use their power to kill their daily digital life is insane. With this behavior, I say google services need to be taken over by the government. Or laws should be enacted to make companies such a Google accountable for this. I say these 200 users should go for a class action agains

    • Um. Perhaps you don't remember a time before Google Existing but if your 'digital life' is in the control of Google you were never in the control you thought you were.

      I deleted my facebook, something people would say was their digital life. Turns out I can type other addresses into the browser. If that fails I can type in IP addresses.

      A private corporation is just that.

    • by Alumoi ( 1321661 )

      how they can turn off your digital life at the flip of a finger.

      WTF? One Google account is now your digital life?

    • by anegg ( 1390659 )
      If you based your "digital life" on freeloading off of Google's services, what else would you expect other than to be under the (possibly draconian) thumb of Google?? If you want Google services to be taken over by the government, you are saying that you want taxpayers to pay for your digital life while you freeload, instead of just paying for it yourself. As a taxpayer, I say no way. If you don't like Google's deal, pay for your own services. Every service that Google offers is available from a commerc
  • ... and get caught.

    What is the problem exactly?

    • The real irony is that another set of crooks who fiddle their taxes (Google) suspended their accounts on moral grounds.

    • That's funny since Google uses loopholes to skirt around paying billions in taxes. But these guys exploiting a loophole to skirt around paying magnitudes less in taxes are clearly the dirty crooks.

  • Die by the letter of the law.

    "Oooh, I'm so clever--I've found a trick to get something for no (or damned near little) effort, while actually contributing NOTHING of value."
    Fine. You better make *damned* sure you read *all* the rules.

    These sorts of shenanigans are reserved for billionaires and large corporations.
    Folks who can afford high priced lawyers and high priced congresscritters.
    Not you.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @01:45PM (#53327251)
    Google is penalizing these people who had their phones shipped to another state to avoid taxes yet Google ships their earnings to other countries to do the same thing.
    • by alexo ( 9335 )

      Google is penalizing these people who had their phones shipped to another state to avoid taxes yet Google ships their earnings to other countries to do the same thing.

      Might (or in this case, big lobbying budget) makes right.

  • I am confused. Yes it is scalping but you kill the dealer, not the customers. At this point its giving me second thoughts about keeping backups on their cloud if they decide a phone I bought off eBay is illegal by just the mac address.

    Atleast use a shell company to go after customers, like Microsoft does when checking on business software licences

    • At this point its giving me second thoughts about keeping backups on their cloud

      Google's cloud in particular, or any company's cloud?

      I keep my backups as patterns of rust on portable hard drives in a ziplock bag in a friend's cellar. The friend does the same. Our backups work, and do not depend on any internet service working tomorrow.

  • If you are using any of digital services by Google and don't want to lose them, then don't buy from Google, because if they don't like how/why you do something they will ban you from their platform.

    In other news, it is time to anti-trust them.
    • Yes anti-trust them.

      Your honour, while in the process of scalping phones and avoiding taxes, Google did something their terms of services allowed them to do to take an effort to stop me from artificially screwing with their pricing structure. It's just not fair!

  • The chance of a "digital death penalty" is greatly mitigated by not having a "digital deathwish".
  • This is a great example of the Pot (Google) calling the Kettle black. Here we have Google funneling billions in on line transactions via tax havens so as to avoid paying taxes. But if Mr Jill/Joe average tries to do the same "OH know, lets go to war with our "paying" customers for doing the same". I'm not surprised google did a U-turn on this decision because pain in the rear customers like me will point out that Google does exactly the same every day (and are now being forced by some countries to pay back

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