1. Does Google Manipulate Search Results?
Tim Wu, the legal scholar credited with coining the oft used term “net neutrality” was hired by Yelp to conduct research into Google’s search algorithm. Wu, along with Harvard Business School professor Michael Luca and researchers at Yelp, examined whether Google gives consumers the best results. The results don’t look good. Per Recode.net:
Google knowingly manipulates search results according to a research paper published Monday from several academics. The study presents evidence that the search giant sets out to hamper competitors and limit consumers’ options. The paper lands as Google prepares to release its response to the European Union investigation, which rests on similar claims about Google’s comparison-shopping product.
Meanwhile, in the EU a new website Focus on the User (http://www.focusontheuser.eu/) has been set up to publicize the issue, charging, “Google+ is hurting the Internet. Europeans have the power to stop it.” Along with a rundown of the various ways Google manipulates search results to favor its own product via Google+ the website offers a video explainer (below).
2. 40 State Attorneys Generals file amicus brief in support of subpoena process to investigate Google
Attorneys General from 40 states have filed in amicus brief in support of Mississippi’s AG Jim Hood’s efforts to subpoena Google. In the brief they ask a U.S. Appeals Court to overturn a preliminary injunction issued last March by U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate that blocked Hood’s efforts to investigate Google’s anti-consumer business practices. From the brief:
As is evident from the letters of record signed by multiple Attorneys General, Mississippi is not the only state with concerns about Google’s consumer practices. (See ROA.1199-1200, ROA.1243-1244, ROA.1245-1246). Mississippi, like every state, is entitled to address these concerns through further investigation utilizing proper tools, including administrative subpoenas. Mississippi, like every state, also is entitled to review information gathered pursuant to its investigation and make decisions about actions to take—or not take—to enforce its consumer protection laws for its citizens. Google may challenge Mississippi’s Subpoena consistent with state law. But Google should not be allowed to bypass state subpoena review processes and derail a legitimate state consumer protection investigation by filing premature declaratory judgment lawsuits and obtaining sweeping preliminary injunctions in federal court. Both the law and public policy counsel against it.
3. Google accused of eavesdropping
According to an article published in The Guardian, Google is also under fire from privacy advocates for incorporating technology into its Chrome browser that allows eavesdropping.
“Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that – according to itself – had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room,” said Rick Falkvinge, the Pirate party founder, in a blog post. “Which means that your computer had been stealth configured to send what was being said in your room to somebody else, to a private company in another country, without your consent or knowledge, an audio transmission triggered by … an unknown and unverifiable set of conditions.”
Scott Cleland, a noted Google critic, points out that it’s business as usual in comments posted on his Precursor Blog:
This is not an isolated incident. It is a part of a broader Google pattern of behavior.
What should be big news and scandalous here is that the company that has gathered the most Internet users in the world based upon public representations of being pro-privacy and open — is secretly engaged in widespread wiretapping.
June Gloom for Googleiath
Earlier this month Google was slapped down by a Canadian appeals court, Its judges were not impressed by Google’s specious “free speech” arguments and affirmed a lower court ruling mandating Google remove certain search results (linking to illegal products) on a worldwide basis.
As regulators in Europe continue to tighten the vise, perhaps this summer will be a turning point in efforts to hold Google accountable for its bad business practices. Stay tuned…