@nickconfessore: The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley — and Won

[A teachable moment in activism that’s an important read to see all the swamp monster machinations that Silicon Valley puts us all through.  The post is extremely well-written but does take a bit of a commitment to read to the end.  Highly recommended that you stick with it to the end of the story.]

The way Alastair Mactaggart usually tells the story of his awakening — the way he told it even before he became the most improbable, and perhaps the most important, privacy activist in America — begins with wine and pizza in the hills above Oakland, Calif. It was a few years ago, on a night Mactaggart and his wife had invited some friends over for dinner. One was a software engineer at Google, whose search and video sites are visited by over a billion people a month. As evening settled in, Mactaggart asked his friend, half-seriously, if he should be worried about everything Google knew about him. “I expected one of those answers you get from airline pilots about plane crashes,” Mactaggart recalled recently. “You know — ‘Oh, there’s nothing to worry about.’ ” Instead, his friend told him there was plenty to worry about. If people really knew what we had on them, the Google engineer said, they would flip out….

Facebook and Google were following people around the rest of the internet…using an elaborate and invisible network of browsing bugs — they had, within little more than a decade, created a private surveillance apparatus of extraordinary reach and sophistication. Mactaggart thought that something ought to be done. He began to wonder whether he should be the one to do it….

Almost by accident, though, Mactaggart had thrust himself into the greatest resource grab of the 21st century. To Silicon Valley, personal information had become a kind of limitless natural deposit, formed in the digital ether by ordinary people as they browsed, used apps and messaged their friends. Like the oil barons before them, they had collected and refined that resource to build some of the most valuable companies in the world, including Facebook and Google, an emerging duopoly that today controls more than half of the worldwide market in online advertising. But the entire business model — what the philosopher and business theorist Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” — rests on untrammeled access to your personal data. The tech industry didn’t want to give up its powers of surveillance. It wanted to entrench them. And as Mactaggart would soon learn, Silicon Valley almost always got what it wanted.

Read the post on The New York Times.

@AlanWolf_TWICE: Let’s Get Physical: Amazon and Google embrace brick-and-mortar

Wasn’t too long ago that pundits predicted the end of physical storefronts.

Now, in an ironic twist, the very forces of digital commerce that were supposed to do in brick-and-mortar have become hot for commercial real estate.

Two of the biggest proponents are smart-home contenders Amazon and Google. The e-tailer has opened bookstores, pop-up shops and in-store Kohl’s sections across the country, while the search engine giant is plying its proprietary Home products via temporary holiday stores in New York and Los Angeles.

TWICE visited two of these physical manifestations, which provide further proof that the corner store is here to stay.

Read the post on TWICE

@music_canada: Where would Google be without creators and the distortion of copyright protections?

PRESS RELEASE:

In a ground-breaking report, Music Canada, a national trade organization, documents the scale of harm being caused by the Value Gap – defined as the significant disparity between the value of creative content that is accessed, particularly through user upload content services like YouTube, and the revenues returned to the people and businesses who create it.

“This is the story you will not hear from Google,” says Graham Henderson, President and CEO of Music Canada.  “YouTube would never have emerged as the largest music service without distorting the use of safe harbour protections in copyright law that were created to protect ‘mere conduits’ or ‘dumb pipes.’  We now know that today’s digital platforms are the smartest pipes that have ever been imagined.”

Creators and governments around the world are taking notice, and taking action. In Canada, thousands of musicians, authors, poets, visual artists, playwrights and other members of the creative class, have urged the Canadian government to address the Value Gap in a campaign called Focus On Creators.

The Value Gap: Its Origins, Impacts and a Made-in-Canada Approach is available for download at https://musiccanada.com/resources/research/the-value-gap-report/.

@buzzfeedben: There’s Blood In The Water In Silicon Valley

27gillibrand_span

Before you think it can’t happen to Google or Facebook, remember–if you told a room full of MBAs in 1984 that in a few years time Drexel Burnham Lambert would be bankrupt and Michael Milken would be in prison, you would have been laughed out of the room.  And also remember–they almost got Google on violations of the Controlled Substances Act.  If you’re concerned, call your representatives at (202) 224-3121 and tell them you want an investigation into Google and its price fixing cartel the MIC Coalition.

The blinding rise of Donald Trump over the past year has masked another major trend in American politics: the palpable, and perhaps permanent, turn against the tech industry. The new corporate leviathans that used to be seen as bright new avatars of American innovation are increasingly portrayed as sinister new centers of unaccountable power, a transformation likely to have major consequences for the industry and for American politics.

That turn has accelerated in recent days: Steve Bannon and Bernie Sanders both want big tech treated as, in Bannon’s words in Hong Kong this week, “public utilities.” Tucker Carlson and Franklin Foer have found common ground. Even the group No Labels, an exquisitely poll-tested effort to create a safe new center, is on board. Rupert Murdoch, never shy to use his media power to advance his commercial interests, is hard at work.

“Anti-trust is back,

baby,” Yelp’s policy chief, Luther Lowe, DM’d me after Fox News gave him several minutes to make the antitrust case against Yelp’s giant rival Google to its audience of millions….

mike252520milken

So Facebook should probably ease out of the business of bland background statements and awkward photo ops, and start worrying about congressional testimony. Amazon, whose market power doesn’t fall into the categories envisioned by pre-internet antitrust law, is developing a bipartisan lobby that wants to break it up. Google’s public affairs efforts are starting to look a bit like the oil industry’s. These are the existential collisions with political power that can shake and redefine industries and their leaders, not the nickel-and-dime regulatory games Silicon Valley has played to date.

eric-and-friends
Uncle Sugar and some witnesses

Read the post on Buzzfeed

@FranklinFoer: How Silicon Valley is erasing your individuality

[Editor Charlie sez:  Remember that most of these companies are in the MIC Coalition cartel that is colluding to destroy songwriters, and royalty deadbeat Facebook refuses to license at all.]

Until recently, it was easy to define our most widely known corporations. Any third-grader could describe their essence. Exxon sells gas; McDonald’s makes hamburgers; Walmart is a place to buy stuff. This is no longer so. Today’s ascendant monopolies aspire to encompass all of existence. Google derives from googol, a number (1 followed by 100 zeros) that mathematicians use as shorthand for unimaginably large quantities. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google with the mission of organizing all knowledge, but that proved too narrow. They now aim to build driverless cars, manufacture phones and conquer death. Amazon, which once called itself “the everything store,” now produces television shows, owns Whole Foods and powers the cloud. The architect of this firm, Jeff Bezos, even owns this newspaper.

Along with Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, these companies are in a race to become our “personal assistant.” They want to wake us in the morning, have their artificial intelligence software guide us through our days and never quite leave our sides. They aspire to become the repository for precious and private items, our calendars and contacts, our photos and documents. They intend for us to turn unthinkingly to them for information and entertainment while they catalogue our intentions and aversions. Google Glass and the Apple Watch prefigure the day when these companies implant their artificial intelligence in our bodies. Brin has mused, “Perhaps in the future, we can attach a little version of Google that you just plug into your brain.”

More than any previous coterie of corporations, the tech monopolies aspire to mold humanity into their desired image of it.

Read the post on The Washington Post

@theguardian: The Guardian view on Google: overweening power

When Google received a record $2.7bn fine from the European Union in June for abusing its search engine monopoly to promote its shopping search service, a relatively minor member of an American thinktank, the New America Foundation, posted a short statement praising the regulator, and calling on the US to follow suit.

The New America Foundation is intimately intertwined with the search firm. It has received more than $20m over its lifetime from Google and related companies and individuals. So when Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, expressed his displeasure over the statement, the foundation moved quickly. The tussle that followed ended up with its author, Barry Lynn, departing the group, along with his entire team at the Open Markets programme.

To be clear: neither Google, nor Mr Schmidt, told New America to fire Mr Lynn or his colleagues. They did not have to.

Similarly, Google doesn’t have to ask the researchers whom it funds to write about public policy to turn in favourable articles. But it has funded, directly or indirectly, 329 such papers since 2005, according to the US-based Campaign for Accountability. More than a quarter of those funded directly by Google didn’t disclose the source of their money, according to the report.

Read the post on The Guardian

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARW Replay: Beyond EU Antitrust: Sign Up for Class Action Against Google in Europe

[Editor Charlie sez: Chris wrote this post in 2015 and it is worth reconsidering in light of the European Commission’s ruling that Google is an out of control monopoly.]

Anyone in the music business has felt Google’s boot on their throat in a host of ways.  Set aside the millions of take down notices and the absurd YouTube ContentID system.  Set aside how Google hides advertising revenue from its YouTube cash cow that should rightly go to the artists and songwriters.  The Europeans are focused on a much simpler issue.

Google favors YouTube in video search results.  We all know they do it and they’ve been doing it for years.  Now there may be a chance to actually do something about it, at least in Europe.

As MTP readers will recall, the European Commission has pursued antitrust complaints against Google in Europe on behalf of price comparison sites and others that Google steals content from.  Anyone in the music business is very familiar with Google stealing content in their various business lines–they do it to us all the time when they’re not driving traffic to pirate sites.

According to the New York Times:

[Google] may be the target of a series of new civil lawsuits that claim Google abused its market dominance to favor its own services over those of its rivals.

On Tuesday, Hausfeld, an international law firm [and US-based class action specialist] with connections to companies affected by Google’s activities in Europe, and Avisa, a European public affairs company that has represented complainants in the antitrust case, will announce that they have created an online platform [the Google Redress & Integrity Platform (GRIP)], to help companies sue Google for financial damages in European courts….

“So far, the focus has been on public enforcement,” said Laurent Geelhand, managing partner at Hausfeld, in Brussels, who declined to comment on the size of any potential civil damages. “But what’s still missing is how this has financially affected the victims.”

That’s us.

According to Reuters:

[T]he [GRIP] platform would build on the European Commission’s April charge sheet, which accuses Google of unfairly promoting its own shopping service to the disadvantage of rivals.

“GRIP offers corporations, consumers and other entities harmed by Google’s anti-competitive business practices in Europe a mechanism to evaluate their potential claims,” Michael Hausfeld, chairman of Hausfeld, said in a statement.

Re/code quotes Avisa Partners:

“It has been five years between the first complaint against Google and the EC’s statement of objections, which is about three times longer than the groundbreaking Microsoft case,” Jacques Lafitte, founder of Avisa Partners, said in a statement. “Google’s president, lawyers and publicists have worked well to create this delay. But Google has not been able to stop the inevitable: It finally faces justice.”

Yeah.  What he said.

IMPALA have brought their own complaint with the European Commission which, as far as I know, is still in the hopper and has not been acted on as yet, although I’m sure it will be.  Even so, artists and labels may wish to consider investigating the Hausfeld online platform to see if it would make sense for them to participate in any civil action against Google.

While Google’s potential exposure to a ruling against the company would start with a staggering $6 billion fine, that fine does not preclude civil lawsuits against Google by those it has harmed.  While nobody takes paying a $6 billion fine lightly, does it really seem like it would be a lot of money to Google?  And when you consider that Google have managed to drag out the adjudication for years already, it really seems rather like chump change.  No pun intended.

We appear to have a law firm interested in at least helping potential plaintiffs bring these cases.  Why not at least check it out?

U.S. music folk should be thinking that this may be their last chance to get justice from Google.  The U.S. government has so far been unwilling to take action against Google, so this may be our only choice.