Google’s unprecedented Obama Administration influence and its self-serving anti-employment, anti-property, and pro-regulatory policy agenda, are on a collision course with the job-creating, pro-property, deregulatory Trump Administration growth agenda.
Keep watch to see who adapts to whom and how.
I. Google’s Unprecedented Lobbying Influence
Current Alphabet-Google Chairman Eric Schmidt enjoys the privilege of being the onlycorporate leader of a publicly-traded company on the President’s nineteen member Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Coincidentally, former Google Senior Engineer from 2006-2013, Mikey Dickerson, is Deputy U.S. Chief Information Officer and Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service, a new organization and position.
Renata Hesse, Google’s former outside antitrust defense counsel, is coincidentally now Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, who coincidentally is the lead liaison with EU antitrust authorities concerning the EU’s three pending monopolization cases against Google.
Former Google Deputy General Counsel and head of patents and patent strategy from 2003-2012, Michelle Lee, is coincidentally now Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, who coincidentally joined the USPTO just when Google faced several new serious patent lawsuits.
And coincidentally yet again, the U.S. Register of Copyright, Maria Pallante, just got fired coincidentally after she disagreed with Renata Hesse and Google’s position on a music copyright consent decree and with the FCC-Google position that FCC authority should supersede copyright in the FCC’s Set-Top Box rulemaking.
Coincidentally, Google employees visited the Obama White House 427 times per White House Logs including 128 visits coincidentally by Google’s lobbyist Joanna Shelton alone, many more times than any other special interest.
And a final coincidence, Google also has generated the most “revolving door” moves of any company with this Administration with 251 Google employees either entering the government or government employees joining Google, according to the Google Transparency Project.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that the EU is poised to fine Google an EU record ~€3b for “web search monopoly abuse” and that “Google will be banned from continuing to manipulate search results to favour itself and harm rivals.”
Assuming this occurs in the reported June-July timeframe, and just like the EU’s 2015 Statement of Objections charged, the long-term ramifications for Google will be much broader and more serious than most appreciate.
That’s because Google has been so masterful in managing public, media and investor expectations that this day would never arrive, (because Google had done nothing wrong and Google was on the right side of competition in offering free, high-quality, and innovative services that benefited consumers); and that it was really EU regulators who were in the wrong because they were protectionists who were also “wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics.”
Why is the pending outcome here so problematic for Google?
First, Google has long maintained it is not a monopoly and has done nothing wrong, critical premises undergirding the public’s trust in Google, its algorithms, the objectivity of its search results, and its brands.
The EU’s pending decision per the Statement of Objections, will rule that Google “has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages…” and that “Google has a dominant position in providing general online search services throughout the EEA, with market shares above 90% in most EEA countries.”
Simply, the EU will be ruling as a matter of law that Google is in fact a monopoly that has done wrong.
Second, what’s different here is this will be the first official search antitrust conviction of Google in the world, and it will be for abusing its search dominance to the detriment of consumers, competition and innovation.
Why does the company that by far collects the most private information that the FCC claims it wants to protect, and that also has the worst consumer privacy protection record with the FTC, (Google), get 99% exempted from the telecom and cable privacy protections expected of telephone, broadband, cable and satellite providers?
Is it the same reason, that the edge platforms with much more gatekeeper power and private data collection opportunity than ISPs somehow warrant no FCC privacy regulation? (See info-graphic here; explanation here.)
How can the U.S. credibly demand a data safe harbor in the EU on the basis of promises that the U.S. has vigilant, robust and comprehensive privacy enforcement in the U.S., when the worst privacy offender in both Europe and the U.S., Google, de facto enjoys special lenient privacy treatment from both the current FTC and the current FCC?
Those are good questions for the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask FCC and FTC leadership this week at its privacy oversight hearing, which in part is examining why the FCC and FTC appear more interested in protecting Google and other Big Internet companies from privacy regulation, than in protecting consumers’ expected communications and viewing habits privacy.