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Alphabet’s Amoral Attitude and Acts

Summary

Does Alphabet Inc. -- arguably the world’s largest organization, with two billion plus users, most all the world’s information, most of the world’s top applications, limitless global ambitions, limited accountability, and self-proclaimed “don’t be evil” moral authority -- actually “do the right thing” as Alphabet publicly professes?  (Alphabet Inc. is the restructured company formerly known as Google Inc.)

If it matters to people that their leaders do what they say, to governments that corporate leaders obey the law, to the media that public leaders are honest to the public, and to the public that the leaders they trust are trustworthy, then this attempt to bring accountability to Alphabet-Google’s near unprecedented leadership, branding, and investment value has merit.

Accumulating evidence of Google’s amoral unaccountability certainly has merit and value to EU law enforcement and to U.S. State Attorneys General law enforcement, because it goes to whether or not Alphabet can be trusted to operate its business honestly and legally on its own; and to be trusted to make honest representations to law enforcement and the public.   

Alphabet’s Code of Conduct starts with this public representation: “Employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries and its controlled affiliates (“Alphabet”) should do the right thing – follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect.

This piece briefly catalogues the most obvious and serious Alphabet amoral attitude and acts examples which belie its trumpeted moral representations, by asking and answering, does it indeed “follow the law? Act honorably? And treat each other with respect?” … as it represents it does to the public? 

The evidence below shows that Alphabet can be characterized accurately as a company that cannot be counted on to “do the right thing” according to its own definition of what “the right thing” is.

Does Alphabet-Google follow the law?

No. Currently the FBI is warning Google that its Android encryption-by-default stance effectively disobeys U.S. Court Orders (warrants, subpoenas, etc.) to obtain legitimate investigative information from Android-powered smartphones to fight crime and protect public safety and national security.

No. Google is currently obstructing State AG’s investigations, by filing suit in U.S. District Court that effectively challenges State Attorneys General state law enforcement authority to investigate Google for alleged aiding and abetting of criminal activity in their states that harms citizens of their states.

No. Google is currently willfully blind to the fact that its tolerance of rampant YouTube piracy exposes its search users to links to dangerous pirated content that are 28 times more likely to have dangerous malware than legal links from similar sites selling legal licensed content, per Digital Citizens Alliance’s RiskIQ study “Digital Bait.”   

No. Google’s official response to the EU’s antitrust Statement of Objections -- that Google’s 90+% search market share in Europe combined with its default-preferencing of Google-owned content was an abuse of dominance -- was that the EU wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics.”

No. A European director in the European Commission's justice department accused Google of being 'passive-aggressive' towards the EU High Court’s ‘Right to be forgotten’ ruling by effectively encouraging users to go to Google.com to evade the ruling and EU sovereignty.

No. Most notoriously, Google had to pay a $500m criminal forfeiture penalty for knowingly marketing $500m of illegal imports of illicit prescription drugs like steroids and barbiturates to Americans and teenagers over several years. The prosecuting Rhode Island U.S. Attorney told the WSJ that Google’s “Larry Page knew what was going on” with the purposeful illegal drug marketing.

Does Alphabet-Google act honorably?

No. Google has long dishonored its core search promise to users: “We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results and no one can buy better PageRank. The pending EU antitrust charges say otherwise; Google’s three proposed EU settlements that all required payment for ranking say otherwise; and Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land proves otherwise in his chronicling of “Google’s Broken Promises” in requiring payment for product search rankings, i.e. “paid inclusion.”

No. Last summer, Senator Bill Nelson had to go the Senate floor to urge Google to be more honorable, responsible and accountable with America’s youngest children by publicly exposing examples of Google’s YouTube Kids app exposing very young children to obviously inappropriate content, including: references to sex, alcohol and drug use, child abuse, and pedophilia.

No. EFF recently had to file a privacy complaint against Google with the FTC to compel it to honor its public and legally-enforceable “Student Privacy Pledge” that it signed to not collect or use K-12 student personal information for commercial purposes.  

No. Google dishonors its copyright obligations under the law. Recently, the Authors Guild asked the Supreme Court to hear its case against Google that it’s copying of 20 million books without the permission of, and compensation to, the authors, is not “fair use” because Google profits very handsomely from the collective commercial use and mass copyright infringement of these twenty million books.

No. Google dishonors the integrity of the U.S. Federal Government in using The Google Influence Machine to create, at least the perception, if not the reality, that Google: enjoys sweeping special treatment in policy matters; commands the apparent political power to shut down Federal law enforcement investigations into their business operations at the FTC and the DOJ; and has the obvious “pull” to get the FTC to write press releases on demand that protect Google’s brand.   

Does Alphabet-Google treat others with respect?

No. Recently Google YouTube was exposed for allowing many criminal rape videos to be viewed tens of millions of times showing criminal rapes of women that are “young, heavily intoxicated or drugged or in many cases unconscious,” because Google’s amoral policy is to not curate videos, but to wait for a complaint before acting.

No. The rape videos are just a part of a long Google pattern of craven disrespect for women. It took Google two years to agree in June that revenge porn victims had a right to be forgotten. Google long ignored two Congresswomen who inquired why Google sold ads promoting human sex trafficking. Two years later, Google was still selling ads for the search inquiry: “find underage prostitute,” per a DCA watchdog report. The celebrity women exposed in the iCloud data breach had to threaten Google with a $100m lawsuit before Google would remove their private photos from its search results.  

No. Google does not respect the public’s safety. Knowing full well that using Google Glass was distracting, Google lobbied state legislatures hard to legally exempt drivers using Google Glass from distracted driving liability.

No. Google does not respect other Googlers. Google’s diversity numbers show that its workforce is only 2% black, 3% Hispanic, and 30% women. Tellingly in 2010 The Mercury News reported that, "Google, the company that wants to make the world's information accessible, says the race and gender of its work force [EEO hiring record] is a trade secret that cannot be released." Around that same time the DOJ found that Google and five other companies illegally colluded to hold down the pay and career opportunities of its employees by conspiring to not poach or compete for each others' employees.

No. Google does not respect people’s or children’s privacy. Children’s’ advocates recently had to file official complaints again with the FTC for unfair and deceptive Google practices towards children under five-years-old, by automatically targeting them with commercials on its YouTube Kids app.

No. Google’s no curation/prevention policy disrespects people’s safety by requiring others to spot serious dangers in Google’s main services. It took an outside Consumer Watchdog study of Google+ to expose “Google’s Social Network is Playground for Online Predators, Explicit Sexual Content,” and to expose thatGoogle had long ignored complaints by users and parents that Google+ was a haven for pedophile communities and sexual predators. When Google finally did make changes they were partial and did not enable parents to protect their minors from sexual predators joining their children’s circles.

Conclusion

Sadly, this is just a sampling of examples of Alphabet: failing to “do the right thing;” failing to “follow the law;” failing to “act honorably;” and failing to “treat each other with respect.”

While Alphabet unquestionably does a lot of good in the world, and is unquestionably good at boasting to the world about the good it does for the world, the accumulating evidence also shows Alphabet does wrong to such an amoral systematic extent that it should shock any law abiding person or entity that understands the value that morals/ethics play in protecting and advancing the fabric of what is good in this world.  

Everyone with a moral/ethical compass knows that a moral/ethical company or person would not accumulate as many serious and systemic amoral/unethical failings consistently over so many years as Alphabet-Google has.

Certainly no company or person is perfect or always moral/ethical, and that is not what is expected here.

What is expected from a public company that serves more people than any other, and that could harm more people in more ways than most companies if they don’t regularly “do the right thing,” is to admit their official proven wrongs, take full responsibility for their actions, and actually change their corporate behavior so that Alphabet-Google’s mistakes/wrongs become dramatically less frequent and less serious, and so that they can no longer be characterized accurately as doing wrong, breaking the law, acting dishonorably, or disrespecting others -- in the future.  

As many appreciate, with freedom comes responsibility, and to those whom much is given, much is expected.

I truly hope there comes a day when Alphabet-Google actually operates with, and lives up to, the moral/ethical standard that they publicly profess to follow, because then there will be no need to continue to add to the sadly long “Google Unaccountability Research Series” that is listed below.

Until then, forewarned is forearmed.  

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Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.

***

Google Unaccountability Research Series 

 

Part 0: Google's Poor & Defiant Settlement Record [5-1-12]

Part 1: Why Google Thinks It Is Above the Law [4-17-12]

Part 2: Top Ten Untrue Google Stories [5-8-12]

Part 3: Google's Growing Record of Obstruction of Justice [6-21-12]

Part 4: Why FTC's $22.5m Privacy Fine is Faux Accountability [7-12-12]

Part 5: Google's Culture of Unaccountability: In Their Own Words [8-1-12]

Part 6: Google Mocks the FTC's Ineffectual Privacy & Antitrust Enforcement [8-10-12]

Part 7: An FTC Googleopoly Get Out of Jail Free Card? [8-30-12]

Part 8: Top Lessons to Learn for Google Antitrust Enforcers [9-14-12]

Part 9: Google Mocks EU and FTC in Courting Yahoo Again [9-26-12]

Part 10: FTC-Google Antitrust: The Obvious Case of Consumer Harm [11-25-12]

Part 11: Why FTC Can't Responsibly End Google Search Bias Antitrust Investigation [11-27-12]

Part 12: Oversight Questions for FTC's Handling of Google Antitrust Probe [11-30-12]

Part 13: Courts Not FTC Should Decide on Google Practices (The Hill Op-ed) [12-10-12]

Part 14: Troubling Irregularities Mount in FTC Handling of Google Investigation [12-17-12]

Part 15: Top Ten Unanswered Questions on FTC-Google Outcome [1-3-13]

Part 16: Top Takeaways from FTC's Google Antitrust Decisions [1-7-13]

Part 17: Google’s Global Antitrust Rap Sheet [1-31-13]

Part 18: Google’s Privacy Words vs. its Anti-privacy Deeds [3-8-13]

Part 19: Google’s Privacy Rap Sheet Updated – Fact-checking Google’s Privacy Claims [3-13-13]

Part 20: DOJ & FTC Report Cards [4-12-13]

Part 21: The Evidence Google Bamboozled EU Competition Authorities [4-19-13]

Part 22: EU-Google: Too Powerful to Prosecute? Problems with Enabling Google [5-1-13]

Part 23: Google’s proposed EU Search Bias Remedies: a Satire [5-17-13]

Part 24: Google’s Antitrust Rap Sheet Updated [5-27-13]

Part 25:  Is This the Track Record of a Trustworthy Company? See Google’s Rap Sheet [6-6-13]

Part 26: Top Questions as DOJ-Google Criminal Prosecution Deadline Approaches [7-12-13]

Part 27:  The Evidence Google Violated the DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement [8-8-13]

Part 28:  Implications of EU Ruling Google Abused its Search Dominance [9-27-13]

Part 29:  Google-YouAd is a Deceptive and Unfair Business Practice [10-24-13]

Part 30:  EU's Google Antitrust Problems Not Going Away [12-16-13]

Part 31:  How the Google-EC Competition Deal Harms Europe [2-10-14]

Part 32: Open Letter to European Commissioners to Reject EC-Google Settlement [2-16-14]

Part 33: Google’s Extensive Cover-up [2-24-14]

Part 34: Open Letter on Google’s Opposition to Distracted Driving Legislation [2-27-14]

Part 35: The Growing EC-Google Settlement Scandal – An Open Letter to EC Officials [3-31-14]

Part 36: Google’s Glass House [4-14-14]

Part 37: Google’s Titan Spy-Drones Mimic Military Spy Planes [4-17-14]

Part 38: Google’s Anti-Competitive Rap Sheet Warrants Prosecution not Leniency [4-30-14]

Part 39: Google Apps for Education Dangers -- Open Letter to School Boards & Parents [5-17-14]

Part40: Google’s AdSense Lawsuit Spotlights Google’s Corruption of Unaccountability [5-23-14]

Part 41: Google’s Title II Utility Regulation Risks – An Open Letter to Investors [6-3-14]

Part 42: Six Ways the FTC is AWOL on Google [7-16-14]

Part 43: Fact-checking Google’s Public EC Competition Defense [9-21-14]

Part 44: Top 10 Reasons Why Google is Causing EU More Problems than Microsoft Did [10-1-14]

Part 45:  Google Profiting from Hacked Celebrity Women Photos is “How Google Works” [10-6-14]

Part 46:  Fact-checking Google Schmidt’s “Ich bin ein Big-fibber” Berlin Speech [10-14-14]

Part 47:  Google’s Dominance isn’t Peaking its Proliferating [11-4-14]

Part 48: A European Revolution against Google’s Virtual Colonialization? [11-24-14]

Part 49:  Google’s Serial Bad Acts Harm American Interests in Europe [11-28-14]

Part 50:  Evading Sovereign Accountability is “How Google Works” [12-10-14]

Part 51: Google Welcome Memo to Davos Attendees – A Satire [1-15-15]

Part 52: What’s Google Really Up To in Wireless? [1-30-15]

Part 53: Why is Google Obstructing Justice in Mississippi? EC Pay Attention [2-12-15]

Part 54:  Why Google’s Running Out of Antitrust Political Tricks [4-14-15]

Part 56:  EU-Google Antitrust Charges – Google’s Hidden #1 Problem [4-15-15]

Part 57:  EU Charges Spotlight Google’s Self-Dealing Power [4-17-15]

Part 58:  Big Holes in Google’s EU Antitrust Defense [4-29-15]

Part 59:  EU Antitrust Endgame is Google-Android Platform Neutrality [5-8-15]

Part 60: Google’s Antitrust Hardball Plans for the EU? [5-19-15]

Part 61: New Google Antitrust Dictionary Words for 2015 – A Satire [6-3-15]

Part 62: They are Google-Driven Cars and You Are the Package [6-10-15]

Part 63: Fines Alone Do Not Deter Google [6-29-15]

Part 64: Google-Facebook-Apple’s Law-Evasive Encryption Risks [7-7-15]

Part 65: Google’s Open Defiance [7-17-15]

Part 66: The Market’s Ignoring Google’s Many New FCC Common Carrier Liabilities [7-29-15]

Part 67: Google Fiber’s Corporate-Welfare Vigorish for Running the Game [8-6-15]

Part 68: What Is Everyone Missing from the Alphabet Google Restructuring? [8-12-15]

Part 69: Please Read The Most Important Google Article I’ve Ever Read [8-21-15]

Part 70: Google Epitomizes Cyber-Systemic Risk [9-11-15]

Part 71: Google as Global Government [9-17-15]

Part 72: Top Ten Questions about FTC-Google-Android Antitrust Probe [9-28-15]

Part 73: Is Google-Alphabet’s Restructuring about Antitrust and Privacy After All? [10-13-15]

Part 74: Does U.S. Antitrust Law Apply to Google? [10-27-15]

Part 75: Google’s “Mass Indiscriminate Surveillance” Threat to US-EU Data Safe Harbor [11-13-15]

Part 76: Google’s “Going Dark” Encryption Leadership Threatens Sovereign Security [11-19-15]

Part 77: Does U.S. Children’s Privacy Law Apply to Google? [12-3-15]

Part 78: Google’s the Encryption Ringleader Thwarting FBI Investigation of Terrorism [12-11-15]

Part 79:  Google’s Secret US Loon Test Implicates the FCC, FAA, EPA, State, & DOD/NSA [12-17-15]

Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths