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What else does Google secretly track? Top 10 questions for privacy investigators to ask

Current privacy investigations of Google deserve to be much more comprehensive than just Google's latest StreetView wardriving scandal, given that:

What Private Information Google Collects -- A One-Page Fact Sheet

(Click here for one-page PDF version of the Google Privacy Fact Sheet)

What Private Information Google Collects

 

Why Google's Search Ad Monopoly is Understated

Google's core search advertising monopoly is understated substantially by many for several reasons.

1. Most cite second best source: Media reports tend to report the most frequent and publicized ComScore 65.1% retail market shares for Google in the U.S., not the more accurate and comprehensive Hitwise 70% retail market shares in the U.S. that the DOJ/FTC rely upon, (because Hitwise's sample size is much bigger than ComScore's.)

2.  Most don't cite total share: Media reports almost never use Google's total market share because they almost always miss or forget to add in Google's wholesale share of searches to its retail share of searches.

Questions for Google on its Latest Act of Privacide -- Part XXI Privacy vs. Publicacy series

Google's latest privacy-killing act of privacide is "Google's roving Street View spycam," which is not only taking pictures, but is also scanning to log WiFi network addresses and unique Media Access Control (Mac)addresses per Andrew Orlowski's excellent scoop at the Register.

Viacom vs Google evidence has big antitrust implications

Wow. The evidence Viacom unearthed in discovery in their $1b copyright infringement suit against Google is surprisingly damning. The evidence shows willful, premeditated, deceptive, and organized efforts by YouTube, Google and Google-YouTube to infringe copyrights for anti-competitive and financial gain.

  • Read the quote summary first here, then review the copious evidence/history in the 86 page Viacom Statement of Facts here, and then review Viacom's Summary Judgement memo of law here

So what are the broader antitrust implications of all this new and serious evidence of illegal activity and misconduct by Google-YouTube?

First, DOJ really blew it for not even asking for a second request of information on Google's acquisition of YouTube.

Google's default "opt-all" - Appitalism investigation uncovers massive Google advertising overcharges

A very important investigative scoop by Appitalism's Simon Buckingham (that has been submitted to the FTC's Google-AdMob antitrust investigators) uncovers how Google unilaterally, not-openly, and without advertisers' permission, changed the default settings in all of Google advertisers' accounts, which effectively "duped advertisers out of hundreds of millions of dollars."  

In a nutshell, Mr. Buckingham's investigation found that  two years ago, Google quietly changed the defaults of all its advertiser clients' accounts so that their ads were served not only to all desktop pcs/laptops, but also to all IP enabled mobile devices too.

  • This significantly expanded the number of ads Google served and advertising revenue generated by Google via clicks, but without a consequent increase in the value delivered to the advertiser customer by Google  in return. 
  • As Mr. Buckingham explains it, mobile devices simply can't functionally handle most of the ads Google sends to mobile devices because they require Adobe Flash (which mobile devices generally do not have) and mobile devices have much smaller screens so large-screen-oriented ads are basically dysfunctional in the mobile device market.
  • Mr. Buckingham estimates that this deceptive practice likely has costed Google advertisers over several hundred millions of dollars over the last two plus years.

This investigation prompts several disturbing takeaways. 

First, this underscores how truly opaque the Google "Black Box" advertising business model is.

Must-see Australian clip: joining the dots on Google

Thanks to John Simpson's post at the ConsumerWatchdog.org, which flagged this succinct and illuminating 2 min 46 sec video "produced by Hungry Beast, a weekly news show on Australian television puts Internet giant Google's huge ambitions and gargantuan reach into dramatic perspective."

THE BEAST FILE: GOOGLE from Hungry Beast on Vimeo.

It is one of the best and most accessible pieces I have seen for the average person to get a better perspective on all things Google.

"Google does not reap the benefits of significant network effects" -- Google Antitrust Pinocchio Part V

"Google does not reap the benefits of significant network effects because its search algorithms are centered on the analysis of links, and operate essentially the same way whether one person or six billion are using it." -- said Randall Stross in his Digital Domain column today in the New York Times. 

  • While I enjoy Mr. Stross' weekly column and also enjoyed reading his book "Planet Google," the characterization above on "network effects" appears to be another significant antitrust misrepresentation coming from Google.
  • May I apologize upfront to Mr. Stross, if I am incorrectly assuming that he got fed this preposterous characterization of "network effects" from Google's antitrust Pinocchio squad that has given us:

Given that Mr. Stross' article is trying to make the case that Facebook has lots of network effects and "Google does not reap the benefits of significant network effects," it appears that Google is trying to spin a new antitrust defense tall tale that Google faces lots of competition from the likes of Facebook... to create some "reasonable doubt" for upcoming antitrust jury trials that Google is not a monopoly.

Google-AdMob: An FTC Antitrust Enforcement Watershed -- Lessons from Google-DoubleClick & EU

Will the FTC strictly enforce antitrust laws in its review of Google's AdMob acquisition? Google-Admob is a watershed decision for the FTC given that:

  • Google recently blew off the DOJ's serious antitrust objections to the pending Google Book Settlement;
  • The EU opened a preliminary investigation of antitrust complaints against Google from companies in the UK, France and Germany; and
  • The DOJ had to play backstop to the FTC and block the Google-Yahoo Ad Agreement, less than a year after the FTC incorrectly assumed in their 4-1 approval of the Google-DoubleClick deal that:
    • Yahoo and others would provide sufficient competition to Google; and
    • Google acquiring DoubleClick would not "substantially lessen competition" or tip Google to a monopoly.    

A recent New York Post article: "FTC inclined to approve Google's acquisition of AdMob" states the deal "may just squeak by federal regulators."

Google's Search Revenue Share is Now 93% & Google Is Hiking Prices for Captive Publishers

In the last year, Google has taken almost a third of the search revenue market share that they did not have before -- per recent company reports.

  • In other words, Google's search revenue share increased from 90% in 4Q08 to 93% in 4Q09.
  • To understand the math, supporting numbers,and links behind this estimate see the end of this post.

Google's 4Q09 earnings release also shows Google is exercising its market pricing power at the expense of web publishers by reducing the revenue share percentage shared with web publishers (i.e. raising prices) because web publishers have no where else to go; please see the illuminating analysis by Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration blog who deserves credit for this important insight.

  • Not only does his analysis show that the revenue Google shares with its web publisher "partners" is going down from 75% at the beginning of 2009 to 72.1% at the end of 2009, these percentages actually understate the price increases imposed upon web publishers because the data masks that the total numbers involve more publishers getting relatively smaller pieces of the overall pie.

So what are the takeaways here?

First, Google is indeed a monopoly and only growing more dominant quickly.

Second, Google is abusing that dominance by raising prices on web publishers that have no real competitive alternative.

Third, these facts make it more likely that:

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths