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Why a Lack of Openness Sullies the Integrity of Google's Ad Auctions

Does Google warrant the current exceptional leap-of-faith in the integrity of its dominant ad auction model, given its near total lack of openness, transparency, independent auditability, or third party oversight? There is a growing body of evidence that Google does not.

  • The New York Times article today by Miguel Helft: "The Human Hands behind the Google Money Machine" is a must read for anyone following Google or concerned about the openness and transparency of public markets. It is also a little treasure trove of fresh information on Google.

Why a lack of openness sullies the integrity of Google's ad auctions.

First, it is widely accepted that public markets operate best when open and transparent.

Google's ad auction model has become one of the world's most important public markets. Google is increasingly becoming the world's primary public information broker. Google brokers: 

  • Information for over 700 million search users worldwide, over three to six times their nearest rivals;
  • Advertisement placement for over a million advertisers several times more than their nearest competitors;
  • Monetization for over a million websites several times more than their nearest competitors.

Google is also not open or transparent.

More evidence on "Can you trust Google to obey the rules?"

The New York Times' Hansel followed up on his Google privacy policy post that prompted my broader analysis "Can you trust Google to obey the rules?"

After I finished my "Can you trust Google to obey the rules" analysis, I realized there were past posts and examples that I could have included but didn't. 

  • For those who are new to this topic or those who want to further explore if "Google is accountable to anyone" I have included a smattering of additional evidence for my thesis that Google systematically chooses to not obey the rules that others are expected to follow -- that you might find eye-opening...

 From my earlier post of 1-18-08: 

"Google.org Tax Treatment?

Can you trust Google to obey the rules? Is Google accountable to anyone?

In monitoring Google as closely as I do, it has become increasingly clear that Google does not believe it has to obey the rules, standards, regulations and laws, that others routinely obey and respect. Google increasingly operates like a self-declared, virtual sovereign nation, largely unaccountable to the rules and mores of the rest of the world.     

  • There is plentiful evidence of Google's unaccountability; see the following analysis peppered generously with source links. 

The impetus for this analysis and documentation was Saul Hansel's outstanding New York Times Blog: "Google fights for the right to hide its privacy policy." 

  • In a nutshell, Mr. Hansel spotlighted how Google is refusing to abide by the Network Advertising Initiative's rule that its members must display a link to their privacy policy on their home page; and that this industry self-regulatory body is expected to bend its rules specifically to accomodate Google.
  • This is no isolated incident, shirking the accountability that most everyone else respects is near standard operating procedure for Google. 

Is Google accountable to anyone?    

First, can public shareholders hold Google accountable?

"Googolopoly" the Board Game -- Kudos to Box.net for their great sense of humor!

Kudos to Box.net blog who created a clever Googolopoly board game modeled after the Monopoly board game most have us have played at one time or another.

  • Per Box.net: "...One day we got tired of being serious about the situation and came up with Googolopoly, a game where you can take part of ruling the internet even if you don’t work in Mountain View. The goal of the game is to use Google shares to buy as many properties as you can without landing in the deadpool and losing your stock. As with any great board game, there’s a very real metaphor to what’s going on…. What happens when the Google monster gobbles up all that is left in the web world, is present on your cell phone, desktop, and even controls your health information? For all their product excellence, the threat of amassing this much data is too serious to ignore."

I would be remiss if I didn't link to my own, differently spelled, www.googleopoly.net website which includes some of the most in-depth and serious analysis of Google's growing market power.

For those who wonder -- why should I care:

Why Google-Yahoo deal is collusion -- Yahoo's lifeblood in exchange for Google's caffeine

Microsoft's resumed interest in Yahoo's search business, suggests that Yahoo is close to outsourcing some of its search to Google. The antitrust implications of the world's #1 and #3 online advertising competitors, Google and Microsoft, fighting over the #2 competitor, Yahoo, has finally attracted serious media attention.

  • A Financial Times editorial: "Search for a rival" asks: "How do you spell Googlopoly?" (I spelled it with an 'e' in my www.googleopoly.net Google-Doubleclick analysis and Senate testimony.)
    • The FT: "Any deal that lets Google supply part of Yahoo’s search advertising, however it is dressed up, must be bad for competition." 
  • Today the New York Times', Steve Lohr, with contributions from Miguel Helft, produced the most in-depth reporting to date of the antitrust issues surrounding a Google-Yahoo search partnership: "Google Says It Will Defend Competitive Rationale of a Yahoo Deal."  

Now that the antitrust implications of this issue are beginning to get heightened media scrutiny, let me lay out my case of why a new Google-Yahoo search partnership is anti-competitive collusion and not benign collaboration. 

First, one must look at the competitive impact of a Google-Yahoo partnership.

Google-YouTube's "neutral-extremism" in stiff-arming Senate Homeland Security Chairman on terrorism

When I blogged yesterday wondering how long it would take Google to fully respond to Senate Homeland Security Chairman Lieberman's request for YouTube to pull down "Internet video content produced by terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda", even I didn't think Google-YouTube would respond so immediately and uncooperatively to Chairman Lieberman.    

Google-YouTube's response is remarkable because the United State's final arbiter of what is constituionally-protected free speech, The United States Supreme Court, just handed down a new ruling on free speech on Monday that further limited harmful free speech in its United States v. Williams decision. That decision concerned free speech limitations involving the pandering and soliciting of child pornography.

Why Google storing personal health records is a really bad joke -- the public should be worried...

Given that Google began offering online personal health records to the public yesterday, I thought it would be timely and helpful to repost in its entirety a previous post of mine from February 21, 2008 on why Google being in the business of storing personal health records is a really bad joke.

  • The post has over twenty useful and illuminating links, and many of them contain mainstream documents that underscore why the public should be extremely wary about entrusting Google with its most intimate, private and personal information.

Below is my 2-21-2008 post in its entirety -- if you missed it, or care about this issue, it's a online privacy must-read post: 

AP reports "Google to Store Patient's Health Records." Let's count the reasons why Google storing Americans' private health records is a really bad joke.

Google-YouTube asked to take down terrorist content by Senate Homeland Security Chairman

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joe Lieberman "Monday called on Google to remove Internet video content produced by terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. The videos – readily available on YouTube –show assassinations, deaths of U.S. soldiers and civilians, weapons training, incendiary speeches by al-Qaeda leadership, and other material intended to encourage violence against the West."

  • This link includes the Chairman's press release and the Committee's Monday letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
    • (An interesting historical sub-text to this letter, that is worth mentioning, is that in 2000, Senator Lieberman was the Vice Presidential running mate of current Google Senior Advisor Al Gore, a former Vice President of the U.S.)

I link to this Senator Lieberman announcement because it will be telling how Google responds to this reasonable request from Homeland Security oversight authorities, given that Google is the funding patron and well recognized corporate leader of the "net neutrality" movement that has branded net neutrality as the "First Amendment of the Internet." (Never mind that the Internet has never had a constitution to amend.)

New IAB data indicate Google & Yahoo have 64% share of US Internet advertising revenue!

The new 2008 Internet Advertising Revenue report just came out from the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

It has U.S. Internet advertising revenues for 2007 at $21.2b, up an impressive 26% from 2006 revenues of $16.9b, but nowhere near as impressive as Google's 56% overall revenue growth in 2007. 

With the pending Google-Yahoo outsourcing pact reportedly being negotiated, I thought it might be iluminating or instructive to see what share of U.S. Internet advertising revenues Google and Yahoo each have, and what they would have on a combined basis. 

  • Given that Google's 2007 U.S. revenues were ~$8.9b that would be about 42% of all U.S. advertising of $21.2b.
  • Given that Yahoo's 2007 U.S. revenues were ~$4.7b that would be about 22% of all U.S. advertising revenues of $21.2b.
  • That would put Google and Yahoo's combined Internet advertising revenue shares at 64% that the "partnership" would collectively control. 

At a minimum, the domination of these two players in the U.S. Internet advertising market, combined with Google's incredible momentum in taking share from all its competitors signalling powerful network effects, must concern both the DOJ and FTC.

If Google and Yahoo partner to not compete as fully as they did before... where is competition going to come from? 

What Dr. Seuss might have written about Googlehoo...

With respect and affection to the memory of the late great Dr. Seuss.... 

Googlehoo mocks all the boo hoos over their ballyhooed Googlehoo coup.

Get a clue.

Googlehoo pooh-poohs a collusive coup between their crews.

It's no glue to screw you.

But, who knew it would be true, that Googlehoo would rue, that Justice could see through, Googlehoo's collusion boo-boo, and eventually sue?

Can we construe Mr. Icahn's Yahoo debut, and shareholder kung fu, as a rejection of the Googlehoo view?

Will Yahoo bid Googlehoo adieu, overcome the Microsoft taboo, and renew the review of the Microsoft view?

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