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Conflict of Interest

Why Google lost the formal debate over its ethics -- And a compendium of Google's ethical lapses

Google effectively lost its first formal debate over whether "Google violates its own 'Don't Be Evil" motto" at the Rosenkranz Foundation's Oxford-style debate in New York City, November 18. (Transcript here).

  • Before the debate the audience was polled and voted 21% against Google and 31% for Google and 48% undecided; after the debate and learning more, 47% voted against Google and 47% voted for Google, and 6% undecided.
  • Apparently, most all of the undecideds voted against Google -- that Google violated their own 'don't be evil' motto. 

What does this mean?

Conflict of Interest Questions for Google CEO Schmidt as a Transition Spokesman

Google CEO Schmidt apparently is representing that he is speaking for the President-Elect's Transition today in Washington given the attached press release, which twice mentions Mr. Schmidt's membership on the "Transition Economic Advisory Board" in an otherwise very brief release. 

  • Given the perception created, conflict of interest questions are relevant and should be asked of Mr. Schmidt today. 


Perception of Conflicts with the Transition Ethics Code:

Google Flu Trends -- sliding down a privacy slippery slope?

Google's new service to help the Centers for Disease Control spot likely outbreaks of the flu geographically certainly has benefits, but I was surprised at the minimal coverage of privacy implications of this in the mainstream media -- for example in the NYTimes and WSJ.  

  • Per the NYT article: "Google Flu Trends avoids privacy pitfalls by relying only on aggregated data that cannot be traced to individual searchers."  

The big question here is can we take Google's word on this blanket assertion? There are excellent reasons why everyone should be highly skeptical.

Google parks its new jet fighter at NASA -- Why the deal may fleece the taxpayer

Hello? Is anyone with formal NASA oversight responsibilities looking out for the taxpayer? 

·    The New York Times Bits blog reported that Google executives added a fighter jet to "their growing fleet of private airplanes" which uniquely enjoy private landing/parking rights at NASA's Moffet airfield, a couple of miles from Google's headquarters -- an exceptional corporate perk by any measure.

Google CEO suggests journalism become not for profit!

Google's CEO Eric Schmidt had the temerity to suggest that journalism consider becoming a not-for-profit enterprise -- at a recent Google program for magazine executives.

  • See Ad Age's article: "Google's Schmidt says Internet 'cesspool' needs brands -- Says the solution is quality content; tells publishers and editors to 'increase your relevance'
    • From the article: "...when asked where the industry ends up if there aren't outlets willing to pay journalists to create quality content, Mr. Schmidt was a bit Palin-esque, saying that he didn't have an answer but one thing to look at is whether journalism should be a for-profit enterprise."

Google's CEO must think journalism-business people are stupid.

Add facial recognition to Google list of privacy creepiness

Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be another creepy way Google could threaten privacy, Google does not disappoint. Google is now adding faceprints to what it already knows about you: voiceprints, searchprints, clickprints, homeprints, emailprints, DNAprints, and readerprints -- because Google does not "know enough about you..."

  • An excellent article by Jefferson Graham in USA Today informs us that Google is now an industry-leader in... facial recognition technology!
    • In 2006, Google acquired a leading company in facial recognition, and Google is using it now to help simplify the tagging and organization of people's rapidly growing archives of digital pictures through its Picassa photo application.
    • Mr. Graham found a great quote to capture the privacy concern:

      • "I don't like it at all," says Rob Williams, who blogs for the Techgage website. "Google knows what I search for, where I live and how much time I spend on websites. Now they know what my friends look like, too. That's just too much."

The problem is this is part of a much bigger pattern of disrespect of privacy by Google.

Has the Behavioral Advertising industry misled consumers?

Behavioral advertising industry... you have a problem. A BIG problem.

  • Consumer reports just released a major consumer poll that shows that the vast majority of American consumers are unaware of how the behavioral advertising industry invades their privacy and that American consumers overwhelmingly want more personal control over their privacy online.  

The BIG problem the behavioral advertising industry has is that the consumer evidence strongly suggests that the industry has not respected anti-fraud consumer protection laws that require fair representation.

  • Specifically, the industry has not fairly represented that they are invading individuals' privacy in ways most Americans do not approve of.  
  • Simply, the behavioral advertising industry finds itself squarely on the wrong side of the American consumer, as the public and Washington focus attention on the serious Internet privacy problem of Unauthorized Tracking. 

Consider the stark poll results of the widely respected and independent Consumer Reports:     

Google: Why so long to do what's obviously right? Four months to pull down terrorist training videos?

Google's motto 'Don't be evil' appears to be more PR and folklore than real ethical guidance for Google.

How could it possibly take Google almost four months to decide to act against one of the most obvious, pervasive, and painfully real 'evils' in the world today --  hateful, unabashed, terrorist organizations like al Qaida committed to destroying America?

Google Search as the Universal Remote?

Does Google inherently favor its Google-owned applications over competitors in search results? The more one looks, the more it looks that way.

Saturday's New York Times article: "Some Media companies choose to profit from pirated YouTube clips" -- got me thinking about the anti-competitive nature of Google's increasing dominance of the process of locating copyrighted content online.