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Deceptive Branding is “How Google Works” – Ask EC Law Enforcement

As EC law enforcement confronts Google’s uniquely extensive wrongdoing in competition, privacy/security, property, and tax matters, it is critical to examine if Google’s longstanding public promises to consumers to gain their trust are in fact true and trustworthy.

Central to law enforcement’s role in determining the extent of its Google charges, penalties and remedies is determining whether or not the infractions were willful or unintentional.

The public evidence shows that Google has been purposefully deceptive to consumers for over a decade in its core public representations and branding to consumers.

Specifically, three foundational Google promises to consumers are demonstrably untrue: 1) “focus on the user;” 2) “we never manipulate [search] rankings;” and 3) “it’s best to do one thing… search.”

Consumers trust Google’s untrue foundational public promises. The Reputation Institute ranked Google the world’s most reputable brand in 2014. Millward Brown also ranked Google the world’s most valuable brand in 2014.

These three untrue Google promises have contributed to Google becoming the dominant information/data broker platform for the EU online economy where: consumers must trust Google with their private information and security; content providers must trust Google with their property, private information, and livelihood; and advertisers must trust Google with their brands and businesses.

Google’s Foundational Promises to Consumers

For over ten years, Google’s current “About” page has publicly asserted:Ten things we know to be true.We first wrote these “10 things” when Google was just a few years old. From time to time we revisit this list to see if it still holds true. We hope it does—and you can hold us to that.”

  1. “Focus on the user and all else will follow.Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible.” 
  2. “We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results and no one can buy better PageRank. Our users trust our objectivity and no short-term gain could ever justify breaching that trust.
  3. It is best to do one thing really really well. We do search.”

The Evidence of Google’s Purposeful Deception

1. “Focus on the user and all else will follow. Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible.” 

Google has long represented to the public that it works for users and puts their interests first, when users actually are the product that Google sells to Google’s primary customers -- advertisers, and when Google has many obvious serious undisclosed business conflicts-of-interest.

90% of Google’s $68b in annual revenues comes from advertisers – not users/consumers.

To this day Google will not publicly admit that it has any financial conflict of interest whatsoever in “providing the best user experience possible.”

If consumers were in fact Google’s top priority, why does Google routinely release products and services early in beta with an explicit security policy of delegating to users the responsibility of detecting malware and security problems in Google’s software rather than Google taking the responsibility to detect and fix these consumer dangers themselves before consumers can be harmed?

Why does Android, the world’s dominant software operating system have so many serious security problems?   Why does Google overall have the world’s worst consumer privacy record for a major multinational?

If Google cares about “providing the best user experience possible” why does Google refuse to allow users choice to opt-out from the consolidation of all of the private data Google collects on them?

Why won’t Google allow people, particularly parents/children, control whom can associate with them on Google+ because currently pedophiles can join children’s circles and parents cannot protect their children from being exposed to sexual predators? How is this purposeful forced association that scales Google+ “the best user experience possible?”  

2. “We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results and no one can buy better PageRank. Our users trust our objectivity and no short-term gain could ever justify breaching that trust.

Why did Google propose three times in its proposed antitrust settlements with former EC VP Joaquin Almunia, a commercial arrangement that would sell search position to competitors -- by requiring bidding and paying most to appear at the top of a supposedly unbiased Google search result?

Why does Google routinely rank its own “partner” products and services above competitors?

Why can Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, a widely-recognized leading search expert, make a detailed public case that Google does in fact break its search promises, does manipulate search rankings and does allow companies to buy better search rankings?

  • See his Marketing Land post, 11-17-13: “Google’s Broken Promises & Who’s Running The Search Engine?
  • Also see his Search Engine Land post, 4-30-12: “Google “Comparison” Units Get New Look; Change Highlights Paid Inclusion In Some Vertical Search Areas.”

Note the purposefulness of Google’s consistent deceptive branding of what it knows is untrue while publicly claiming it is “true” -- after Google unquestionably has changed a substantial part of its purported unbiased search policy toward paid search.

3.  “It is best to do one thing really really well. We do search.”

This is a whopper misrepresentation. Far from doing one thing, Google arguably may be one of the most diversified companies in the world -- ever.

Consider these undeniable facts. Google-YouTube is the world’s most-used video distribution platform. Google Maps the world’s most-used mapping service. Android is the world’s most used mobile operating system. Chrome is the world’s most-used browser. Google’s advertising technology is the most-used online advertising platform. Google Play is the world’s largest App Store. Google Translate is the world’s most used translation service. And Google+ is the world’s second most-used social platform.

Google provides most all kinds of software products and services for consumers and increasingly businesses. Google brands and markets a vast array of Google/Chrome/Android electronic devices. Google Nest/DropCam is pursuing most all forms of home surveillance and control products and services.

GoogleX has Google involved in driverless cars, robotics, drones, satellites, high-altitude balloons, Internet access, and wearables like Google Glass, contact lenses, watches, and clothes. And Google’s Calico medical company is working on how to slow aging and “cure death.”

This is only an illustrative list of what Google does, not a comprehensive one.

Simply, Google does not do one thing.

In sum, Google’s willful deceptive branding has been a critical and underappreciated element of how Google has: become so pervasively dominant online; been so successful in evading much sovereign accountability to date; and maintained undeserved trust of so many consumers, the media and government officials.

Google says one thing, (exactly what people want to hear), and does another, (most whatever it wants), because that is “How Google Works.” And until Google is actually held accountable for the harms of its broken public promises and misrepresentations, Google will continue with its deceptive branding to consumers.

Sadly, it appears Google cynically believes that it purposefully can deceive most of the people most of the time without consequence from law enforcement.



“How Google Works” series (A public service fact-check of Google’s bestseller: “How Google Works.”)

Part 1: Google Profiting from Hacked Celebrity Women Photos is “How Google Works” [10-6-14]

Part 2: Stealing from Competitors is “How Google Works” [10-20-14]

Part 3: Evading Sovereign Accountability is “How Google Works” [12-10-14]

Part 4: Bullying is “How Google Works” – Ask Law Enforcement [12-21-14]