Google Is Coming Under Fire

Google has had somewhat of a sterling reputation as a corporation. They have done that by maintaining an impressive security repertoire, which has shielded them from many of the ills that have plagued other businesses and corporations and they have for the most part stayed away from scandal. That has changed in recent months as Google has now begin to come under fire from all sides. Some if it regards their involvement with the Chinese government in a project to track its citizens but now their problems are related to their actions in the United States. It has been a bad 2019 for Google and the year is not over yet.

About Google

Google was founded in 1998 by Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Its initial product was its search engine, which chances are you have used as it is easily the top search engine in the United States and one of the most visited sites in the world. In 2015 it became a part of Alphabet Inc., which owns many other technology companies. Google also owns the online video website YouTube and many others and in the interests of full disclosure Nicely Done Sites is a Google reseller

Secretly Feeding Personal Information To Advertisers

We value our privacy online. That is part of the reason why Facebook has came under fire last year in a series of scandals that could make or break the company. Thanks to Europe’s GDPR regulations, accusations of Google using a secretive tracker to send information like browsing information and your location to ad companies, which would allow those companies to buy ads with users that match their profile. This was disclosed by the Financial Times and reported to Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, which is the European Union’s watchdog over the company.

First off, why Ireland? Google’s European HQ is located in Dublin.

This of course would not be the first and only time that Google and the EU have butted heads. They were fined €1.5 million in March for antitrust violations and that was not their first fine. The EU is also investigating another claim that Google violated GDPR coming from the browser Brave, who claim that Google broadcasts personal information to companies to target people with ads. They also paid a $1 billion fine to France stemming from a fiscal fraud investigation.

Google claims that it has not create personalized ads or tailor ads to users without users consent.

Children’s Privacy

Google is also facing issues here in the US. In early September the FTC announced that Google had agreed to pay a $170 million fine following claims that Google marketed YouTube to advertisers to use with channels popular with younger children. The FTC and New York state attorney general alleges that Google tracked the viewing histories of those children to serve ads to them, which is a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

As a result, Google has also agreed to make changes to its practice to limit data collection on children’s channels. Comments and notifications on those channels will also be disabled. The result came along a 3-2 vote along party lines, with at least one dissenting vote saying that they voted no because they felt the settlement did not go far enough. 

Antitrust Probe

Of course Google is not out of the woods just yet. In early September it was announced that 48 states attorneys general as well as their counterparts in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were launching an antitrust probe. Only California and Alabama have declined to participate. Several states have already been critical of Google’s handling of customer information and search algorithms and this probe is expected to target how Google buys up its rivals to maintain dominance and how it deals with online advertising. There is also the possibility that this could expand to other tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Facebook as well. In fact Apple could be the target of its own antitrust investigation sooner rather than later.

One hundred years ago the largest monopolies in the country like Standard Oil, American Tobacco, R.J. Reynolds, Northern Securities Trust and the Beef Trust were found guilty of violating antitrust law and broken up into smaller companies. Today we face the same situation and it is quite possible that the same result could happen. Standard Oil at the time controlled 90% of the US’s oil market, from refining to distribution to marketing and it was broken up into 34 different companies, many of which are still in business today like Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips. The same fate may await Google and other big tech companies. Google is utilized for roughly 92% of all Internet searches as of last summer.

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