News

Posted in Legal Troubles, Menacing Monopoly

$26 billion, with a b: That’s how much Google shelled out to keep its search engine the default in 2021

It’s an enormous sum of money, but it’s worth it to Google:

Google paid $26.3 billion to be the default search engine on mobile phones and web browsers in 2021, according to a slide made public Friday in a federal antitrust trial against the company.

The number is a more granular look into how much Google pays partners, including Apple, to be the default search engine on their products. The U.S. Department of Justice and a coalition of state attorneys general have argued in the case that Google has illegally maintained its monopoly power in general search by leveraging its dominance to lock rivals out of key distribution channels, such as Apple’s Safari web browser.

The $26.3 billion figure does not represent the payments to any one company, but Apple likely represents the largest recipient. Bernstein previously estimated Google could pay Apple as much as $19 billion this year for the out-of-the-box default placement on Apple devices. 

The court needs to release more data about this case so the public can see the evidence the DOJ presented that Google is an illegal monopoly. That’s very important. Google’s lawyers shouldn’t be allowed to keep key pieces of information secret. We deserve to know the truth about Google’s harmful business practices.

Posted in Menacing Monopoly

DOJ finishes presenting its case against Google in landmark antitrust trial

Ars Technica has a nice recap of the case so far:

The Department of Justice called its last witness this week, resting its case in a blockbuster antitrust trial probing Google’s alleged monopoly over search. Over the next five weeks, Google will do everything in its power to defend against those allegations—or else risk a potential breakup of its lucrative, industry-dominating search business—including likely calling Google CEO Sundar Pichai and other top executives as witnesses.

Since the trial began on September 12, Judge Amit Mehta has heard testimony from 29 witnesses, Bloomberg reported, including leading economists and senior executives from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and other tech companies either partnering with or rivaling Google over the years.

Much of this testimony was closed to protect tech companies’ trade secrets, but news outlets have since filed a motion hoping to unseal testimony and access more trial documents sooner, hoping to share more details with the public about the case the DOJ made.

That this case was brought at all is a major milestone. For many years, the U.S. federal government let Google do whatever it wanted, leaving the European Union to provide regulatory oversight. There was little oversight or accountability from Google’s home country. Now, Google is finally on trial for its illegal conduct and harmful business practices. The decision won’t be made by a jury, but the government has brought lots of compelling evidence to the table that will hopefully result in a decision from Judge Mehta that Google violated the country’s antitrust laws.

Posted in Menacing Monopoly

US v. Google: Antitrust trial gets underway

The New York Times has a liveblog going on what is turning out to be a busy news day:

The Justice Department and 38 states and territories on Tuesday laid out how Google had systematically wielded its power in online search to cow competitors, as the internet giant fiercely parried back, in the opening of the most consequential trial over tech power in the modern internet era.

In a packed courtroom at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in Washington, the Justice Department and states painted a picture of how Google had used its deep pockets and dominant position, paying $10 billion a year to Apple and others to be the default search provider on smartphones. Google viewed those agreements as a “powerful strategic weapon” to cut out rivals and entrench its search engine, the government said.

Reporters paid close attention when the judge scrutinized some of Google’s claims.

The star of opening arguments? Judge Mehta. He spoke only briefly, asking a handful of distilling, clarifying questions. For example, the Google lawyer John Schmidtlein went on at length saying how easy it was to switch a default search setting. Judge Mehta interrupted to ask, well, how much switching is actually done?

Schmidtlein could only point to what happened when Mozilla briefly made Microsoft’s Bing the default on the Firefox browser, and “droves” of users switched to Google. But he said there were no good overall statistics. Really? In a digital world where every click is tracked? The judge asked the right question there — and elsewhere — this morning.

This a bench trial, not a jury trial, so the parties’ goal is to convince Judge Mehta to rule in their favor. The trial will continue tomorrow and for several days beyond that, as the government’s case involves quite a bit of evidence. Many Google employees will be questioned by DOJ attorneys.

The trial proceedings are not being televised due to federal court rules, so there’s no way to watch. The tech press will thus have an outsized role in informing the public and observers.

Posted in Menacing Monopoly

Big, massive uh-oh: Google violated its standards in ad deals, research finds

And of course Google denies they screwed up. But the research is there:

Google violated its promised standards when placing video ads on other websites, according to new research that raises questions about the transparency of the tech giant’s online-ad business.

Google’s YouTube runs ads on its own site and app. But the company also brokers the placement of video ads on other sites across the web through a program called Google Video Partners. Google charges a premium, promising that the ads it places will run on high-quality sites, before the page’s main video content, with the audio on, and that brands will only pay for ads that aren’t skipped. 

Google violates those standards about 80% of the time, according to research from Adalytics, a firm that helps brands analyze where their ads appear online. The firm accused the company of placing ads in small, muted, automatically-played videos off to the side of a page’s main content, on sites that don’t meet Google’s standards for monetization, among other violations.

Google’s response was that the report “makes many claims that are inaccurate and doesn’t reflect how we keep advertisers safe,” which isn’t actually a refutation of any of the findings. Hilariously, their response also said: “As part of our brand safety efforts, we regularly remove ads from partner sites that violate our policies and we’ll take any appropriate actions once the full report is shared with us.”

If they haven’t seen the full report, how can they say with a straight face that it makes many claims which are inaccurate?

This is basically trying to have it both ways: Pay no attention to that report, it makes many inaccurate claims // we’ll take any appropriate actions once we have the full report in our hands. Um, what? Which is it: do you consider this report credible or not?

The WSJ did its own review so it wouldn’t need to rely on Google to confirm anything for its reporting, explaining:

The Journal independently observed invalid ad placements such as those the research identified, but couldn’t confirm the extent of the phenomenon. Digital ad-buyers and engineers vouched for the research findings.

Ain’t independent verification great?

You can’t spin your way out of this mess, Google. You own it and there’s going to be consequences.

Posted in Corporate Indifference to Humanity, Undependable Support

Google kills off Dropcam and creates an incredible amount of e-waste

This is inexcusable:

In a post on the official Google Nest Community page, Google announced it is shutting down the service for several old Nest smart home products. Most of these have not been for sale for years, but since this is all hardware  tied to the cloud, turning off the servers will turn them into useless bricks.

— Ars Technica

Appropriately, the comments are scathing:

Google has been a farce for years now but it doesn’t seem funny anymore as the shutdowns continue and people loose their investments in money and time when they have to replace things they’re accustomed to using. It’s despicable and sad. I wonder when I’ll lose Waze. It’s a wonderful service but at least I haven’t had to pay for it.

I will NEVER buy or buy into another Google product. I have never recovered from them killing Picasa.

The whole industry is happy to screw us over – five year old S series Samsung phone – still another 5 years life – but no software updates so security software won’t play.

I bought my Nest cameras before Google snapped them up, so what are ya gonna do. When I replace them, it sure isn’t going to be something that depends on some cloud service to keep operating.

I guess this is another good lesson in, “don’t buy into any Google tech that depends on Google maintaining it.” Yes, PCs of course eventually lose support, but you can still use the PC after for plenty of tasks (not even including installing another OS like Linux, etc.)

My rough estimate from my own personal experience for these things has been I get about 2-3 years out of Amazon and Google products, 3-5 years out of Windows/PC products, and about 6-8 years out of Apple products. Mileage will vary based on use case, but in my opinion there’s very good reason to not buy Amazon and Google branded products.

As I’m sure has been stated numerous times (and will be numerous more after this post), this is what happens when you buy devices which only work when connected to a cloud server.

Why did google spend half a billion to buy a company to then just kill the product line. That is no different than taking half a billion and burning the pile of money like the joker.

We reached a point not that corporarions would rather burn money than pay it in dividends instead or reward workers by spreading the half a billion amongst the employees?

what is the reason for this?

Good question!

Posted in Legal Troubles, Menacing Monopoly

Google sued by the Department of Justice again for corrupting legitimate competition

Nice going, DOJ! About time!

The US Department of Justice and eight states on Tuesday sued Google over its advertising business, alleging it engages in monopolistic behavior.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Virginia, alleges that Google has “corrupted legitimate competition in the ad tech industry” through a campaign of seizing control of tools and inserting “itself into all aspects of the digital advertising marketplace.” Google allegedly has done so by eliminating competition through acquisitions and used its dominance to push advertisers to use its products over those of others. The complaint only names Google as the defendant and not any specific individuals. It also calls for a divestiture of a part of the ad tech stack.

The DOJ also said that Google punishes websites that “dare to use competing ad tech products” and uses its dominance in ad technology to “funnel more transactions to its own ad tech products, where it extracts inflated fees to line its own pockets at the expense of the advertisers and publishers it purportedly serves.”

For years, European regulators have been pretty much on their own on standing up to Google, but that has now changed, which is a great thing. The Department of Justice is finally on the case!

Unfortunately, Google’s near monopoly is now pretty well solidified, but late accountability is certainly better than no accountability.

Posted in Corporate Indifference to Humanity

Insider: A married couple with a 4-month-old baby were both laid off by Google, while one of them was on parental leave

Pretty sad:

Allie and Steve, who asked to go by their first names only but whose identities are known by Insider, had both relocated to California when Allie started working for the tech giant six years ago. Steve began working at the company around two years later.

The couple, who were high school sweethearts, had their first child in fall 2022. Allie went on parental leave shortly before, and planned to be off for around eight months in total. Steve took two months of parental leave in late 2022, and was set to take a further two from March.

Google announced Friday that it would lay off around 12,000 employees, or roughly 6% of its workforce. Allie and Steve were among those affected, they told Insider. Both found out that they were being laid off at the same time.

Furthermore:

Google employees have expressed their shock at the abrupt and impersonal nature of the layoffs, which happened over email. Some managers weren’t even informed of the mass terminations before they happened.

Gotta love how “human resources” works at a big, faceless corporation!

Google is of course wealthy enough that it doesn’t have to lay off employees. It is choosing to. Those layoffs will be costly, and not just in a financial sense – they’ll be disruptive to a lot of lives.

But to Sundar Pichai and Google executives, it’s all apparently just numbers on a screen.

Posted in Menacing Monopoly

Google kills off game streaming service Stadia

You can’t trust Google to stay out of a market, but you can’t trust it to stay in one, either:

Google said it would shutter the video game streaming service Stadia, its answer to Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation video game consoles, in another sign of Google’s drive to be leaner amid fears of an economic slowdown.

Stadia, which has streamed games over the internet rather than requiring expensive consoles, will shut down on Jan. 18, Phil Harrison, Stadia’s vice president and general manager, wrote on Thursday in a blog post. The product debuted nearly three years ago, promising to revolutionize how people play video games. But it failed to catch on with enough gamers.

“It hasn’t gained the traction with users that we expected, so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service,” Mr. Harrison wrote.

Hasn’t gained traction and Google is unwilling to play a longer game.

Of course, Google still has market dominance in search and advertising, along with browser software, email, and mobile computing.

Posted in Undependable Support

Google’s graveyard is getting bigger (again)

Billions of dollars were spent buying Mandiant for no good reason, while bizarrely, R&D is getting the axe:

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, speaking at the Code Conference last week, suggested the tech company needed to become 20% more efficient — a comment some in the industry took to mean headcount reductions could soon be on the table. Now, it seems that prediction may be coming true. TechCrunch has learned, and Google confirmed, the company is slashing projects at its in-house R&D division known as Area 120.

The company on Tuesday informed staff of a “reduction in force” that will see the incubator halved in size, as half the teams working on new product innovations heard their projects were being canceled. Previously, there were 14 projects housed in Area 120, and this has been cut down to just seven. Employees whose projects will not continue were told they’ll need to find a new job within Google by the end of January 2023, or they’ll be terminated. It’s not clear that everyone will be able to do so.

The whims of executives regularly change. Right now, Pichai and his deputies seem to be in cost slashing mode, and that means cutting loose entire teams and disrupting lives. Of course, Pichai will not be doing any belt-tightening of his own. A powerful tech CEO like him stays well compensated no matter what the bottom line is.

Posted in Menacing Monopoly

Google now owns Mandiant, because regulators didn’t stop it from gobbling up another company

Once again, Google has gotten bigger.

Google has announced that its proposed $5.4 billion bid to buy cybersecurity firm Mandiant is now complete.

The internet giant revealed plans to acquire publicly traded Mandiant back in March, less than a year after Mandiant was spun out of its previous owner FireEye as part of a $1.2 billion deal with private equity firm Symphony Technology Group.

Moving forward, Mandiant will operate under the auspices of Google Cloud, though the Mandiant brand will live on.

“We will retain the Mandiant brand and continue Mandiant’s mission to make every organization secure from cyber threats and confident in their readiness,” Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian wrote in a blog post.

Lawyers and Wall Street bankers made money from this deal, and Google executives got to continue their acquisition spree, but that’s about the extent of who’s coming out ahead from this transaction.