On Tuesday, December 11, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, will face questions on privacy, anti-trust and purported bias against conservatives. Using the mystery and complexity of algorithms has been a very effective smokescreen up to this point for both Google and the other Masters of the Universe in Silicon Valley.
Every testimony from the omnipotent tech Masters of the Universe has simply obfuscated the reality of their strategic intentions. The testimonies to Congress should not have been, now, or in the future, about algorithms. It should instead be about the intent to use algorithms to gain control of everything about us and in our lives. The scope goes beyond invading our privacy, beyond censoring content and beyond violating anti-trust laws. It is about the sum total of Google’s actions.
They exploit the data they control, bundle the services they offer and use discriminatory pricing to keep more of the benefits that otherwise they would have to share with competitors.
However, our politicians have scheduled another hearing to ask questions about the actions they are well aware have taken place. Previous hearings have done more to expose the ignorance of our politicians, their lack of preparation or their grandstanding giving the public little hope of getting to the crux of the issues.
The CEO of Google kept ignoring requests to appear before the House or Senate. Not only does Google dominate almost 90 percent search content; now they can be credited with our politicians taking no actions until they show up to answer questions.
Eight months have passed since Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress. Five months since Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg testimonies. While we in America are debating the virtues of free-market practices versus government regulation, other countries are holding Google accountable.
In that time, European Union’s Commissioner for Competition, Margaret’s Vestager, slapped a $5 billion anti-trust fine on Google, claiming “They have to stop this behavior”.
Google was fined for abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating system. In 2017, Google paid the E.U. $2.7 billion for favoring its shopping service. A third anti-trust issue is being investigated.
Vestager said, “This is about Google behavior – a behavior that’s illegal for a dominant company because it’s locking down competition and disabling innovation.”
Google has used algorithms to violate anti-trust laws, to crush competitors, destroy start-ups and to manipulate its users to its desired outcomes. It has used algorithms to ensure searches ignore competitive sites, driving the traffic to Google.
The algorithms do not act independently. The question is not “whether” the algorithms are the supposed culprits. It’s the behavior behind the management decisions and company strategy that dictates the focus what algorithms need to do. It takes the action of human beings to develop algorithms, to use them to the company’s benefit and to control what information appears on page one of a google search.
Google’s goal from the beginning has been to be the TOP all-encompassing company with the power to shape people’s attention. As other tech giants have done before them, Google has used the “Drug Dealer’s Marketing Strategy”: Give it to them for free. Get them hooked. Then make them pay or pimp their information.
Google is not the only tech company that deliberately engineers algorithms that create addiction to the services, however, influencing how people think and behave without them even being aware of it is unethical — especially at a company that once promised to not be “evil.”
Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook understands that regulation and free-market competition are not mutually exclusive. A new paradigm needs to be created to blend free-market beliefs with some regulations.
Though the free-market thinkers believe the market is uniquely self-correcting, the companies destroyed by Google’s algorithms would disagree. Others believe they should be subjected to more stringent regulations aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access. Some go further calling them a public utility.
Our politicians need to look at the impact of these near-monopolies is having on society. No longer can the power and influence of social media on societies go unchecked.
Moreover, the Internet monopolies have neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against their actions. The carefully crafted testimonies are merely words. Words, which contradict their actions in the marketplace and the impact those actions are having.
The Google (and other tech giants) business model is one of the best con jobs. They claim that they are merely distributing information. The business model was brilliantly crafted to immunize any content sharing company from liability. The business model is the “Iron Dome” that neutralizes any actions that could cause damage. The time has come to make these companies responsible for their actions.
It’s backbone time. Our politicians need to find the strength to resist the political influence that lobbyists and their donations have over them. Anti-trust laws need to be considered based on the actions of the company. The issue is not just the monopoly that Google has become – it is the “intention” behind the smokescreen that should concern, if not scare us.
Dr. Jan Halper-Hayes is an internationally recognized expert in corporate structure and change. Over the past 25 years, Jan Halper has done extensive work in restructuring companies, streamlining systems, coaching senior executives. Clients have included: Apple, Cisco Systems, Google, American Airlines, Lucasfilm, IBM and Bank of America. You can follow her on Twitter: @biz_shrink