Google: More Management of Sensitive Issues

September 24, 2021

Some MBA engineers are driven purely by greed without regard for their fellow humans. When Google formed its parent company, Alphabet Inc., they changed their company motto from “Don’t be evil” to “Do the right thing.” However, Google has proven it does not do the right thing when it comes to respecting user privacy and pursuing the almighty dollar. Google has violated user privacy multiple ways, while they tried to establish a market in China despite the country’s abhorrent human rights record.

The Daily Hunt explains that, “Alphabet Inc’s Google Gave User Data To Hong Kong Authorities Despite Vow.” The Hong Kong Free Press reported that Google gave the Hong Kong government user data, despite promising not to do so. Google said that these reports were actually stop bad actors and crime:

“Alphabet Inc’s Google complied with three of 43 government requests received between July and December 2019, the company told HKFP. One request was for an emergency disclosure involving a credible threat to life, Google said, while the others involved human trafficking and were supported by search warrants granted by the court. They were not related to national security and no user content data was shared, the company added.”

Other technology companies, including Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter, said they would no longer comply with Hong Kong government data requests, because China imposed a national security law that violates civil rights.

Google could be telling the truth when it comes to preventing human trafficking and saving human lives, but they could also comply with the Chinese government in order to gain favor in its technology market.

Huge corporations pretend to be ethical, but its usually lip service. Money and the threat of bad publicity has more sway than violating civil liberties and human rights. Google is not any different.

Whitney Grace, September 24, 2021

Google and Its Informed Approach to Compensating Employees: Just Pay Less

September 23, 2021

Google does have unethical business practices, including violating user privacy, discriminating treat of ethnic minorities and women in its hiring activities and work environment, and attempting to establish a business relationship with China. Another infraction to add to Google’s growing list is: “Google Underpaid Thousands Of International ‘Shadow Workers,’ Violating Labor Laws Around The World, Report Reveals” says Business Insider.

Google employs over 900 temporary workers in Poland, France, Netherlands, Germany, India, Ireland, and the UK. Pay-parity laws in Asia and Europe require companies to pay full-time and temporary workers the same wage if they essentially do the same job. Google underpaid its workers in violation of these laws.

Google’s compliance department discovered the error, but did not want to bring attention to the issue. Instead Google raised wages for new employees in order to avoid financial, reputational, and legal problems. Google is still attempting to save face:

“While the team hasn’t increased the comparator rate benchmarks for some years, actual pay rates for temporary staff have increased numerous times in that period,’ Spyro Karetsos, Google’s chief compliance officer, said in a statement to Insider. Most temporary staff are paid significantly more than the comparator rates.

‘Nevertheless, it’s clear that this process has not been handled consistently with the high standards to which we hold ourselves as a company,’ he added. ‘We’re doing a thorough review, and we’re committed to identifying and addressing any pay discrepancies that the team has not already addressed. And we’ll be conducting a review of our compliance practices in this area. In short, we’re going to figure out what went wrong here, why it happened, and we’re going to make it right.’”

Google certainly has the funds to make it right. Google should be treating all of its employees, no matter their status, equality. If Google had admitted the mistake, they would have looked like the bigger person, been criticized or praised, then the world would have forgotten the incident. Now Google can add this to their list of personnel management achievements.

High school behavior? Intentional disregard for employee rights? We don’t know.

Whitney Grace, September 23, 2021

Alphabet Spells Out YouTube Recommendations: Are Some Letters Omitted?

September 23, 2021

I have been taking a look at Snorkel (Stanford AI Labs, open source stuff, and the commercial Snorkel.ai variants). I am a dim wit. It seems to me that Google has found a diving partner and embracing some exotic equipment. The purpose of the Snorkel is to implement smart workflows. These apparently will allow better, faster, and cheaper operations; for example, classifying content for the purpose of training smart software. Are their applications of Snorkel-type thinking to content recommendation systems. Absolutely. Note that subject matter experts and knowledge bases are needed at the outset of setting up a Snorkelized system. Then, the “smarts” are componentized. Future interaction is by “engineers”, who may or may not be subject matter experts. The directed acyclic graphs are obviously “directed.” Sounds super efficient.

Now navigate to “On YouTube’s Recommendation System.” This is a lot of words for a Googler to string together: About 2,500.

Here’s the key passage:

These human evaluations then train our system to model their decisions, and we now scale their assessments to all videos across YouTube.

Now what letters are left out? Maybe the ones that spell built-in biases, stochastic drift, and Timnit Gebru? On the other hand, that could be a “Ré” of hope for cost reduction.

Stephen E Arnold, September 23, 2021

Google Play Store Content Curation Flop, Well, Thousands of Flops

September 20, 2021

Google does collect user personal information for targeted ads, but more than 19000 apps in the Google Play Store could violate user privacy. The Daily Hunt shares the warning in the article: “Alert! More Than 19000 Apps On Google Play Store Could Leak Your Personal Data-Check Details.”

Digital security company Avast discovered that over 19000 apps hosted on the Google Play Store could leak user data and risk the phone’s security. Avast said the apps leak information, because there is a misconfiguration in the Firebase data. Android developers use Firebase to store user data. Avast reported the problem to Google, so it can notify app developers.

Most of the apps affected are:

“The apps that could be facing the issue are mostly related to lifestyle, gaming, food delivery and email, among others, the firm said, adding that users in Europe, South-East Asia and Latin America region are likely to have been impacted by it. More than 10 percent of 180,300 publicly available Firebase instances were found to be open by researchers at the Avast Threat Labs, which means that apps users’ data in those cases have been exposed to the public.”

User information is waiting to be stolen. Hopefully Google and Android app developers will fix the Firebase misconfiguration quickly so information is stolen by bad actors.

Whitney Grace, September 20, 2021

Useless Search Results? Thank Advertising

September 17, 2021

We thought this was obvious. The Conversation declares, “Google’s ‘Pay-Per-Click’ Ad Model Makes it Harder to Find What You’re Looking For.” Writers Mohiuddin Ahmed and Paul Haskell-Dowland begin by pointing out “to google” has literally become synonymous with searching online via any online search platform. Indeed, Google has handily dominated the online search business, burying some competitors and leaving the rest in the dust. Not coincidentally, the company also rules the web browser and online advertising markets. As our dear readers know, Google is facing pushback from competition and antitrust regulators in assorted countries. However, this article addresses the impact on search results themselves. The authors report:

“More than 80% of Alphabet’s revenue comes from Google advertising. At the same time, around 85% of the world’s search engine activity goes through Google. Clearly there is significant commercial advantage in selling advertising while at the same time controlling the results of most web searches undertaken around the globe. This can be seen clearly in search results. Studies have shown internet users are less and less prepared to scroll down the page or spend less time on content below the ‘fold’ (the limit of content on your screen). This makes the space at the top of the search results more and more valuable. In the example below, you might have to scroll three screens down before you find actual search results rather than paid promotions. While Google (and indeed many users) might argue that the results are still helpful and save time, it’s clear the design of the page and the prominence given to paid adverts will influence behavior. All of this is reinforced by the use of a pay-per-click advertising model which is founded on enticing users to click on adverts.”

We are reminded Google-owned YouTube is another important source of information for billions of users, and it is perhaps the leading platform for online ads. In fact, these ads now intrude on videos at a truly annoying rate. Unless one pays for a Premium subscription, of course. Ahmed and Haskell-Dowland remind us alternatives to Google Search exist, with the usual emphasis on privacy-centric DuckDuckGo. They conclude by pointing out other influential areas in which Google plays a lead role: AI, healthcare, autonomous vehicles, cloud computing, computing devices, and the Internet of Things. Is Google poised to take over the world? Why not?

Cynthia Murrell, September September 17, 2021, 2021

Google and Record Keeping: The Spin Method

September 16, 2021

A number of years ago, I was working in Washington, DC, when I heard chatter in a meeting. Elsewhere in the same building a Labor Department group was trying to figure out why Google didn’t have employment records. My team and I were working in a unit of the Capitol Police and the information elicited a chuckle. Who knew if the info about Google’s inability to provide employment data was accurate or just a poke at the online ad vendor.

I thought about this anecdote when I read “Revealed: Google Illegally Underpaid Thousands of Workers across Dozens of Countries.” The write up explains in what seems a truthful way:

Google executives have been aware since at least May 2019 that the company was failing to comply with local laws in the UK, Europe and Asia that mandate temporary workers be paid equal rates to full-time employees performing similar work, internal Google documents and emails reviewed by the Guardian show. But rather than immediately correct the errors, the company dragged its feet for more than two years, the documents show, citing concern about the increased cost to departments that rely heavily on temporary workers, potential exposure to legal claims, and fear of negative press attention.

“Gee, we don’t have employment data” flashed across my mind. If the write up is accurate, today’s thought is “Gee, we can just try to hide this misstep.”

Seems as if there might be a pattern. I am not sure, but I do recognize selective memory, situational corporate governance, and ignoring rules and regulations.

Gee, what a surprise after a quarter century of regulatory indifference. Hard to believe? Nope. Just institutionalized behavior for a digital country perhaps?

Stephen E Arnold, September 16, 2021

Lucky India. Google Wants to Help

September 16, 2021

Google seeks to clear up a misunderstanding. Odisha’s OrissaPost reports, “Google Says Firmly Sees Itself as Partner to India’s Financial Ecosystem.” At issue is Google Pay and its Spot platform. It sounds like some reports about its partnerships with banks may have given the impression Google is trying to supplant or undermine existing financial institutions in India. We learn:

“The company emphasized that in every geography where Google Pay is present, its stance is consistently one of partnering with the existing financial services and banking systems to help scale and enable frictionless delivery of financial products and services and contribute to the goal of financial inclusion. In a blogpost, Google India said there have been a few instances where these offerings have been reported as ‘Google Pay’s offerings’, which fuels misinterpretation. ‘To be clear, we have always looked at our role firmly as a partner to the existing financial ecosystem that brings unique skill sets and offerings to drive further adoption of digital payments in the country,’ it said. … The internet major also noted that its Spot platform works as an additional discovery channel for many businesses to build and offer new experiences to users to drive adoption of their services. The use cases span across ticket purchase, food ordering, paying for essential services like utility bills, shopping and getting access to various financial products.”

See the write-up or Google India’s blog post for more specific details. The company emphasizes bringing partners onto the Google Pay platform connects them to customers around India who would otherwise be unable to access their services, helping to “level social inequalities.” Aw Google, always looking out for the little guy aren’t you?

Cynthia Murrell, September 16, 2021

Google Redefines Time

September 8, 2021

If you are Googley, you will adjust to the online ad giant’s manipulation of the space-time continuum. “Google Clock Bug Means Some Android Users Are Sleeping through Their Alarms” reports:

With many of us relying on our phones to get up in the morning (or any other time in the day), this is a bigger problem than it might at first appear to be. Google and Spotify do at least appear to have worked quickly to figure out what might be happening.

Perhaps those not happy with the Google manipulation of time, is it time to switch to an alternative device?

Apple sells some mobiles I believe. Are there issues with these devices? Nope, nothing that on device content scanning can cure.

Isn’t it wonderful to have choices in the mobile market?

Stephen E Arnold, September 8, 2021

Google: Fighting the Fate of Kleenex and Xerox?

September 2, 2021

Yep, genericide.

It is hard to imagine anything scaring Google, one of the most powerful tech company’s in the world. There is something that scare Google (other than net neutrality, Internet privacy laws, and breakup of monopolies: genericide. Cracked dives into the meaning of “genericide” and Google’s fears in the article, “Google Has Been Avoiding ‘Genericide,’ The Scariest Word in Trademark Law.” Companies want their products and brands to become household names, but not to the point where their t\trademarked items become permanently associated with an item. Scotch Tape, Kleenex, Q-Tips, and Frisbees are victims of genericide.

Genericide means:

“This term refers to death by becoming generic, causing companies to lose trademark rights when their brand becomes commonly referred to the product or service in general rather than the specific brand itself.”

Google does not want to lose the trademark on their brand name. Google’s heads want people to use Google as a verb, like “I googled that,” but only when they are referring to the Google search engine. If someone were to say “I googled that” when using Bing, it would technically be incorrect. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary includes an entry on “google,” but its lowercased and specifically refers to searching on the Google search engine. Google was so worried about losing their trademark that the term was taken to court:

“This specific control of the trademark has been effective. In 2017, a petition made its way to the Supreme Court that claimed that the term Google had become generic. The Court dismissed this. Google has effectively enforced their trademark to ensure that people are only “Googling” something when they are on Google. Any other web searching is just searching.”

Google may eventually lose its trademark if the term “googling” becomes too generic. The company could also lose its cultural relevancy like other former big names in the game. Or Google may live never lose its trademark like Disney will never lose its copyright on Mickey Mouse.

Whitney Grace, September 2, 2021

Google: Business Planning at the Highest Level Revealed

August 30, 2021

Here’s the recipe. Hire people who were spark plugs in their high school’s science club, on the math team, and participated in quick recall competitions with other like minded people. Then create teams and when something generates money, “put wood behind it.” This is a high school science club sports reference because everyone knows about baseball. Playing it? Sure, on the softball fields adjacent El Camino.

What’s the result?

The answer is brilliantly presented in “A Decade and a Half of Instability: The History of Google Messaging Apps.” The write up runs about 24,000 words. For reference, a “real book” is usually in the neighborhood of 100,000 words. This article is definitely in the Kindle self published target zone. But the inclusion of nifty graphics like the image illustrating the old and new approach to one of Google’s chat services; namely, a different icon:

image

The write up is an excellent summary, and it illustrates Google’s number two approach to innovation: Just put stuff up and see what gets clicks. No clicks, no problem. Try, try again. (In case you have not read my previous Google write ups, the company’s number one method of innovation is “me too.” Example: Inspiration from Yahoo and Overture monetization methods. As I say, “Google made lots of money; therefore, live with it.)

Please, read the source document in its entirety. I will offer a few observations:

  1. Gee, Google has been trying to get sustainable traction in the chat space for a long time
  2. Some of the ideas were good but suffered a remarkable deterioration under Google’s stewardship; for example Transformics’ technology which inspired Wave.
  3. Clear evidence that high school science club management methods were the inspiration for the film “Animal House.” Boy, does this product/service run down make Googzilla look confused, indifferent, distracted, or (maybe) dissociated.

I am waiting for “Animal House II: The Google Years.”

Stephen E Arnold, August 30, 2021

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