User Privacy: Is it Google’s Turn to be Raked Over the Congressional Coals?
Google really has a much bigger footprint when it comes to tracking and profiling the everyday lives of billions of people…And it’s often very invasive and very sensitive information. Many people try to Google search what they wouldn’t even tell their own partner.
Big Data and Democrats
In 2012, Facebook engineers allowed the Obama campaign to scrape approximately 100 million Facebook profiles, and related data, in order to influence voters in the election. The NY Times, in 2013, praised the Obama campaign engineers as “Digital Masterminds.” According to Carol Davidsen, Facebook looked the other way because Facebook was “on their side.” However, Cambridge Analytica was not on Team Obama or Team Hillary, and the digital masterminds of yore have now become a threat to not only privacy rights of consumers, but the political power structure of the Democrat party.
Exposed in a series of Wikileaks emails and White House records, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, now Chairman of Alphabet, has been a long time donor, fundraiser, and advisor to Democrat candidates, campaigns, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Schmidt “helped recruit talent, choose technology, and coach the campaign manager, Jim Messina, on the finer points of leading a large organization.” On election night in 2012, Schmidt was in Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters boiler room, known as “The Cave” alongside the “digital masterminds” charged with maximizing voter turnout.
After winning a five million vote margin, The Cave had proven its digital mastery and ability to use big data for big campaigns and incorporated into a consulting firm, Civis Analytics, funded with millions of dollars in investment by Schmidt. In order to bring big data to Hillary Clinton’s big campaign, Schmidt founded The Groundwork, held by another company backed by Schmidt, Timshel.
As Schmidt builds the Democrat’s ground and fundraising game by using big data, he admits: “The model of innovation in technology are these very young teams that have a brand-new idea, like each other, and work incredibly hard,” says Schmidt. “Venture capitalists are competing all over for these people. When you find them, you figure out what they want to do and you back them.”
Big Government and Google
Prior to Obama’s 2012 election, the FTC investigated Google and recommended going forward with an antitrust lawsuit. Days after the 2012 election, the administration, according to Whitehouse visitor logs, had met with top Google executives and Eric Schmidt. A month later the FTC closed the investigation. Was this decision influenced by the personal and political relationship between Google and the Obama administration?
According to Politico, the FTC is taking a second look at Google and may be taking steps to reopen the investigation:
“…a U.S. investigation into so-called search bias would be more sweeping and consequential because it strikes at the heart of Google’s core business model.
Critics complain that Google has used its online dominance to treat competitors unfairly — for example, by pushing search results for competing products off its homepage or siphoning valuable content from third-party sources without express permission. The practices, according to critics, undermine the widespread view that Google acts as a neutral gateway to information on the Internet.”
If Google can steer search results to their own benefit, is Google also steering consumers to certain news agencies, websites, and information sources that they or AI determine to be worthy resources and not “fake news?”
Big Censorship For Conservatives
In light of the congressional testimony given by Mark Zuckerberg, his ability to manage his “neutral platform” and protect free speech is limited to to his corporation’s geography. In Silicon Valley, a hot bed of liberal activism, makes it difficult for him, he admits, to find employees without a political bias. A bias that had impacted Diamond and Silk’s ability to support themselves and the President when Facebook had deemed them “unsafe to the community.” Since the hearing, Diamond and Silk have had their Facebook page reinstated.
According to Eric Schmidt: “It should be possible for computers to detect malicious, misleading and incorrect information and essentially have you not see it. We’re not arguing for censorship, we’re arguing for just take it off the page… right?… Put it somewhere else. Make it harder to find.”
Google search and You Tube has made conservative content harder to find. As a writer who researches a variety of topics, I have noticed a significant change in the outcomes of my searches, whereby the first results of my search produce articles from liberal leaning news organization and blogs. Talking to many other writers, they have also noticed this change. You Tube has demonetized or flagged conservative content in that opposing views to progressive orthodoxy must require warnings and age limits.
The political power of the Democrat party and the power of tech companies is not mutually exclusive, but their political and personal relationships are exclusive. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, sat through two days of congressional hearings because of Facebooks’ relationship with Cambridge Analytica not their exclusive relationship with the Obama campaign–The Cave of the data-scraping pioneers, the digital masterminds. According to the Washington Post, “Google executives were originally invited to testify on the use and abuse of data, but the Senate committee ultimately decided against pursuing it.” If data mining/sharing, censorship and privacy concerns is subject to congressional inquiry, then Google’s exemption from this inquiry raises even more questions around the protection of Google versus the protection of consumer privacy.