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Oh No – It's the DOJ!

By - April 29, 2009

Google cannot like the parallels (with Microsoft, in the late 90s). The DOJ has opened an inquiry into its book deal (one I have not, to be honest, entirely grokked. In fact, neither has my agent or my publisher, which is rather interesting….). From the NYT:

The inquiry does not necessarily mean that the department will oppose the settlement, which is subject to a court review. But it suggests that some of the concerns raised by critics, who say the settlement would unfairly give Google an exclusive license to profit from millions of books, have resonated with the Justice Department.

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Google Selling History as Behavior, But I Like The Controls

By - March 11, 2009

This is very interesting (from the NYT):

Google will begin showing ads on Wednesday to people based on their previous online activities in a form of advertising known as behavioral targeting, which has been embraced by most of its competitors but has drawn criticism from privacy advocates and some members of Congress.

Perhaps to forestall objections to its approach, Google said it planned to offer new ways for users to protect their privacy. Most notably, Google will be the first major company to give users the ability to see and edit the information that it has compiled about their interests for the purposes of behavioral targeting.

I’ve been writing about this for years. See my post on a “Data Bill of Rights.”

Way to go, Google.

Google post on this here. And the policy post is here.

Google, The Anti-Trust Case

By - March 03, 2009

A considered guest post on TC has kicked up a conversation around whether Google is a monopolist, and whether the DOJ will take action. This of course is one thing that must keep top folks at Google awake at night – it’s OK to be a monopoly, it’s not OK to leverage that monopoly to the detriment of the ecosystem you control.

There is clearly and argument to be made that Google already has a monopoly, the author makes that case and concludes:

I believe the Department of Justice will be able to establish monopoly power and the abuse of that power.

As covered earlier, at least one established prior monopolist has strong opinions on this issue – Microsoft.

Notable – Varney on Google

By - February 21, 2009

I’ve been gone a week and most likely there is a lot of chatter on this, but this article is worth keeping in mind as the new administration gets non economic emergency work started (which could be years, I suppose.)

Antitrust Pick Varney Saw Google as Next Microsoft (Update2)

By James Rowley

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) — Christine A. Varney, nominated by President Barack Obama to be the U.S.’s next antitrust chief, has described Google Inc. as a monopolist that will dominate online computing services the way Microsoft Corp. ruled software.

“For me, Microsoft is so last century. They are not the problem,” Varney said at a June 19 panel discussion sponsored by the American Antitrust Institute. The U.S. economy will “continually see a problem — potentially with Google” because it already “has acquired a monopoly in Internet online advertising,” she said.

Google's Repricing of Options

By - January 23, 2009

Google yesterday announced it would offer a repricing program for its options holding employees, a move that acknowledges and addresses the reality that Google’s stock has sunk, like most others, well below strike prices. Google plans to take a $460 million charge for the move.

The WSJ picks up on the news and offers a perspective (the post is behind a pay wall):

…options are also meant to align interests with shareholders — so if the price soars, both benefit. If the price drops, both suffer. If Google is going to reprice when things go wrong, it should also limit the upside to employees. It would be easier simply to pay bonuses instead, tied to corporate performance, with a portion in stock that vests over time to aid retention … when shareholders do add up the cost of options, the answer can be shocking. Albert Meyer, president of money manager Bastiat Capital, calculates that since 1995, Cisco Systems has spent $30 billion — or nearly half its free cash flow in that period — buying back stock issued as a result of employee options exercises.

Update – more from Adam here. Good overview of earnings, notes only *100* new employees in the quarter, that is a major shift (on a base of 20K) and this:

Google is transferring almost half a billion dollars in wealth from shareholders to employees, and for what ….? Motivation and retention, says Google. This a well known farce, as old as the Valley, which tells itself first that it offers generous stock options as a form of incentive and then, when share prices plummet, moves the ball so its employees, whose incentives apparently didn’t work (as if the stock price were under their control) can be re-incentivized. Retention? Would someone please tell me where the average Google employee is going to go right now?

In conclusion, and as the headline says, Google is in good shape. Not fantastic. But plenty damn good. It’s also becoming more and more like other technology companies in so many ways.

Travelin' on a Big Day

By - January 19, 2009

I’m traveling to NY for a few days this week, and alas, will be on a plane during part of the inaugural speech. But I am very excited that a new era is dawning, and I hope we have both patience and high expectations for our new government.

Kudos to Google

By - January 16, 2009

For filing an amicus brief on the repeal of Prop 8. I saw Milk last week and it’s a very strong reminder of how far we’ve come as a culture, and how far we have yet to go.

Google's AdWords: A "Grey Surveillance"?

By - January 06, 2009

Sent to me from Gary Price, a presentation on Adwords from the Berkman center: Google’s AdWords system serves ads alongside about a quarter of all web traffic. In the process of serving those ads, Google actively processes the user browsing data in order to target its advertising, making AdWords one of the world’s most extensive processors of personal data. Hal Roberts presents on how Google’s use of the AdWords data seeds a network of grey surveillance that may not have direct effects on the individual surveillance subjects but does have important effects on our modes of creating and consuming content online.

Yahoo Has Good Timing on Trust: New Policy on Data Retention

By - December 17, 2008

Given the comments happening down below on whether you all trust Google, Yahoo seems to be pretty nimble with this announcement:

Today, Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO – News) announced a new global data retention policy that sets an industry-leading approach to user data privacy. This new policy strengthens Yahoo!’s relationship of trust with its 500 million users world-wide and enhances its longtime leadership on privacy.

Under the new policy, Yahoo! will anonymize user log data within 90 days with limited exceptions for fraud, security and legal obligations. Yahoo! will also expand the policy to apply not only to search log data but also page views, page clicks, ad views and ad clicks.