Google’s Government Influence Nixed Competition for Winner-Take All Results

Facts are stubborn things.

Know what one finds when one puts the evidence of Google’s many antitrust, IP, and privacy offenses into one telling timeline of what Google did from 2008-2017?

One sees a tale of two terms. Commendably, the evidence shows the first Obama Administration term featured very tough antitrust, IP, and privacy law enforcement against Google. Sadly, the second term was the direct opposite – featuring virtually no antitrust, IP, or privacy law enforcement against Google.

Know what one finds when one overlays the telling timeline of improper influence of Google’s Government Guardians, i.e. senior Google executives and outside counsels placed in all the right places to protect and advance Google’s business — with the timeline of Google’s antitrust, IP, and privacy law enforcement problems?

One can see predictable patterns. Shortly after Google Guardians show up, those Google’s government problems go away. Same administration, different personnel, near completely opposite outcomes. It’s a quintessential example of the old Washington adage that “personnel is policy.”

See here for the telling timeline of evidence of Google’s improper government influence.

For law enforcement, government overseers, the media, investors, and interested observers, this telling timeline: puts >150 key Google-relevant antitrust, IP, and privacy events into chronological order from 2008-2017; fortifies them with >250 links to sources; and covers 31 pages of succinct event summaries based on a decade of focused study of Google.

Hopefully, this concise evidentiary Google chronology will prompt and enable much more dot-connecting, transparency, and accountability.

The Top Ten Takeaways from this Telling Timeline:

1. 2009-2012 (not 2013), the Varney DOJ Antitrust Division and the Leibowitz FTC proved very tough on Google.

The telling timeline shows that from 2009-2012, Google faced: ~ten different antitrust liabilities; over a half-dozen intellectual property lawsuits/actions; and multiple serious privacy liabilities. Google’s serial above-the-law behaviors prompted serious U.S. Government attention, oversight, and accountability.

2. In the face of a phalanx of government accountability actions and civil lawsuits, from 2011- 2013, Google apparently transformed its relatively small Washington operation into what future historians may view as the most influential, pervasive, and powerful, company influence-machine in modern U.S. history.

The telling timeline chronicles the improper placement of several former Google executives and outside counsels to the exact positions of maximum decision-making influence over antitrust, IP, and privacy matters of most commercial benefit and risk to Google Inc.

3. 2013-2016, the Hesse-Baer-Hesse DOJ Antitrust Division, the Ramirez-Wright FTC, the Lee USPTO, and the Smith-Wong-Macgillivray OSTP, proved highly protective of Google (and Android in particular), with a “Pax Google Policy” where everyone is expected to get along with Google on Google’s terms, or in other words, a new Google “laxter” antitrust, IP, and privacy era, that history may record as Google’s Government Guardian Golden Years, or in short, the “Google-laxter-antitrust” era.

The telling timeline chronicles how when Google’s several former executives and outside counsels show up in influential positions of government decision-making, those government decisions of most concern and risk to Google Inc., just happen to flip to the favor of Google’s commercial and competitive interests — repeatedly.

4. The phalanx of government accountability actions and civil lawsuits that Google faced from 2009-2012, virtually all went almost completely away, in the U.S from 2013-2016. Poof!

The timeline shows the telling results of an apparent Google engineering mindset and vision of: detecting the source of problems; devising a strategy and plan to eliminate the sources of the problems; engineering specific solutions to the specific problems; implementing a systematic execution plan; monitoring the schedule, completion, and effectiveness of the strategy, plan, and fixes; and reporting it to those who ordered the problems be fixed.

Anyone who reads the telling timeline can deduce or suspect that this was the result of a highly-organized, orchestrated, well-planned, and methodical effort over five years, implicating multiple other companies and government entities, that had to involve the partial knowledge and involvement of at least dozens, if not hundreds, of people in and outside of Google, that law enforcement, overseers, the media, investors, and citizens should be able to interview, question, or depose over time.

5. New Google antitrust, IP, and privacy problems that emerged during 2013-2016, have been largely ignored, dismissed, or buried, apparently by Google’s Government Guardians, so that, not only did Google’s 2009-2012 problems go away, any new ones stayed away too.

The telling timeline chronicles a couple dozen new legitimate antitrust, IP, and privacy complaints that effectively have gone nowhere. Sadly, it had become appreciated by those following these matters closely that those with antitrust, IP, or privacy complaints against Google were less-than-welcome to make them to the federal government from 2013-2016.

6. The most destructive, egregious, and lasting result of the 2013-2016 “Google-laxter-antitrust” policy, of DOJ/FTC Google antitrust non-enforcement, is that Google was enabled, empowered, and encouraged to extend its PC search and search advertising monopolies into multiple Android mobile monopolies and dominances, i.e. “Androidopoly.” Game. Set. Match.

The telling timeline lays bare that Google’s shut-down of the FTC staff’s recommended search antitrust and SEP patent lawsuits in January 2013, was about protecting Android. Most do not know that the FTC staff were engaged in a formal antitrust investigation of Android, and that it was the only active FTC-Google antitrust matter that was closed without a Commission vote or any public mention.

The timeline evidence shows the extraordinary monopolization benefit and network effect of no Android antitrust accountability at the FTC or DOJ, because it enabled Google to continue to tie Google’s dominant search to extend its monopoly to the Android licensable mobile operating system with impunity, resulting in Google commanding 16 of the top 20 downloaded Android apps, further extending its desktop/PC monopolies to the most strategically important mobile software applications: Google Play, Android Apps, Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Chrome browser, Google (Tools), and Drive.

7. A second egregious and lasting result has been extraordinarily destructive to the value intellectual property. That was the de facto USG, 2013-2016, Google-laxter-IP-enforcement policy that enabled, empowered, and encouraged the USG to adopt Google’s radical and self-serving view of intellectual property non-protection policy, as its own in effect, to the substantial commercial benefit of Google. 

One of the most telling discoveries of putting all the relevant timelines together in one unified Google chronology is that how most all the patent and other intellectual property civil cases against Google conveniently were settled or dropped when Google’s Deputy General Counsel for Patents and Patent Strategy from 2003-2012 became the Acting Director of the USPTO, and then nominated and confirmed to be the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, the most senior intellectual property policy and enforcement position in the U.S. Government.

Google saved billions of dollars and gained enormous anti-competitive advantages from apparently improperly interfering with the normal civil judicial process for protecting intellectual property.

8. A third egregious and lasting result, and harm to American consumers, was the de facto USG 2013-2016, Google-laxter-privacy-enforcement policy at the FTC, Sadly, the FTC apparently and effectively stopped enforcing the FTC’s Google privacy consent decree, and the FTC’s Facebook privacy consent decree – to the lasting harm of American consumers’ privacy and safety.

The timeline shows that the Leibowitz FTC established twenty-year privacy consent decrees for Google and Facebook to ensure they would live up to their privacy promises to consumers and would give consumers meaningful consent for changes in how their information is used or shared. The Leibowitz FTC toughly enforced the Google privacy decree in August 2012 resulting in a record FTC fine.

Then from 2013-2016, when multiple privacy groups filed multiple privacy complaints against Google and Facebook, tellingly none resulted in FTC enforcement action. Crickets.

The timeline suggests a Google Guardian put Google (and maybe Facebook) on an FTC Do Not Enforce List. That apparent proactive non-enforcement harmed American consumers’ privacy, since most Americans use Google and/or Facebook on a regular basis.

9.Google’s apparent influence over USG antitrust, IP, and privacy enforcement has systemically harmed competition in many markets, in apparently favoring online monopolization and collaboration by and between: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, over direct core market competition and competitive rivalry between Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.   

In 2012, Google faced direct competition from Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. By 2017, all of Google’s major active direct competitors threatening Google’s core business — Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon — effectively stopped much of their direct competitive rivalries and legal disputes with Google. This created multiple Google winner-take-all platforms without a core competitor – Google in search, search advertising, licensable mobile operating system, Play/Apps, Maps, browser, Gmail, YouTube, Drive, etc.

Apple did not develop an ad business, did not do search, and now uses Google for search and for Siri assistant. Apple went from threatening IP “thermonuclear” war to increasing profit interdependency with Google. Google defeated Microsoft in search, advertising, mobile, operating system, browser, and Maps; and Microsoft does the previously unthinkable in putting Microsoft products on Android going forward.

Google and Facebook went from fierce direct competitors in each other’s core businesses, to colluding to eliminate the biggest competitors in social for Facebook: Google+, Instagram, and WhatsApp; and in Search for Google: Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo.

10.   Most telling here is the demonstrable winner-take-all benefits in relative revenue growth share and market valuation, that have resulted since Google de facto imposed a Google Government Guardian strategy of winner-take-all, “laxter” antitrust, IP, and privacy, non-enforcement policies.

It should be of no surprise that the marketplace implicitly loved the winner-take-all, asymmetric benefits of “Pax Google.”

Tellingly, from 2012 to 2016, the revenues of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazongrew ~180 times faster than Fortune 500 companies overall; and from 2012-2017, the market value of these five companies tripled absolutely, and grew relatively three times more than the S&P 500 Index. See chart.

This is not a free market, but a favored market.

Google’s winner-take-all is consumers-down-fall.

 

Conclusion:

Now we know better “why you can’t trust Google Inc.”

Google’s corrupting influence succeeded.

This should not happen in the United States of America.

How our democracy, rule of law, elected officials, law enforcement, media, investors, and citizens react to these uncovered realities may determine if the United States of America that we knew in 2012 will return and survive in the future.

For those who consider Washington a “swamp,” Google Inc. is Washington’s leading “Swamp Thing.”

Forewarned is forearmed.

 

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Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an internetization consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google.

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