Surprise! Google Gives Itself a Gold Star on Digital Rights
This time last year, soccer’s governing body FIFA took on the Herculean task of investigating itself for signs of corruption and, to the relief of everyone (at FIFA), came out clean. Fast forward twelve months and the organization has been charged and humiliated by numerous investigations, most of which center around serious fraud and leading its stakeholders astray.
We can only hope a similar will reveal the hubris of Google, which this week received an award for “protecting digital rights.”
That would be all well and good, were it not for the fact that the group giving the award is headed up by one Eric Schmidt.
Yes, the same Eric Schmidt who is executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and who played a massive role in shaping Google itself for a full decade. The similarities with an organization that claims itself to be a force for good, as it profits at the expense of those who finance its business affairs are not a huge stretch of the imagination.
The parallels with legitimate European fraud investigations aren’t unwarranted, either.
Google is under intense scrutiny from many EU member states, not only for its negative impact on the region’s privacy laws, but for allegations of antitrust. Legal action dating back to 2010 has hounded Google in Europe, where competitors based in the region say it has used its position as dominant search engine to serve up results that make sure consumers find shopping and service offerings owned by or linked to Google.
This doesn’t even touch upon the disdain with which Google approaches fighting copyright infringement, i.e. protecting the digital rights of creators. For a company that is “award-winning” in the protection of our online rights, it seems odd that Google would pay such short shrift to the daily breaches of those rights that appear most prominently in its own search results and displayed on YouTube, which it also owns.
By now, it should be clear that Google has only a narrow sphere of rights to protect, all of them being its own. Initiatives that appear to be in the public interest are more often than not one of two things: 1) smoke and mirrors for a business venture or 2) a PR play to support the company’s increasingly powerful lobbying wing.
This award, and indeed the think-tank awarding it, are nothing more than the latter, as anyone outside of Mountain View can plainly see.