Civics: To Head Off Regulators, Google Makes Certain Words Taboo

Adrianne Jeffries:

As Google faces at least four major antitrust investigations on two continents, internal documents obtained by The Markup show its parent company, Alphabet, has been preparing for this moment for years, telling employees across the massive enterprise that certain language is off limits in all written communications, no matter how casual.

The taboo words include “market,” “barriers to entry,” and “network effects,” which is when products such as social networks become more valuable as more people use them.

“Words matter. Especially in antitrust law,” reads one document titled “Five Rules of Thumb for Written Communications.”

“Alphabet gets sued a lot, and we have our fair share of regulatory investigations,” reads another. “Assume every document will become public.”

The internal documents appear to be part of a self-guided training session for a wide range of the company’s more than 100,000 employees, from engineers to salespeople. One document, titled “Global Competition Policy,” says it applies not only to interns and employees but also to temps, vendors, and contractors.

The documents explain the basics of antitrust law and caution against loose talk that could have implications for government regulators or private lawsuits.

Shashana Wodinsky:

To spare you the misery of sitting through a parade of tech companies failing to be held to account, I decided to pull Zuck’s and Pichai’s three biggest waffles, wavers, and half-truths they told Congress about our privacy. If you want to follow along at home, here’s the Reuters video I’m referencing, and I’ll timestamp each of these quotes.

“We’ve long been working to comply with GDPR, and we’re in full compliance.” — Sundar Pichai, Google [2:53:32]

For some reason, Congressman Kelly Armstrong (D-ND) mentions that Google had, supposedly, “restricted advertising analytics” and cut down on the “portability of data” to comply with GDPR—the prevailing privacy law in the EU—despite the fact that we actually have our own data privacy statutes here in the States, under the CCPA which went into effect earlier this month. He then goes on to ask how Google’s working to comply with those laws in the EU, and Pichai responds that his company’s “long been working to comply with GDPR, we’re in full compliance, to the extent of my knowledge.”

 Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.