back to article Antitrust battle latest: Google, Facebook 'colluded' to smash Apple's privacy protections

Several years ago, to deal with the competitive threat of header bidding – a way for multiple ad exchanges to get a fair shot at winning an automated auction for ad space – Google allegedly hatched a plan called "Jedi" to ensure that its ad exchange always won. And in 2017, after Facebook announced plans to support header …

  1. Omidia

    Shocked!!

    Shocked I tell you!

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Actually I am a bit

      I didn't think I could be surprised by how low Google could stoop, but these allegations and colluding with Facebook, I have to admit I'm surprised. And ashamed, since I really shouldn't be surprised.

    2. MajorDoubt
      Alert

      I thought they were our friends, who cared about us, the product

      I too am shocked, would these multinational corporations that only care about profit at the cost of everything else,

      engage in activities that would make them billions of dollars (even if it hurt society at large),

      like they have done repeatedly in the past and were never really held accountable (just slap on the wrist fines),

      do the same thing over and over , just to make money??

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: I thought they were our friends, who cared about us, the product

        I think we also have to remember there are people behind these companies and its those people that are evil and so low that they'd do this, to line their own pockets.

      2. Richocet

        Re: I thought they were our friends, who cared about us, the product

        I thought they could turn a profit without engaging in racketeering. There is a lot of money to be made in search advertising.

        Is the only difference between a large corporation and an organised crime enterprise that one is listed on the stock exchange?

  2. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    When you get into bed with Facebook

    Expect to get…..

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: When you get into bed with Facebook

      Expect to get an STD (Socially Transmitted Disease).

      In this case I am sure infection was passed in either direction.

  3. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    So What

    The problem with this is that even if they are found guilty - so what? They'll get fined, but it'll be a few hours profit and Google will shrug it off and reinforce the lesson that they can do whatever they want. They'll continue doing bad stuff, wiping out the opposition, and until people go to jail or the company is broken up nothing will change.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: So What

      This is exactly the type of case that needs to end up with executives personally in the dock on criminal charges of fraud, and the advertising branch of Google forcibly broken away from the rest of the company.

      Billion dollar fines are just the start, but not enough on its own

      1. cdrcat

        Re: So What

        I am not a Google lover by any means, but Google *mostly* does a pretty good job given the ad industry.

        If Android and gmail were split off, I imagine the first thing would be to upgrade install the worst possible uninstallable Apps and sell off your data to the spammiest bidder. How many times have I seen a product go to shit when it changed hands? Imagine if Microsoft owned Android?

        The Chrome development team are uniquely talented - the reliability is astonishing and their speed of development is unlike any other team I know of (I don’t like all the new features but I really love others, and W3 was trying to spec some epically stupid stuff so fuck them) . Three other well paid teams are shit in comparison from my very long and painful experience. Imagine what would happen to Chrome if it was sold? It is open source - a gift to us all - so you don’t have to use Chrome.

        I am most dissatisfied with Google search and YouTube - the gradual degradation with more and more adverts is killing those for me.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Devil

          Imagine if Microsoft owned Android?

          It already thinks it does... But I see your point. Google still tries to maintain a "don't be evil" facade (it dropped the phrase from its actual corporate charter years ago) whereas Microsoft were evil before it was cool, and these days don't even pretend to have any qualms about treating users as no more than data-cows to be milked, tracked and herded.

          Chrome is great, except for all the anti-features like DRM (have you noticed how some websites are now 'un-screenshottable' in Chrome?), Google tracking (fortunately since chromium is open source, you can remove the tracking but i'm sure Google will have their revenge if you do), aggressive shutting down of certain ports and protocols.. The ban on text reflow on mobile... Not to mention adding web-breaking features that No Web Browser Should Ever Need, like WASM. Google is really asserting its interests through Chrome, and they are heavily aligned against most users' interests.

          Youtube seems to be just as much a sewer of clickbait, misinformation and hate as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok - the only difference is that most things on YouTube are accessible without being in 'the club' i.e. a friend/subscriber/follower. (not all, mind - they still have subscriber-only / unlisted videos) and the 'recommendation' algorithm really homes in on some scary crap. (see: ElsaGate etc.)

          Also, Google are really cracking down hard (with the full support of Priti Patel) on anonymity (aka not-monetised users). If you use Incognito (or worse, Tor), you are sometimes (or if Tor, always) faced with an infinite captcha and are completely unable to use Google services.

          But yes I agree they have mostly done a good job with GMail (that's not to say they are averse to analysing your emails to sell ads to you and anyone who contacts you) but at least it does provide a good service.

          Google Search, meanwhile is going down the pan. It often fails to return results for things that are in plain sight on the internet e.g. github, and so much sponsored content and click-tracking. I have switched to DuckDuckGo but it is so slow for some reason? In search of another alternative tbh.

          Back to the topic of TFA: Personally I would *in theory* happily pay to not have my data slurped, but in practice I don't trust these guys as far as I could throw them, and I think they would simply take my money AND my data.

          1. steviebuk Silver badge

            Re: Imagine if Microsoft owned Android?

            "Youtube seems to be just as much a sewer of clickbait, misinformation and hate as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok "

            You're looking at the wrong channels then. Check out Techmoan, Skill Builder, Mikeselectricstuff all good and all respectable and useful.

            1. sabroni Silver badge

              Re: You're looking at the wrong channels then.

              Or you're allowing it to autoplay the next best ranked video.

              Did you not read the report where they set up accounts and left youtube to select videos for them. They promote misinformation and hate.

            2. A. Coatsworth
              Mushroom

              Re: Imagine if Microsoft owned Android?

              You seem to be working on Jacob's Sodom and Gomorrah logic: "if I find 3 just channels, won't you spare the platform?"

              Which I don't think applies in this case: the fact that some channels are respectable and useful don't hide the fact that most content, and in particular the most promoted content is a utter cesspool.

              Nukes, orbit, etc.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So What

          Not sure if this is relevant, but i wanted to purchase a niche product, for RF engineering, for a personal project.

          I searched for the product numbering, quite distinct, and was using google UK website, and used UK in the search string.

          One UK vendor came up on the first page, and the next was on the second page. So i purchased from the second page vendor as this was the most apt/trusted.

          I regularly get this, using the 2nd, 3rd or 4th pages to get the vendor i want. Usually, the others are non UK despite i put UK in the search string and google UK site.

          1. Dinanziame Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: So What

            Usually, the others are non UK despite i put UK in the search string and google UK site.

            Pro-tip: You can restrict to .uk domains by putting site:uk in the search query. This works for websites (e.g site:theregister.com in the search query to only get results on theregister.com), but also for TLDs.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So What

          @cdrcat

          Your words are... "It is open source - a gift to us all - so you don’t have to use Chrome."

          My words are... "I am going to puke". A gift huh? A gift people knowingly or, far more worrying, unknowingly pay for? Some gift.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: So What

      This has the potential to go further, with at least 38 states involved and the fact that the Sherman act provides for engagement with anti-trust agencies in other countries, this could end up as a full on anti-monopoly.

      With so many attorneys general involved, it seems clear a lot of people in a lot of states are missing out on $, if those same companies and others with influence are operating in other countries and also suffering there, it becomes international.

      This is useful re the legalities: https://www.globallegalinsights.com/practice-areas/cartels-laws-and-regulations/usa#chaptercontent9

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: So What

      Basically they are exploiting edge cases of capitalism that have not been regulated property. That's why you have abnormal growth of some of those companies.

      Normally in such cases if a company suddenly have massive revenues, seemingly little profit then that should raise red flags.

      If a company is in a position when they have so much money and influence that they can sway elections or meddle in the legislative process, then they should be regarded as a threat to democracy and dismantled.

    4. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: So What

      They get fined, then keep appealing until the government runs out of money to fight at which point they'll settle for a massive amount less than the original fine. Google will go quiet for a year then do it all over again.

    5. Richocet

      Re: So What

      A key feature of this is that Google and Facebook colluded on this one (as opposed to Microsoft antitrust cases in the past). This puts them at risk of violating RICO legislation which is potentially much worse for them.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Head of "Lawyers for Trump"

    I don't know the truth of any of this but it's coming from Ken Paxton so I wouldn't take it as gospel. All I can say is that he took part in efforts to undermine the democratic process in the US election last year and to effect a coup d'erat via the courts

    In this day and age it's probably all true to some degree and everyone plays dirty.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Head of "Lawyers for Trump"

      Just because he's bought into the cult of Trump's election lies doesn't mean everything he does is automatically wrong.

      Typically one of the state AG offices leads efforts like this - and it has to be one of the bigger states since you need a pretty good team when you are going up against the likes of Google and Facebook. That's why you usually see these sorts of things headlined by AGs from California, New York, Texas, Illinois, etc. and not Nebraska or Rhode Island.

  5. Wade Burchette

    << "Just because [Texas Attorney General Ken] Paxton says something doesn't make it true," a Google spokesperson said in an email to The Register. >>

    At the same time, just because a Google spokesperson said something doesn't make it true either. We will have to see what the courts discover.

    1. I am David Jones
      Holmes

      What the spokesperson said is factually correct but it’s a long way from being a denial of the allegations…

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re Ken Paxton

      If ever there was a lawyer who is a scumbag then he is only challenged for the king of scumbags lawyers by Rudi G.

      Just search for the crimes for which he has already been indicted for.

  6. Pseu Donyme

    re: slowing down and delaying the ePrivacy Regulation

    All the more reason to make on-line advertising explicitly and strictly opt-in in it then.

  7. OwainR
    Headmaster

    Does big tech ever learn

    All these antitrust suites against google seem ever so reminiscent of Microsoft in the 90s. The big difference is Google has little diversifications in revenue streams like MS does.

    1. HandleAlreadyTaken

      Re: Does big tech ever learn

      Yup, it's almost a mirror case. Also funny how Google was an enthusiastic participant in the Microsoft antitrust case, and now it's doing the exact things they were complaining about at the time. Goose, gander, eh?

      I wonder whether the DOJ has learned something from the Microsoft case too. At the time there was talk about breaking up Microsoft in separate companies, making it difficult to use their monopoly in some area to push a monopoly in a different one, but it didn't happen in the end. I personally think it unlikely, but maybe this time they'll decide to break Google up, and move the ad business to a separate company (who can FOAD).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Does big tech ever learn

        Google was an enthusiastic participant in the Microsoft antitrust case

        Huh? Google essentially didn't exist at the time of the Microsoft antitrust case. The case ended in 2001, and Google was not famous or powerful until much later.

    2. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: Does big tech ever learn

      Google are diversified to an extent:

      Ads

      Google Cloud

      Google Workspace

      Hardware - Chromebooks, Pixel, Chromecast, Nest etc...

      Android

      Sure, there's a lot of overlapping stuff due to ads underlying a lot of it, but you could definitely split it up.

      Not as diverse as Microsoft, but still, plenty to split.

  8. Jonjonz

    Lawyers and eventually Judges That Get IT

    It has taken a generation or so for lawyers and eventually those on the bench to have grown up with technology and have a clue about what big tech is running circles around privacy and fair trade.

    This is hopeful, but sadly my just be a high profile shake down. Big tech will just have to "speak" (as in Citizen's United) a little more with the litigants to make this all go away. Compared to the loss if they had to stop these practices, bribes are pin money.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong hero

    From an earlier Reg article on this case [ "In this week’s episode of Texas Attorney General: Google faces lawsuit accusing it of crushing ad-tech rivals"]

    > "section 141 in today's complaint, which states Google struck a deal with Facebook in 2015 to secretly access people's end-to-end encrypted WhatsApp messages and files .... However – and far be it from us to defend Google – WhatsApp didn't complete its implementation of end-to-end encryption until 2016. And what the lawsuit describes sounds exactly like the chat app's publicly documented opt-in Google Drive backup feature as opposed to a hidden backdoor to data. ... Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah – all states with a Republican Attorney General, like Paxton – are listed on the complaint along with Texas."

    Ken Paxton is not a man of the law, he is creature of political malfeasance. He knows no truth except that power exists to deny justice.

    If you are hoping to extract any actual useful correct information in the lawsuit you are wasting your time.

  10. Tessier-Ashpool

    When the Devil says “Don’t be evil”…

    …you know he’s wearing a tricky mask.

  11. imanidiot Silver badge

    Not a word of untruth

    "We've been clear about our support for consistent privacy rules around the globe"

    Yes, they are very much in support of consistent unified privacy rules around the globe. That much is very clear from their lobbying. It's just that their idea of privacy rules is "users have no privacy and all your data are belong to us."

  12. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    2 Slimes Being Slimey

    Given the already abysmal reputations of the 2 slimes I am not surprised they would sink to new lows with prompting.

  13. Blackjack Silver badge

    No wonder they no longer use "Don't be evil."

  14. TheMole

    "Don't be evil"

    When you abandon "Don't be evil" as your company motto, it might be a clue....

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