back to article Google again accused of willfully destroying evidence in Android antitrust battle

Google Chat histories handed over by the web giant in ongoing Android antitrust litigation reveal the biz has been systematically destroying evidence, according to those suing the big G. "Google employees regularly and intentionally diverted to 'history off' Chats [sic] conversations about Google’s anticompetitive Revenue …

  1. Dizzy Dwarf

    It's all part of the 'do no evil' thingywotsit

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A simple autocorrect error occurred during an update of the internal company code of conduct document in 2007 and it changed to "see no evil"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Awww, you know its a shame they don't do that to the telemetry data they collect from my phone.

  3. DS999 Silver badge

    Because they know the penalties for this will be less

    If the plaintiffs got all the evidence they probably win the case easily. If they can only get an adverse ruling for the jury (i.e. the judge will instruct them to assume the worst about stuff that was deleted) they will probably get enough jurors who give them the benefit of the doubt because they still believe Google is a force for good they'll get off or at least get a lesser penalty.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "an appropriate remedy for a later time"

    I would say about ten trillion dollars.

    I'm sure that that would make Alphabet pay attention.

    Because if you don't deliver an uppercut, it will just be defined as cost of business.

    Well sorry, but this should not be a cost of business. This should definitely cost you your business.

  5. Snowy Silver badge

    Destroying evidence

    or not keeping evidence?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Destroying evidence

      It's a pretty easy distinction:

      Not keeping evidence: Sorry, we didn't store that.

      Destroying evidence: Sorry, we didn't store that even though we had a legal requirement to do so, the people involved knew about that requirement, and the system was already set up to store it by default and had to be deliberately altered in order not to.

      It's the second one.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Destroying evidence + Risk Management = Big Savings!

        How much if we get caught for the initial boo-boo? How much do we save if we don't save messages and still come out smelling bad... That's a no brainer!

        1. Youngone Silver badge

          Re: Destroying evidence + Risk Management = Big Savings!

          Google don't lose in either case. The worst case for them is they get a fine, even a big one is nothing to them. They might have to throw a peon under the bus but so what? That's what peons are for.

          This is just capitalism working as designed.

      2. Snowy Silver badge

        Re: Destroying evidence

        If they had done a better job of destroying evidence then they would not have know they where not recording evidence?

        I do wonder how this clashes with self incrimination?

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Destroying evidence

          The right against self-incrimination applies to having to testify against yourself (or, in the US, against your spouse). It has nothing to do with destroying evidence or failing to retain evidence you had a legal obligation to retain.

          1. Snowy Silver badge

            Re: Destroying evidence

            If they now have to record everything can it be said that everything they now say is testimony?

    2. Blazde

      Re: Destroying evidence

      'Willful' is the operative word

      "Your honour, I did no such thing as murder the victim! I merely neglected to keep him alive for a handful of seconds as my knife made it's way through all four chambers of his heart"

    3. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: Destroying evidence

      The issue, I think, is that they had legal holds and demands for evidence to be maintained and handed over to the court. Knowing this, there's evidence their managers knew they had to preserve information, but wilfully decided not to.

      So, it is destruction of evidence, rather than simply not storing it in the first place.

      It'd be like in the UK - if we get a subject access request, and after that point go through and delete all the relevant records and reply with "we don't have anything", we'd be breaking the law. If, however, prior to ever getting such a request, during our normal operation, we wiped that data, and then we got the request, we'd not be breaking the law by saying we don't have anything.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Destroying evidence

      When I was employed by a media company someone told me that it was cheaper to lose/wipe the tapes than the Ofcom fine for the offence. I didn’t believe them at first but it was actually true. Then along came and you couldn’t have an incident with the tapes as there aren’t any tapes. This records the output of radio stations and allows access to the recordings through their website for subscribers*. Sadly for the radio broadcasters Ofcom have a subscription to Radiomonitor.

      *they also monitor the tracks played and you can get airplay information across radio stations.

  6. Orv Silver badge

    Man, it's not often you see evidence where people are basically saying,

    "I'd like you to do a crime."

    'Sorry, I can't, that would be a crime.'

    "Well, you can wait while we do the crime. I do crime all the time."

    1. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

      To tl;dr several cases covered in Matt Levine's newsletter Money Stuff: yes, apparently this exact exchange is actually very common.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Yes, the chat exchange quoted in the article was marvelously stupid. Particularly since they could have just added a lawyer to the chat and let it fall under privileged communication. Privilege isn't bulletproof but it offers significant protection against discovery.

      Personally, if I were running Google ... well, they wouldn't be in this situation in the first place, which is why I wouldn't be running Google, and so on. But in every case where there was evidence of someone expressly working around a hold, like in that quoted chat, I'd fire the instigator. No appeal, no exceptions. I wouldn't want criminals working for me, and I wouldn't want idiots working for me either.

  7. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    "We're Google, the Largest Search Engine / Data-Sucking Complex in the World

    ... and yet somehow, we just can't find that information for you, LOL."

    I wonder if Google Chat secretly keeps the data, even when you turn "history" off, because, well, it's a Google service and they're pathological data-hoovers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "We're Google, the Largest Search Engine / Data-Sucking Complex in the World

      Given how keen Goole is on data they should not have I'd consider that pretty close to a certainty.

      The only solution is to talk about things that could get Google into legal trouble - as you have seen, in that case they're very keen to lose the data as soon as possible..

  8. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

    The real drawback of Work from Home

    No record keeping requirement for watercooler conversations. Wonder if this'll lead to more companies mandating their employees come in to work...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This One Simple Trick...

    Haven't they been instructed to add a company attorney to every chat? Then it's privileged and they can't be forced to produce it. I worked for a place that encouraged this behavior.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This One Simple Trick...

      Now entering murky waters. I asked two company lawyers about this practice (our local counsel and our regional counsel) and received two different answers. The former directed me to an article in a legal journal, which concluded "It's complicated". Nevertheless, it is prudent and common practice.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This One Simple Trick...

      You might get away with this if used selectively, but I'm pretty sure if you did it as a matter of routine, and something came before a judge, you'd soon end up with the judge making a Very Frowny Face and saying "Fork it over on pain of judicial pain". Routine business communication is NOT justifiably part of client-attorney privileged communication unless you're a law firm.

    3. TangoDelta72
      Thumb Up

      Re: This One Simple Trick...

      Sorry I couldn't find a better clip, but around the 1:30 mark is where it gets to the point. It's all good, man.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And yet, they hang on to YOUR data into perpetuity

    No, seriously. In their first Terms, Google even used that precise word "perpetuity", but they have since changed it. It still means the same, but now they use language that is less likely to alarm you.

    Go and read their Terms properly. IMHO, the only reason they have so many users is because nobody really does or is unable to think through the implications.

  11. ExampleOne

    What does The determination of an appropriate non-monetary sanction requires further proceedings. translate to? Is that they are getting a slap on the wrist, or is it code for something more severe than a straight default judgement? Interestingly, the judge appears to leave open the possibility of a default judgement once discovery is complete!

    As I understand it, the conduct the judge has entered a ruling of fact over is covered under the US criminal code in the Obstruction of Justice section.

    1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Head googler goes to the slam until the evidence is presented, I would hope. C suite members start following each day it's not found.

  12. iron Silver badge

    There is no openness in Google Play for developers, just tone deaf AI responses.

  13. Troutdog

    Not excusing Google here.

    It is very common for companies involved in (or anticipating) litigation to discourage leaving a paper trail (or e-trail). It is wrong, but frankly very common.

    A couple common ways are face to face discussions or phone calls between trusted employees. Slack and email are not good if you are trying to be sneaky.

    As another poster commented, the punishment is likely less disagreeable to Google than having the conversations exposed.

  14. ecofeco Silver badge

    Hey, I know what!

    Let's do crimes! And record the fact we did not record it even though we were supposed to.

    How can you tell when a corporation lying? Their lips are moving.

    Never, never, EVER trust a corporation.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't say that word!

    Oh I'm wondering how brave the litigant lawyers are, and how forgiving the judge might be, now.

    "About this group chat that wasn't recorded... Have you heard of the term omertà, as used by the Mafia?

  16. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

    If you don't have anything to hide...

    We've chosen not to link directly to the public filings because they contain personal information.

    you don't have anything to fear.

    I suppose that the public filings don't show in a Google Search, so go to Bing

  17. Tree

    What is up?

    If they really wanted to hide their evil ways from the police, the key is to use WhatsApp!

  18. Tree

    Gurgle is evil

    The most evil company might be FaceBUTT. So great that the Metaverse is not succeeding as a cash cow, because it was always bull.

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