Should Technology Companies Be Held To A Higher Standard?

On July 29, 2020, the United States Congress’ House Committee on Judiciary will conduct a hearing titled “Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google” under the broader Antitrust Investigation of the Rise and Use of Market Power Online and the Adequacy of Existing Antitrust Laws and Current Enforcement Levels. In this virtual hearing, Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are expected to answer questions raised by the House Committee’s Democractic and Republican members. In addition to asking questions, it is expected that House Committee members will discuss Freedom of Speech, censorship, breaking large technology companies along with the usual jabs at each other.

In my previous posts, What Questions Do You Have For Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook? and What Questions Do You Have For Sundar Pichai of Google?, I provided a list of possible questions that could be asked so that the public is aware of what is going on. In this post, I am going to provide some questions that should be asked from these technology titans as well.

Some Questions

  1. How many companies has your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) acquired that were in direct competition with your company?
  2. What did your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) do with the existing products, processes, people, services and technologies of the companies that you acquired?
  3. Can your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) provide a list of companies that still exist under your umbrella after acquisition?
  4. What procedures do you have in place to strike a balance between anti-poaching and people’s right to apply to any job that they want?
  5. What is your company’s (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) business relationships with each other?
  6. What user information do your companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) share with federal, state and local governments?
  7. What antitrust laws should be in the books for your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google)?
  8. As companies move into your cloud enviroments, what specific steps is your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) taking to safeguard against using your client’s cloud data for your own competitive advantage?
  9. What is your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) doing to safeguard against internal and external data breaches for the purpose of corporate espionage?
  10. As Artificial Intelligence (AI), takes over almost every industry, what steps is your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) taking to not be a monoply in this area?
  11. Would your company (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) take an oath aganist misuse of data?

So, what questions do you have for Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google?

Here are some of my comments as the hearing continues:

What Questions Do You Have For Sundar Pichai Of Google?

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on December 11, 2018, to discuss “the widening gap of distrust between technology companies and the American people.” Prior to the hearings, Sundar Pichai’s prepared statement was released to the public.

Following is the prepared written statement of Sundar Pichai, along with a list of my own questions at the end:


HEARING BEFORE THE UNITED STATES HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE ON “TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY: EXAMINING GOOGLE AND ITS DATA COLLECTION, USE, AND FILTERING PRACTICES”

December 11, 2018

Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Nadler, distinguished members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.

I joined Google 15 years ago and have been privileged to serve as CEO for the past three years—though my love for information and technology began long before that. It’s been 25 years since I made the US my home. Growing up in India, I have distinct memories of when my family got its first phone and our first television. Each new technology made a profound difference in our lives. Getting the phone meant that I could call ahead to the hospital to check that the blood results were in before I traveled 2 hours by bus to get them. The television, well, it only had one channel, but I couldn’t have been more thrilled by its arrival! Those experiences made me a technology optimist, and I remain one today. Not only because I believe in technology, but because I believe in people and their ability to use technology to improve their lives. I ’m incredibly proud of what Google does to empower people around the world, especially here in the US.

I’d like to take a moment to share a bit of background on that. 20 years ago, two students—one from Michigan and one from Maryland— came together at Stanford with a big idea: to provide users with access to the world’s information. That mission still drives everything we do, whether that’s saving you a few minutes on your morning commute or helping doctors detect disease and save lives. Today, Google is more than a search engine. We are a global company that is committed to building products for everyone. That means working with many industries, from education and healthcare to manufacturing and entertainment.

Even as we expand into new markets we never forget our American roots. It’s no coincidence that a company dedicated to the free flow of information was founded right here in the US. As an American company, we cherish the values and freedoms that have allowed us to grow and serve so many users. I am proud to say we do work, and we will continue to work, with the government to keep our country safe and secure. Over the years our footprint has expanded far beyond California to states such as Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Alabama. Today in the US, we’re growing faster outside of the Bay Area than within it. I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country and see all the places that are powering our digital economy—from Clarksville, to Pittsburgh, to San Diego, where we recently launched a partnership with the USO to help veterans and military families. Along the way, I’ve met many people who depend on Google to learn new skills, find jobs, or build new businesses. Over the past year, we have supported more than 1.5 million American businesses. Over the past three, we have made direct contributions of $150 billion to the US economy, added more than 24,000 employees, and paid over $43 billion to US partners across Search, YouTube, and Android. These investments strengthen our communities and support thousands of American jobs.

They also allow us to provide great services to our users to help them through the day. It’s an honor to play this role in people’s lives, and it’s one we know comes with great responsibility. Protecting the privacy and security of our users has long been an essential part of our mission. We have invested an enormous amount of work over the years to bring choice, transparency, and control to our users. These values are built into every product we make.

We recognize the important role of governments, including this Committee, in setting rules for the development and use of technology. To that end, we support federal privacy legislation and proposed a legislative framework for privacy earlier this year.

Users also look to us to provide accurate, trusted information. We work hard to ensure the integrity of our products, and we’ve put a number of checks and balances in place to ensure they continue to live up to our standards. I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests. We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions—and we have no shortage of them among our own employees. Some of our Googlers are former servicemen and women who have risked much in defense of our country. Some are civil libertarians who fiercely defend freedom of expression. Some are parents who worry about the role technology plays in our households. Some—like me—are immigrants to this country, profoundly grateful for the freedoms and opportunities it offers. Some of us are many of these things.

Let me close by saying that leading Google has been the greatest professional honor of my life. It’s a challenging moment for our industry, but I’m privileged to be here today. I greatly appreciate you letting me share the story of Google and our work to build products worthy of the trust users place in us.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to answering your questions.


The committee members asked questions on behalf of the Google users in general and the American public in particular. Along the same lines, I have compiled the following questions that might help:

  1. What do you define as political bias?
  2. How would you verify/account for political biases in your search results?
  3. Do you think Net Neutrality hurts or harms freedom of speech for your information-based products?
  4. Will you be censoring search results and other information products based on the origination of the inquiry?
  5. Do you have tools to make sure and verify countries aren’t blocking information?
  6. Do you think a US version of GDPR is needed? How will this affect your business?
  7. What recourse do you have for those whose data was breached under your company?
  8. Can you share the report of the independent study related to political bias and what steps have you taken from that study to improve your search results and other information products?
  9. What steps are you taking or plan to take to reduce information bias at Google?
  10. Can you walk through what happens to data at rest and in motion across search, Gmail and Google’s other information products?
  11. What is the lowest threshold in term of money for anyone to advertise on Google and how is the validity/reality of these ads done?
  12. What processes and tools you have in place that makes every employee and business conscious of their responsibility for safeguarding Google users’ data?
  13. Which other social media outlets are also responsible for the spreading of fake news?
  14. How is Google going to work with governments, United Nations (UN) and other international entities? What data are you going to be sharing with these entities?
  15. How will Google strike a balance between free speech and censorship (intentional and unintentional)?
  16. What background investigations would you be doing on businesses that are on Google?
  17. How are you proactively looks at threats at all levels from a broader prospective?
  18. Does Google’s culture give preference to moral obligation versus profits only?
  19. How many independent studies have occurred across all of Google’s information products to check for misinformation threats?
  20. How much do you think is the personal responsibility of Google users’ biases when it comes to sharing fake news on purpose or by accident? What would happen to these users?
  21. As you utilize Artificial Intelligence, these systems can also have inherent biases leading to false positives. What are you doing to address this?
  22. What would Google do if asked by friendly governments to interfere with what information other countries’ get across all information products?
  23. If your user’s data is stored outside the country whose laws would you abide by, the users’ country or the country where data resides or where data is in motion?

Since Google is the most used search engine in the world along with its active participation in many industries, it is your right to ask your questions through your senators and representatives. Feel free to ask questions below as well.

So, what questions do you have for Sundar Pichai of Google?

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How To Save Tweets Using Free Tools

Twitter is a great free tool to send, receive and share micro (small) messages (aka tweets) with other Twitter users. These tweets are limited to 280 characters (as of writing this post) and can include images and videos. Once you login to your Twitter account, it defaults to Home where you can see your timeline. This timeline shows all the tweets from the users that you follow on Twitter. These users can be people and/or organizations.

Your timeline can get long (would seem like infinite scrolling) if you follow many users and those users post at different times of the day. This means is that you have to be constantly checking Twitter to see what other users are tweeting about. For most people, this can be very time-consuming. No worries, there is a solution (a little applet) that can help.

Here is what you will need:

  1. Twitter Account (free)
  2. Google Account (free)
  3. IFTTT Account (free)

Here are the steps for IFTTT:

  1. Log in to IFTTT
  2. Click on New Applet
  3. Click on ‘+this’IFTTT 1
  4. Click on the Twitter serviceIFTTT 2
  5. Click on the trigger ‘New tweet by a specific user’IFTTT 3.png
  6. Type the Twitter user name you want follow and click on ‘Create trigger’IFTTT 4
  7. Click on ‘+that’IFTTT 5
  8. Click on Google SheetsIFTTT 6
  9. Click on ‘Add row to spreadsheet’IFTTT 7
  10. Verify what information you want in the Google Spreadsheets rows, the Google Sheets location and then click ‘Create action’IFTTT 8
  11. Verify applet information and then click on Finish.
    IFTTT 9

Congratulations you have created an applet on IFTTT! Now, simply go to your Google Sheets and see the tweets being collected automatically!

But wait there is more! The tweets that you are collecting can be used to do many things such as:

  1. Easily search through the Twitter user’s tweets
  2. Determine when (day and time) the Twitter user is most active
  3. Determine the most words used by the Twitter user

Get Started on Google’s G Suite and get 20% off the first year on either G Suite Basic plan or G Suite Business plan by using thee promotion codes:

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Note:

  1. Don’t forget to link your Google account to the IFTTT account
  2. Google Sheets don’t count toward your Google account size limit
  3. Google Sheets have a limit of 2000 rows (by default) but more rows can be added
  4. Adhere to all rules and regulations pertaining to Twitter, Google, and IFTTT

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Future Considerations for Alphabet Inc.

A couple of weeks ago Alphabet Inc. emerged as a parent holding company of Google as announced by Larry Page on Google’s blog. The two main reasons given for this move is to make the company cleaner and more accountable. By cleaner, it means that products that are not related to each other would become separate wholly-owned subsidiaries of Alphabet Inc. which includes Google, Calico, X Lab, Ventures and Capital, Fiber and Nest Labs. By becoming more accountable, it means that leaders of these wholly-owned subsidies would be held to even higher standards and accountability of where the money is and should be spent. This move would help Wall Street understand that Alphabet is willing and structurally capable of going into areas that are unrelated.

It seems that on the surface the announcement of creating Alphabet Inc. has deemed to be a good move as many pundits and professors have pointed out ever since its emergence. The reasons of cleanliness and accountability are great for internal purposes. However, if we dig a little deeper we would find that there are external purposes that are at play here as well. Firstly, due to Alphabet Inc.’s cleaner approach, mergers and acquisitions of unrelated industries would become much easier and thus accountability of each wholly-owned subsidiaries would be justifiable to Wall Street. Secondly, Alphabet Inc. would now be able to enter into industries or create new industries altogether. This move could mean that Alphabet Inc. could also be the next big 3D manufacturer of electronic equipment or even the next Big Bank that finally removes paper-based transactions. While both of these examples are interesting and achievable due to Alphabet Inc.’s deep pockets. In order for Alphabet Inc. to really disrupt or create new industries, strategic consideration should be taken into the following:

Currently

In the Future

Who is leading the organization(s)?

 

Who should lead the organization(s)?
What processes are being followed?What processes should be followed?
Where are the products and services being deployed?Where products and services should be deployed?

 

When do people, processes, technologies, products, and services disrupt/create markets?When should people, processes, technologies, products, and services disrupt/create markets?
Why already bought companies make sense?Why companies should be bought?

Alphabet Inc.’s leadership also has to realize that any organizational structural changes are not without consequences. These consequences could entail: (1) Stocks could become more volatile as even any slightly negative news concerning the wholly-owned subsidiaries could affect Alphabet Inc. stocks, (2) Due to autonomy and fiefdom creation, collaboration across people, process, technologies, products and services among the wholly-owned subsidiaries could be compromised and (3) There could be rise of duplicative functional teams (e.g., HR, Finance, etc.) across all wholly-owned subsidiaries thus taking resources away from core business pursuits.

One of the ways to address the above-mentioned conglomerate issues would be to create a task force with enough teeth within Alphabet Inc., and cross-organizational teams across all wholly-owned subsidiaries who can help find and remedy these issues. This task force and its teams could be similar to internal consultants whose lessons learned and methodologies could help Alphabet Inc. become more efficient and effective. Perhaps these practices could also open the door for Alphabet Inc. to dominate the Management Consulting industry as well.

Organizational Changes

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