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Evil in the Media: New York Times Takes Sides Against Google

Yesterday the New York Times published an OpEd titled “The Emperor of All Identities” by Pamela Jones Harbour. The article starts by hailing Google as “the most central conduit of information” while having close to 80 percent of the U.S. search market and nearly 98 percent of the total mobile market.

But slowly, the tone changes.

In the next paragraph, the article moves into how the Federal Trade Commission is “delaying” its decision on whether Google is using its might to drive away competition.

And all of a sudden Pamela writes:

“This would be a severe setback for Internet users. It will allow Google to continue to amass unbridled control over data gathering, with grave consequences for privacy and for consumer choice.”

Wait a minute… How is data gathering a “grave consequence” for the consumers, and how is this a “severe setback” for Internet surfers? She offers no information in her column to back up this accusation.

It is natural for any company to collect data on its clients to use in improving its products/services and to continue upselling them on new products. So I was puzzled by this assertion and couldn’t quiet make sense of it.

Then the accusation continues:

“For now, Google uses the data to sell targeted ads, but who says the company’s use of the data will be restricted to that purpose?”

My question is this: who says they’re up to evil using that data?

That’s all they need the information for – exactly as Pamela explains – to sell their ads. They have never done anything to harm their users unlike Yahoo! and Microsoft which sold the database of their users’ private information to politicians to send unsolicited emails.

For those who are curious as to what Google does with the personal data it collects, the answer is provided here. On Google’s Policy and Principles page, they state:

“At Google, we are keenly aware of the trust our users place in us, and our responsibility to protect their privacy. We believe transparency and choice are the foundations of privacy. To help you make informed decisions about your own privacy, we work to let you know what information we collect when you use our products and services and how we use that information to improve your service. We also work to give you meaningful choices when possible about the information you provide to Google and to others. We encourage you to watch our videos, read our privacy policy and consult our Help Centers to find out more about privacy at Google.”

If you’re seriously concerned about what Google does with your data, I recommend reading this March 2012 post from Mashable titled “5 Things Google Does with Your Data.”

Getting back to Pamela’s OpEd, here’s the climax of her article.

“Now, the FTC has another chance to protect consumers, promote innovation and ensure fair competition online” by restricting Google’s data collection abilities, perhaps.

And Pamela ends her OpEd by suggesting that the FTC’s decision against Google would be an example of “democracy” on the Web by creating more “competition” for Google.

None of this made any sense to me until I got to the very end: Pamela is a Microsoft lawyer.


Suddenly, all became clear. This OpEd piece is nothing but a political ploy to change the opinion of her ex colleagues at the FTC to please her employer: Microsoft.

I’m however surprised that such a respected media outlet published such a weakly argued, politically one-sided and financially motivated OpEd that bashes Google.

Evil in the Media: New York Times Takes Sides Against Google was last modified: July 18th, 2019 by Ali Husayni
  • The New York Times just isn\’t what it used to be. Many liberal journalists feel no need to back up their arguments with solid evidence. I\’d think that Google might have a libel case to make.

    This is what happens when even the mainstream media hires writers who didn\’t go to journalism school or have forgotten the principles they learned.

    Considering the size of Google, I\’m sure their lawyers could prevail in court.

    Lisa C 7 years ago
  • Very nice post. I cleared my mind when i heard that Pamela from Microsoft, and yes i can\’t believe NYT agreed to publish an article.

  • Very good post, I like it.

    Muhammad Iqbal Khan 7 years ago
  • Dear Ali:

    While I recognise that it\’s tough to take a negative op-ed with respect to one\’s own business, particularly one from as big a platform as the NYT, I have to say as a journalist that I see nothing intrinsically wrong with the piece you reference in your article.

    We are all free to agree or disagree with the tone, the opinions expressed, or the conclusions drawn. That is, after all, why it falls in the category of Opinion/Editorial. The writer published her association with Microsoft, demonstrating the first rule of journalistic transparency: acknowledging a potential bias.

    That she falls on one side of the issue is perhaps not coincidence, but then it\’s perhaps not coincidence that your expressed opinions run parallel to the interests of Google. I would suggest that if you take issue with her views, you address those views and challenge her facts, her conclusions, the validity of her arguments; her association with her employer, given that it was acknowledged isn\’t germane…the readers can see that for themselves and can give that as much weight as they feel it calls for.

    Best wishes,
    Patrick Guntensperger
    Pagun (pagunview.com)

    pagun 7 years ago
    • Thanks Patrick for your sincere feedback. I agree that Pamela is stating her affiliation with Microsoft and the letter is obviously biased. I\’m also not arguing with some of the negative practices Google has adapted since going public. However, Pamela\’s piece is lacking evidence to back her accusations. Doesn\’t matter what kind of affiliations we have; as human beings, we need to have integrity and we have to be just. Yet you could argue that her job as Microsoft\’s lawyer is to take their side. I don\’t necessarily believe that, but let\’s say you are right. I\’m not so much surprised as to what she writes…

      What I\’m saying is that the media in general, and the NY Times in this case, need to change course in publishing anything and everything without respect to the integrity and analysis of the piece.

      Let\’s go back to English Composition 101. One of the first things we learned was to use \”logic\” in our writings. We also learned to back up what we write by either research, quoting others, or solid proof. I\’m going to add that if you are accusing someone or a group of people (in this case), ethically, you need to have solid proof.

      So, the OpEd is weak from many perspectives and the NY Times should not have published it.

      Ali Husayni 7 years ago
  • Very good post. I agree, we shouldn\’t assume they\’re up to evil things. But at the same time we deserve to know what\’s going on.

    Whitney 7 years ago