The harms Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google cause are directly related to how they make money – and their monopoly power immunizes them from competitive or consumer pressure – so policy change is the only path to achieving meaningful, sustainable reform. A list of their recent abuses is below.
8/16/2023: Amazon Adds Fee to Sellers That Ship Product Themselves: Based on documents reviewed by Bloomberg, Amazon implemented a new fee forcing third-party sellers to pay for products they sell on the Amazon Marketplace but ship themselves.
8/9/2023: Niagara County Extends Amazon Tax Breaks: Amazon gets an extension on the $124 million subsidy for its proposed distribution center in Niagara County despite delays on the project. As Investigative Post reports, this is just one more to add to the 110 facilities that have been delayed or closed in the past year-and-a-half.
2/1/2023: Amazon Faces More Penalties for Worker Safety Violations: OSHA inspections found that at Amazon warehouses in New York, Colorado and Idaho, workers faced a higher risk of lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders. Reuters reporters that this $47K fine came just two weeks after a $60K fine for the same violations at three other facilities.
7/6/2022: UK Competition Authority Investigates Amazon for Using Third Party Data and Self-Preferencing in “Buy Box” Selections: The UK Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into Amazon’s anticompetitive practices with third party seller data and using marketplace features to promote in-house products over third-party seller products.
1/26/22: Washington State Attorney General Ends Amazon’s Price-Fixing Program: The Attorney General’s Office found Amazon guilty of price-fixing using its “Sold by Amazon” program. Amazon agreed to pay a $2.25 million fine and shut down the program that forced sellers to comply with Amazon’s agreed upon prices.
11/18/21: Internal Documents Reveal Years of Grossly Inadequate Management of Customer Data: According to an investigation by Reveal and Wired, past heads of security at Amazon warned executives of various security risks with customer data, but instead of building out the security division, the company fired those who spoke out. As a manager of the security team told the reporters, “I would tell new hires, ‘Assume your budget is zero and go from there. Just be as frugal as you can.’ ”
6/29/21: Amazon Leverages Market Power to Force Beneficial Terms in Client Contracts, Including Stock Purchases and Board Representation: According to corporate filings and interviews, Amazon has made at least a dozen deals with publicly traded companies that allow it to purchase stocks at below-market value. Some of the deals also give Amazon board representation and priority to outbid acquisition offerings from other corporations.
3/25/21: Internal Documents Show Amazon’s Knowledge of Workers Urinating in Bottles to Meet Company Quotas: Amazon denied the accusations made by Congress members and labor advocates until internal documents, leaked to The Intercept, showed the Company’s clear knowledge of such behavior.
2/2/21: Amazon Fined $61M for Stealing Delivery Drivers’ Tips: The FTC fined Amazon $61.7M for taking Amazon Flex drivers’ tips over a two year period to cover the difference after Amazon lowered hourly rates. Amazon had lied by promoting tip benefits (and explicitly promised 100% of tips) in sign-up terms and in advertisements meant to recruit drivers.
12/22/20: Amazon Continues its Practice of Crushing Third-Party Sellers and Industry Competitors: The Wall Street Journal reports on a variety of anticompetitive practices Amazon is using to harm vendors and competitors. These include cloning successful products, suspending competing products on its platform, mimicking rivals like Shopify, and more.
12/4/20: NLRB Charges Amazon For Wrongfully Firing Workers: The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Amazon for firing a worker from Pennsylvania who spoke out about issues of pay and worker conditions. The hearing is scheduled for March 2021.
11/23/20: Amazon Relies on Private Operatives to Surveil Labor and Environmental Activism: Motherboard obtained leaked documents reveal Amazon’s use of private, Pinkerton operatives to monitor employee social activism that could impact Amazon’s operations.
9/22/20: Amazon Suppresses Competitors’ Ability to Buy Ads on Platform: According to employees involved in advertising decisions, Amazon restricts rivals and their ability to promote completing tech gadgets on the e-commerce platform.
9/17/20: Amazon Continued to List Drugs Used for Doping after Promising to Crack Down: The Markup found over 60 drugs (unapproved by the USDA) listed on Amazon that could be used for doping. This came months after an initial investigation in which Amazon promised to clamp down on such products.
9/7/20: Amazon Removes Tens of Thousands of Reviews: A Financial Times investigation found evidence of paid review activity on the platform.
9/1/20: Amazon Posts and following Backlash, Removes New Job Listing to Monitor Labor Organizing: The company deleted two “intelligence analyst” job listings that named responsibilities around monitoring labor organizing threats following widespread outcry on social media.
7/21/20: Amazon Marketplace is Riddled with Fake Reviews and Ratings: The Markup found fake ratings and reviews on Amazon, which shifted its review process in 2019 to become less transparent.
7/21/20: The NLRB is Questioning Amazon About Unlawful Retaliation Against Its Workers: Amazon fired at least six workers who were involved in protests that criticized the company’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon is now facing multiple inquiries from the National Labor Relations Board about whether these firings constituted unlawful retaliation against workers who spoke out.
7/9/20: The U.S. Treasury Department Fines Amazon for Sanctions Violations: Amazon agreed to pay $134,523 to settle potential liability over multiple alleged sanctions violations.
6/26/20: Amazon Used Covid-19 to Increase Its Market Power: As COVID-19 spread, Amazon shut down its Seller Fulfillment Prime program, which had allowed third-party sellers to gain “Prime” status without paying for Amazon’s logistics services. Since “Prime” products are given better placement in the marketplace, third-party sellers saw their sales drop even if they were selling the exact same product for a lower price, or delivering that product faster.
6/18/20: Amazon Failed to Properly Enforce Banned Items Rules: An investigation by the Markup revealed that Amazon, alongside its third-party marketplace, sold products the company banned. Nearly 100 listings for products categorized as drugs, spying, weapons and other dangerous items were found in a virtual back alley where mostly third-party sellers peddle prohibited goods, some of which are used for illicit and potentially criminal activities.
6/11/20: The EU Plans Formal Antitrust Charges Against Amazon Over its Treatment of Third-Party Sellers: The European Union accused Amazon of scooping up data from third-party sellers and using that information to compete against them, for instance by launching similar products.
4/27/20: New York is Investigating Amazon for Violating Whistleblower Laws: New York’s Attorney General, Letitia James sent a letter to Amazon, raising concerns that the company may have broken the state’s whistleblower laws when it fired a warehouse worker who helped organize a protest due to inadequate protections for warehouse workers.
2/5/20: Amazon Workers Suffer Injuries 3x the Average Worker Injury Rate: Based on the company’s injury reports to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Amazon’s rate of injuries is three times the national average for warehouses.
1/16/20: Amazon Ignored Thousands of Banned and Blacklisted Products on Its Website: A WSJ investigation exposed a pattern of disregard for consumer safety at Amazon, which has ceded control of its website to third-parties selling thousands of banned, toxic and blacklisted products.
1/13/20: India Launches Antitrust Probe into Amazon: The Competition Commission of India said it would focus on allegations that the U.S. titans promote “preferred sellers” of goods on their platforms, which may have hurt smaller rivals.
12/23/19: Internal Documents Show Amazon Chooses Speed Over Safety in Delivery Network: A ProPublica report exposed Amazon’s practice of cutting corners with its delivery network. In 2018, employees charged with inspecting new delivery stations for safety compliance noted in an internal memo that they had been unable to visit every new station prior to launch. In some stations they did manage to visit during peak season, they discovered scenes of chaos: inadequately trained managers, severe understaffing, haphazard traffic flows for delivery vans entering and exiting stations, and packages scattered on the floor. Amazon is also known to use independent third-party contractors to deliver its products, shielding the e-commerce giant from just about every imaginable liability.
12/19/19: Amazon Uses its Market Share to Squeeze Other Businesses: The New York Times exposed many of the ways Amazon uses its size to bully and manipulate third-party sellers. Amazon reportedly forced Tumi, a luxury luggage brand, to sell through Amazon directly or be forced off the platform. Reporting also showed Amazon collects 27 cents of each dollar customers spend buying things its merchants sell, a 42% jump from five years ago. (And that doesn’t include what companies pay for ads on Amazon).
11/26/19: Amazon’s Trucking Operations Cause Mass Amounts of Uncompensated Environmental Harm: A report by the Economic Roundtable estimated that Amazon brings 21,500 diesel truck loads of merchandise daily to and from 21 Amazon warehouses in a four-county region in CA. Its trucking operations in the four-county region in 2018 created an estimated $642 million in uncompensated public costs for noise, road wear, accidents, and harmful emissions.
11/8/19: Amazon Vendor Writes to Congress Making an Antitrust Complaint: A third-party seller published a letter explaining how Amazon raised logistics fees by 20% over the past four years until they cost as much as 35% more than competing services. The 62-page document, reviewed by Bloomberg, lays out an antitrust case.
12/2/19: OSHA Issues a Warning Letter to Amazon for Inadequate Medical Care to Injured Workers at their On-Site Medical Unit: An investigation by The Intercept and Type Investigations found multiple instances in which clinic staffers violated Amazon’s own rules as well as government regulations. It also found that Amcare employees nationwide were pressured to sweep injuries and medical issues under the rug at the expense of employee health.
11/21/19: Five Senators Write Letter to Amazon Regarding Concerns Over an Affiliated Office in Ukraine Receiving Unfettered Footage: The letter cites a report from The Intercept that explained how, beginning in 2016, Ring provided its Ukraine-based research and development team virtually unfettered access to a folder on Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service that contained every video created by every Ring camera around the world.
11/6/19: Amazon Leaves Third-Party Sellers Out in the Cold: As reported in Promarket.org, Amazon’s shift to vertically integrate its fulfillment operations left sellers with a diminished ability to assess its performance, and therefore with limited ability to compare FBA to other options.
10/11/19: Amazon Bullies Third-Party Sellers: Amazon uses its ad placement system to extract revenue and loyalty from third-party sellers, showing an average of 7 to 11 sponsored listings on the first page of shopping results on desktop.
10/1/19: Elasticsearch Sues Amazon for Trademark Infringement: Elasticsearch sued Amazon in federal court in California for violating its trademark because Amazon called its product by the exact same name: Elasticsearch. Amazon “misleads consumers,” the start-up said in its complaint.
8/29/19: Senators Write to Bezos Regarding the Sale of Unsafe Items on Amazon’s Platform: Three U.S. senators wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos asking him to take action to stop the sale of unsafe items and to ensure accurate warning labels on his company’s giant sales platform.
8/23/19: Publishers File Lawsuit Against Audible’s Copyright Violations, Citing Errors in Captioned Text: Seven U.S. publishers filed a lawsuit against Amazon’s Audible, alleging its plan to offer real-time captioning of some audiobook titles violates copyright law. They noted that the text rights require a separate agreement. In the lawsuit, the publishers state that Audible Captions is prone to errors, alleging that by Audible’s own admission “up to 6%” of the text may have errors.
8/2/19: Amazon Uses Public Funds to Subsidize Ring Purchases: Cities and towns around the country have paid Ring up to $100,000 to subsidize the purchase of the company’s surveillance cameras for private residents. In exchange, Amazon promised to match every dollar committed by a city.
6/12/19: Amazon Allegedly Violates Child Privacy Laws in at Least Eight States: A lawsuit claims Amazon recorded audio from millions of children without obtaining proper consent from their parents.
2/13/19: Amazon Avoids Taxes: The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported Amazon nearly doubled its profits to $11.2 billion in 2018 from $5.6 billion the previous year and, again, didn’t pay any federal income taxes.
6/11/18: China Labor Watch Exposes Major Labor Violations within Amazon’s Largest China Supplier: A report by China Labor Watch reveals that Foxconn, one of Amazon’s largest China suppliers continues to violate Chinese law in its treatment of workers, among other things.
12/18/17: France Seeks Fine Following Two-Year Investigation into Amazon’s Abuse of Power over Third-Party Vendors: The French government filed a complaint with the Paris Commerce Court against e-commerce company Amazon for abusing its dominant position with some suppliers. Under the complaint, which follows a two-year investigation by the DGCCRF consumer fraud watchdog, the Economy Ministry is seeking a fine of 10 million euros.
11/9/17: Indiana Dept. of Labor Outlined Numerous Labor Violations at Amazon Warehouses: After another death in an Amazon warehouse, the Indiana Department of Labor outlined four violations that could carry fines of $7,000 each. They included a failure to “provide adequate training” and to develop and document certain safety procedures.
5/2/22: The EU Charges Apple with Monopoly Abuse by Restricting Access to Key Technology to Control the Payment System on the iPhone: The EU Commission is moving forward with allegations over Apple’s anticompetitive tactics to keep Apple Pay as the dominant mobile wallet on the iPhone.
5/27/21: Apple Continues to Restrict Consumer Choice on the iPhone: iPhone users are accustom to the options and lack there of on their Apple phones, but a Washington Post article highlights many of the limitations that, in a competitive market, would likely not exist.
4/30/21: EU Regulators Claim Apple Broke Competition Rules with App Store Fees: Following a complaint from Spotify in 2019 over Apple’s licensing agreement, EU regulators announce preliminary view of anticompetitive behavior and abuse of market power. The EU Commission is also looking at Apple Pay, but the initial probe has not concluded.
12/20/20: Apple’s iPhone Factory Apologizes for Mishandling Worker Wages: Workers in India speak out against an Apple manufacturer for exploitation. After a destructive protest shown on Indian television, Apple conducted an investigation and found multiple violations of its supplier code of conduct, including late wage payments. The manufacturer is now on probation.
10/28/20: France Files Complaint Against Apple over Privacy Violations: France’s competition authority filed an antitrust complaint addressing Apple’s plan to limit third-party trackers used for mobile ads. It alleges that Apple is co-opting the concern around privacy protection for anti-competitive means.
9/26/20: Over a Dozen Companies Join Forces to Address Apple’s Gatekeeping Power Over Mobile Apps: Thirteen tech companies publicly complain and push back against Apple’s 30% cut on sales of paid mobile apps.
7/23/20: Italy’s Antitrust Regulator Probes Apple Monopoly on Devices: Apple and Amazon are under investigation by Italian government for blocking the sale of Apple and Beats devices to legal but unauthorized resellers who might undercut prices. “This investigation is aimed at ascertaining whether Apple and Amazon have put in place an agreement restricting competition” said L’Autorit Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM).
7/19/20: Apple Enables iTunes Gift Card Scams: A class-action complaint lodged in July 2020 claims Apple not only enables iTunes gift card scams, which have become increasingly widespread over the past few years, but also profits from the activity.
6/16/20: EU Announces Antitrust Investigations into Apple: The European Commission launched two antitrust investigations into Apple’s App Store rules and the Apple Pay platform. “It appears that Apple obtained a ‘gatekeeper’ role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices.
4/28/20: Apple Refuses to Share COVID-19 Contact Tracker with NHS: Contact-tracing apps notify you if you’re at risk of infection, based on whether you’ve come into contact with someone who was recently diagnosed with coronavirus. Apple refuses to collaborate despite the fact that NHS’ approach aligns with many of its EU counterparts and centralizes the effort to combat COVID-19.
3/9/20: Apple Blocks Licensing Competition: An antitrust lawsuit filed in March 2020 claims that Apple and music streaming companies have built out an illegal buyer’s “conspiracy” to block out licensing competition. The suit also claims that Apple has “entered into an illegal agreement” with the other named companies to “boycott PMR all while publicly performing music works” in its repertory, adding that the defendants refuse to recognize any newcomers in the performing rights organization sphere.
3/2/20: Apple’s “Batterygate” iPhone Software Applications: Apple was exposed in a 2017 lawsuit for quietly slowing down older iPhones without consumer consent as it launched new models, to induce owners to buy replacement phones or batteries. They had to pay $500 million to settle the lawsuit.
2/13/20: Apple Liable for Millions in Unpaid Wages: The California Supreme Court found Apple broke state law by not paying retail workers for the time they spent participating in mandatory bag and device searches, leaving the company liable for millions in unpaid wages.
2/5/20: Apple Infringes on Patents: Koss is suing Apple over the concept of wirelessly connecting to headphones or speakers, and is alleging that nearly all of Apple’s current product lineup is in infringement of Koss-held patents.
11/10/19: Apple Card Investigated for Gender Bias: New York state legislators announced that they would investigate the algorithm used by Apple Card to determine the creditworthiness of applicants. There are several accounts of women who have been declared to be higher credit risks than their husbands, despite higher credit scores or incomes.
7/26/19: Violating Consumer Privacy: A whistleblower working for the firm exposed Apple’s frequent accidental activations of Siri, allowing contractors to listen in and record customers private interactions while accessing data showing location, contact details and app data.
5/13/19: Supreme Court Allows Class Action Against Apple to Move Forward: Apple requires app developers to sell iPhone apps on its App Store, pay it a 30% commission on sales, and set a price ending in $0.99. In Apple v. Pepper, Apple argued that because app developers set the exact price for their apps, iPhone users actually purchase apps directly from the developers. Apple protested that the iPhone users’ lawsuit would be unfair since it could be sued twice for its power over app retailing; by app developers and by users. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Apple’s arguments. “Multiple suits are not atypical,” Kavanaugh wrote, “when the intermediary in a distribution chain is a bottleneck monopolist or monopsonist (or both) between the manufacturer on the one end and the consumer on the other end.”
4/27/19: Blocking Apps That Help with iPhone Addiction: Apple uses its power over the App Store to its advantage, restricting or blocking apps that provide parental controls or monitor time spent on a phone. Apple’s competitors complained that the company had targeted them after it created its own tool for those tasks. Apple released version 12 of its own parental control app, Screen Time, which had similar functions to the programs it blocked.
4/23/19: Student Sues Apple for $1 Billion Over Biased Facial Recognition Tech: Apple’s in-store facial recognition software caused the wrongful arrest of Ousmane Bah. The arrest warrant used a photo that didn’t resemble Bah and suggested that a thief may have obtained Bah’s lost learner’s permit — one without a photo — and used that as a form of ID at Apple stores. In a bid to track down the suspect, Apple mistakenly connected the permit with another Bah’s face.
3/13/19: Spotify Files Complaint About “Apple Tax”: Spotify filed a complaint with the European Commission against Apple’s fees. The complaint called the App Store’s 30% commission a “discriminatory tax” that gives an unfair advantage to Apple’s in-house streaming service Apple Music.
3/8/18: Apple’s Labor and Human Rights Violations Skyrocket: Apple Supplier Responsibility Report revealed Apple’s labor and human rights violations in the global supply chain doubling in less than a year. The report detailed 22 core violations including 10 labor violations, nine working hour falsifications, two harassment incidents, and one underage labor case involving a worker who was 15 years old. The report also described 44 major violations including 38 working hours falsification issues and two cases of underage staff.
11/6/17: Apple Secretly Moved Parts of Their Empire to Evade High Tax Rate: Apple responded to widespread criticism of its tax affairs by secretly shifting key parts of its empire to New Jersey as part of a complex rearrangement that has allowed it to keep an ultra-low tax rate, according to an analysis of Paradise Papers documents. Over the past three years, Apple has reported paying very low tax rates on its profits outside the U.S. – not much more than previously. But this remains significantly lower than all the major markets where its phones, iPads and desktop computers are sold.
7/ 18/ 17: Apple Factories Feature High Stress Work Culture and Pattern of Suicide: Brian Merchant revealed how he gained access to Longhua, the vast complex where iPhones are made and where, in 2010, unhappy workers started killing themselves. “It’s not a good place for human beings,” Xu a Foxconn worker in Longhua. Xu says he witnessed a suicide a few months ago. “It wouldn’t be Foxconn without people dying,” Xu says. “Every year people kill themselves. They take it as a normal thing.”
12/23/22: Facebook Agrees to Another $725M Fine Over Cambridge Analytica Data Breach: Facebook was fined $725 million to settle another privacy lawsuit over its misuse of users’ data that impacted over 80 million people.
9/5/22: Facebook Fined for Violating Privacy Protection Rules that Safeguard the Use of Children’s Data: Facebook was fined $400 million for violated European data protection rules for its treatment of children’s data on Instagram.
4/9/21: Following Yet Another Data Leak, Facebook Says it Will Not Notify Users: Facebook exposed over 530 million users personal data but told NPR, “We don’t currently have plans to notify users individually.” The information leaked included phone numbers, full names, locations, email addresses, as well as other profile data.
2/18/21: Facebook Executives Ignore Inflated and Misleading Ad Metrics for Years, Leading to New Lawsuit: A class action lawsuit reveals new documents showing top Facebook executives, including Sheryl Sandberg, knowingly reported false and inflated ad metrics to maintain their revenue stream.
2/17/21: Facebook Bans All Australian News in Response to Proposed Law that Would Require Tech Platforms to Pay Publishers for Their Content: Facebook makes a preemptive decision to ban Australian news from its platform. The move is in response to proposed legislation that would require tech platforms to compensate publishers for content shared on their websites. Facebook is not only banning Australian news globally, but it blocks Australian users and news organizations from sharing international content as well.
1/21/21: Research Finds a Spike in Sex Abuse Imagery Shared on Facebook: Business Insider reports on data showing that at least 13 million child sex abuse images were shared over Facebook’s multiple platforms in 2020, a 31% increase compared to previous years.
12/18/20: Protesters Against India’s Farming Reform Claim They are Censored on Facebook and Instagram: Global protests break out against Facebook’s censorship over India’s new farming bills that will likely reduce farmers’ income and benefit large corporations. Protesters worry as Facebook continues to block and censor their plea for a repeal.
12/3/20: The DOJ Files Lawsuit Against Facebook for Worker Discrimination: The DOJ complaint, filed December 3rd, addresses Facebook’s discriminatory hiring process, illegally prioritizing H-1B visa workers.
11/23/20: Despite Announcing a Policy Prohibiting Content that “Denies or Distorts the Holocaust,” Numerous Pages Remain Active: A month after Facebook’s policy change, The Markup found a number of active groups and pages on the platform that continue to spread misinformation around the Holocaust.
11/1/20: Political Ads Violating Facebook Policies, Spreading Misinformation: The Wall Street Journal found that at least three pro-Trump political groups have repeatedly used Facebook to spread false political ads, exposing the platform’s inability to enforce its own policies.
10/23/20: Facebook Sends Letter Demanding NYU Stop Research on the Platform’s Targeted Political Advertising: Facebook claims the research violates bulk data collection provisions and is attempting to stop the NYU study, despite its attempt to increase transparency around political ads and targeted audiences leading up to the presidential election.
9/28/20: Investigation Found Trump Using Facebook to Target Black Voters in “Deterrence” Campaign during the 2016 Election: Channel 4 received troves of data showing how Trump’s 2016 campaign had a “Deterrence” Project that urged 3.5 million Black American voters to stay at home. The project tailored these ads on Facebook and other platforms.
9/14/20: Widespread Hate Speech on Facebook Exacerbates Ethnic Violence in Ethiopia: Ethiopia is experiencing extreme violence and ethnic clashing following an assassination of a popular singer. Mass sharing on Facebook has propelled the violence and ethnic divisions to the point where it is “nearing genocide.”
9/14/20: Internal Memo from a Facebook Whistleblower Exposes Global Political Manipulation: Buzzfeed News obtained an internal memo from a former Facebook employee detailing countless examples of foreign nations using the platform to spread disinformation and sway elections.
10/22/19: 47 State Attorneys General Investigating Facebook for Stifling Competition and Putting Users at Risk: CNN Business reported that 47 State Attorneys General have launched investigations to determine if Facebook put consumer data at risk, its ad policy, and if it has broken any antitrust laws.
10/18/19: Facebook CEO Took No Questions from Press at Event Promoting Free Expression: BT reported that reporters were not allowed to ask questions after Mark Zuckerberg’s speech at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
10/18/19: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Defends Refusal to Take Down Some Content: LiveMint reported that Mark Zuckerberg defended the social media platform’s refusal to take down content it considers newsworthy in a Free Speech event at Georgetown University.
10/17/19: Facebook CEO Defends Choice to Allow Misinformation in Political Ads: The New York Times reported that Mark Zuckerberg defended the sweeping policy which states that Facebook will not moderate or fact check politician’s speech or ads.
10/15/19: Facebook Forced to Pay Fine for News Industry Manipulations: Salon reported that they had to pay advertisers a $40 million settlement for inflating video metrics.
10/3/19: Turkey Fines Facebook Over Privacy Breach: Reuters reported that Turkey fined Facebook $282,000 for violating data protection laws which affected nearly 300,000 people.
9/16/19: Drug Dealers use Facebook to Sell Steroids, Raising Questions of How Facebook Polices its Platform: The Washington Post reported that drug dealers heavily market the illegal sale of steroids through Facebook and have gone overwhelmingly unmoderated.
9/16/19: Facebook Allows Advertisers to Rewrite News Headlines, Allowing the Spread of Misinformation: CBC reported that Facebook allows advertisers to completely rewrite news headlines, even if they contradict what is written in the article.
9/5/19: Facebook Accidentally Leaks Phone Numbers of 419 Million Users: The Independent reported that the phone numbers of hundreds of millions of Facebook users has been discovered online in the latest major data breach for the social network. A security researcher found 419 million records on an unsecured server, meaning no password was needed to access them.
8/29/19: Facebook Profits from Chinese Propaganda: Columbia Journalism Review reported that Facebook had been promoting ads bought by Chinese state-run media calling police heroes for their actions during the Hong Kong protests, promoting the benefits of detention centers for Muslims in Uighur, and more.
8/23/19: Facebook Published Emails Showing Employee Knowledge of Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal: Business Insider reported that Facebook had published internal emails that shed new light on exactly how Cambridge Analytica came onto its employees’ radar, more than two years before the data scandal sparked the worst crisis in the firm’s history.
7/25/19: Facebook Misled Journalists About How Bad the Cambridge Analytica Scandal Was: Vice reported that Facebook repeatedly lied to journalists about the severity of the Cambridge Analytica scandal as part of an alleged coverup of a privacy breach that gave up to 87 million users’ personal data to the Trump-linked political firm.
7/12/19: Facebook Fined $5 billion by FTC for Privacy Lapses: CNBC reported that the FTC was fining Facebook $5 billion in a settlement following a probe into the tech giant’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica. The fine is the largest ever imposed by the FTC.
7/2/19: Germany Fines Facebook for Under-Reporting Illegal Content: CNN reported that Facebook had been fined more than $2 million in Germany for inaccurately reporting the amount of illegal content on its platform. German authorities said that Facebook had provided “incomplete” information in mandatory transparency reports about illegal content, such as hate speech.
6/18/19: Facebook Libra is ‘Most Invasive and Dangerous Form of Surveillance Ever Designed’, Critics Say: The Independent reported that Facebook‘s plan to launch to launch its own currency has once again raised significant privacy concerns, with some critics claiming it could be the most “invasive and dangerous” form of surveillance the technology giant has yet conceived.
6/12/19: Facebook Emails Seem to Show Zuckerberg Knew of Privacy Issues, Report Claims: The Guardian reported that Facebook had uncovered emails that appear to show Mark Zuckerberg’s connection to potentially damaging privacy practices at the company.
5/14/19: WhatsApp Discovers ‘Targeted’ Surveillance Attack: BBC reported that hackers were able to remotely install surveillance software on phones and other devices using a major vulnerability in messaging app WhatsApp. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, said the attack targeted a “select number” of users and was orchestrated by “an advanced cyber-actor”.
5/5/19: Facebook ‘Labels’ Posts by Hand, Posing Privacy Questions: In a news article by Reuters, it was revealed that Facebook uses human-powered content labeling method for its posts. Most of the work is done by outsourcing.
5/2/19: “Loot-to-order” Antiquities-Trafficking Pages on Facebook: The Daily Beast reported that a two-year BBC investigation found scores of social-media pages selling artifacts looted to customer’s specifications, including pieces from the ruins of ISIS-wracked Palmyra. In response, Facebook pulled 49 relevant pages.
4/30/19: Violent Videos Posted on Facebook Before Sri Lanka Easter Attacks: The Wall Street Journal reported that extremists who allegedly helped plan and execute Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings called before the attacks for killing non-Muslims in Facebook posts that remained online despite complaints from moderate Muslims who say they asked the company to take them down.
4/25/19: Canada Accused Facebook Over Privacy Concerns: The Washington Post reported that Canadian regulators found that Facebook committed “serious” breaches of local laws over its mishandling of users’ personal information, announcing they would take the company to court to force it to change its privacy practices.
4/18/19: Instagram Passwords Available to Facebook Employees: Facebook has said that millions of Instagram passwords were exposed in an internal database that was searchable by employees, according to CNBC.
4/18/19: Facebook Collected User Data Without Their Knowledge: According to CNN, Facebook has collected up to 1.5 million users’ email contacts without their knowledge.
4/16/19: Mark Zuckerberg Leveraged Facebook User Data to Fight Rivals: Leaked internal Facebook documents show that the plans to sell access to user data were discussed for years and received support from Facebook’s most senior executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.
4/12/19: Inappropriate Messages in VR Controllers: Facebook has said that it accidentally hid bizarre and “inappropriate” messages inside “tens of thousands” of virtual-reality controllers, including “Big Brother is Watching” and “The Masons Were Here,” reported by the Business Insider.
4/4/19: 26,000 Complaints About Facebook Privacy Violations: The Hill reported that since 2012, the FTC has seen a significant increase in the number of consumer complaints about Facebook. In 2018 alone, 8,391 consumer complaints about Facebook were received.
4/3/19: Facebook Records Exposed on Amazon Cloud Servers: CNN reported that hundreds of millions of data on Facebook users was exposed to the public until recently on Amazon’s cloud computing servers.
4/2/19: Facebook Collects Users’ Email Passwords: According to the Business Insider, Facebook has been asking some new users for their email passwords and appears to be harvesting their contacts without consent.
3/28/19: Facebook Engages in Housing Discrimination: The New York Times reported that the Department of Housing and Urban Development sued Facebook for engaging in housing discrimination by allowing advertisers to restrict who is able to see ads on the platform based on characteristics like race, religion and national origin. The HUD also claims that the company uses its data-mining practices to determine which of its users are able to view housing-related ads. On both counts, the agency said, Facebook is in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
3/26/19: Australians Caught Up in September’s Facebook Cyber-Attack: Internal documents reveal the attack on Facebook in September last year affected an estimated 111,813 Australians, among roughly 29 million worldwide, as reported by The Guardian. Hackers were able to access users’ movements, hometown, search history, email, and phone number.
3/22/19: Security Lapse the Latest Privacy Issue for Facebook: The Wall Street Journal reported the disclosure of Facebook storing hundreds of millions of user passwords in a format that was accessible to its employees for years.
3/22/19: Facebook Knew About Cambridge Analytica Scandal Earlier Than Admitted: The Daily Beast reported that according to a court filing, private emails could contradict Mark Zuckerberg’s sworn testimony about when Facebook learned about the Cambridge Analytica data breach. Facebook and the Washington, D.C. attorney general are in court to argue whether those emails can be viewed by the public.
3/21/19: Facebook Acknowledged Failure to Detect New Zealand Shooting Video: The Associated Press reported that Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, said: “this particular video did not trigger our automatic detection systems.”
3/15/19: U.K Report on Facebook: A 150-page report commissioned by the British government depicts big digital companies in search, social media, advertising and e-commerce as threats to competition, innovation, and personal privacy. The report found that existing rules regulating these tech giants are outdated and need to be strengthened.
3/7/19: Yet Another Messenger Bug: CNET reported that the bug allowed potential attackers to view who users have had conversations with.
2/25/19: Content Moderator Workplace Conditions Revealed: The Verge reported on the trauma-inducing workdays Facebook content moderators face. Former content moderators interviewed for the article reported severe PTSD, depression, and paranoia as a result of their time at Facebook.
2/22/19: Facebook Collecting Data from Other Apps: The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook has been collecting data like users’ weight, blood pressure, and menstrual cycles from apps not associated with the tech conglomerate.
2/21/19: Ad Targeting White Supremacists: The Los Angeles Times reported that known white supremacist phrases were able to be used to target hundreds of thousands of users with ads on Facebook.
2/18/19: “Digital Gangsters”: The UK parliament released a 108-page report lambasting Facebook’s business practices and calling for regulation.
1/30/19: Facebook “Research App”: In January 2019, news broke of Facebook paying users, including teens, to monitor nearly everything they did on their phones.
12/18/18: The New York Times Reveals Facebook Shared User Data with Other Companies: The article revealed Facebook was sharing user data with Netflix, Spotify, and Microsoft without users consent.
12/14/18: A Bug Reveals Millions of Users’ Private Photos: The bug allowed third-party apps to access as many as 6.8 million users’ private photos that had not been authorized to share.
12/5/18: The UK Parliament Released a Cache of Internal Facebook Documents: The documents revealed Facebook once considered selling user data and targeted apps like Vine.
11/29/18: Sandberg Ordered Definers Research: Despite public claims to the contrary, Sheryl Sandberg was revealed to have known and ordered Definers research on George Soros, a perceived enemy of Facebook.
11/14/18: Bombshell New York Times Report Many Facebook Scandals: The New York Times report exposed many Facebook scandals including the hiring of Definers Public Affairs and a smear campaign against George Soros and Freedom From Facebook.
9/28/18: More Hackers: Hackers exploited the platform’s “view as” feature to gain access to the accounts of 50 million users. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the hackers also gained access to users’ Tinder, Spotify, and Instagram accounts, among others.
9/25/18: Instagram’s Drug Problem: A Washington Post report revealed Instagram’s algorithm is exacerbating illegal drug sales, and Business Insider claims IGTV recommended videos of child abuse to children.
9/25/18: Facebook and PTSD: Selena Scola, a former content moderator for Facebook, is suing the conglomerate under claims that her employment there led to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Scola says she was subject to “constant and unmitigated exposure to highly toxic and extremely disturbing images at the workplace,” after Facebook failed to uphold employee safety standards.
9/18/18: Facebook’s Sexism Problem: A lawsuit filed by the ACLU and CWA revealed that Facebook was facilitating employer discrimination against women by allowing companies to target job ads exclusively to men. According to the ACLU, “Facebook has ‘long known’ that employers and employment agencies were using its platform to discriminate on the basis of gender. Instead of eliminating this behavior…Facebook has encouraged it.” Facebook also forced a female employee to choose between her infant child and work by denying her requests for unpaid leave and remote work time.
9/5/18: Facebook Testifies Before the Senate, but Provides No Answers: When Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) asked if Facebook takes responsibility for individuals who overdosed from opioids bought on their platform, Sandberg responded with silence. Sandberg claimed Facebook cares “tremendously” about civil rights, but Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) pointed to training materials instructing moderators to delete hate speech targeting white men while allowing hate speech targeting minority children. And Sandberg’s answer to Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) question regarding what the platform was doing to curb voter suppression was vague mumbo jumbo regarding AI-powered moderators.
8/2/18: Facebook Becomes a Holocaust Denier Wardrobe Vendor: Facebook is allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to profit off its platforms by selling Holocaust denial magazines and white supremacist baby t-shirts.
8/6/18: Facebook Meddles in Finances: Facebook asked several U.S. banks – including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup – to share detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking account balances.
8/21/18: Facebook and Russia…again: Russia, and partner-in-crime Iran, used Facebook to unleash a massive misinformation campaign across the globe by opening 652 fake accounts, pages, and groups “that might cause confusion among people,” and “alter people’s thinking to become more partisan or pro-government on various issues.”
7/31/18: Facebook Finds Election Meddling on its Platform, Removing More Than 30 Fake Accounts: Facebook identified a massive political influence campaign with the goal of disrupting the 2018 midterm elections — after it had been going on for a year.
7/25/18: Threats Against Former FBI Director Don’t Violate Facebook Rules Because They Were Not Credible Statements of Intent to Commit Violence: After Infowars Founder Alex Jones accused Mueller of covering up sex crimes and pantomimed shooting the former FBI director, Facebook claimed these actions are not in violation of the platform’s rules.
7/24/18: Anti-Vaccine Groups Allowed at the Top of Facebook Search Results: Facebook allowed anti-vaccine groups to rise to the top of search results on the platform and facilitated the spread of hoaxes claiming vaccines cause autism and other diseases.
7/24/18: Facebook Censors Nude Artwork, Drawing Backlash from Museums: A group of Flemish museums recently wrote to Mark Zuckerberg to discuss the censoring of Peter Paul Rubens’ famous nude paintings.
7/20/18: Facebook Unaware of Analytics Firm’s Contracts with U.S. Government and a Non-Profit with Ties to the Kremlin, Violating Platform Policies: Facebook suspended data-analytics firm Crimson Hexagon and said it was investigating whether its contracts with a Russian nonprofit tied to the Kremlin violates Facebook policies.
7/19/18: Facebook Shuts Down Private Group for Sexual Assault Survivors Following Harassment: Instead of dealing with the hackers, Facebook shut down a sexual assault support group, which was a constant target of online harassment and hacking. This raised questions about Facebook’s ability to monitor private spaces.
7/18/18: Zuckerberg Refuses to Take Down Pages Promoting Holocaust Denial: In a Recode podcast, Zuckerberg defended the intentions of Holocaust deniers and said that their content would remain on the platform. Zuckerberg’s “clarifying” statement also said Holocaust denial content would remain on Facebook.
7/18/18: Investigation Finds Facebook Ignoring Racist and Violent Content: An undercover investigation revealed that Facebook moderators turn a blind eye to racist and violent memes.
7/17/18: Cambridge Analytica Data Accessed in Russia: The British investigation into the Facebook Cambridge Analytica breach revealed that the data had been accessed from Russia.
7/9/18: Facebook Data Hack Through Timehop App: 21 million users were affected by a recent data hack at Timehop, leaving them vulnerable to unconsented access to their social media posts on Facebook and Twitter, along with access to their phone numbers and email addresses.
7/5/18: Declaration of Independence Blocked as Hate Speech: Facebook flagged and removed content from a Texas newspaper The Liberty County Vindicator and was forced to apologize after realizing it was directly quoting the Declaration of Independence.
6/28/18: Manipulating Users’ Privacy Settings: Facebook deliberately designed settings’ options to use dark patterns to “nudge” users into sharing more information than they might have wanted to.
6/28/18: Millions of Facebook Users Data Exposed Through Third-Part App: A third-party app called NameTests left the data of 120 million Facebook users exposed to anyone who asked for the stored data.
6/7/18: Facebook Bug Makes Millions of Users Private Posts Public: A Facebook glitch changed 14 million users’ posts from private to public.
6/5/17: Special Data Access to Chinese Firms: Facebook gave Chinese firms, flagged by the U.S. government as potential national security threats (including ZTE) special access to private user data in deals dating back to 2010.
5/14/18: Data Breach: 3 million Facebook users had their personal information, including their answers to “intimate questionnaires,” exposed.
5/5/18: Violence in Myanmar: Six nonprofits in Myanmar wrote an open letter to Facebook in May 2018 to condemn the lack of action to stop violence, hate speech, and genocide despite years of warnings.
4/4/18: Facebook Scans Seemingly Private Photos & Links Sent Over Messenger App: Facebook was forced to admit, after a Zuckerberg interview, that it scans the links and images that people send each other on Facebook Messenger.
4/3/18: Facebook Retained Deleted & Unposted Content Without Users Knowledge: Facebook kept videos and pictures users thought they had deleted and even drafts of posts they never put up.
3/29/18: Growth at Any Cost: BuzzFeed obtained internal Facebook documents showing the company’s obsession with unchecked growth and profits despite known dangers and risks.
3/17/18: Cambridge Analytica Scandal Grows: A New York Times exposé revealed that the Facebook Cambridge Analytica data breach was much larger than previously known.
11/11/17: Election Interference: Mark Zuckerberg downplayed and denied the role of Russian propaganda on Facebook saying, “[it’s] a pretty crazy idea” that their dissemination of fake news impacted the 2016 election.
10/30/17: Russian Fake News: 2017 estimates revealed that Russian-backed organizations spread fake news that reached over 126 million Facebook users.
9/14/17: Antisemitic Ad Targeting: Facebook allowed users to take advantage of anti-Semitic content to target “Jew haters” with ads.
5/18/17: Misleading WhatsApp Filing: European Commission slapped Facebook with a $122 million dollar fine for misleading WhatsApp users and European regulators.
3/7/17: Child Abuse: A BBC investigation revealed that Facebook failed to remove 80% of reported child abuse images, including child porn.
7/7/21: 36 States Sue Google for Monopolistic Abuse Over Apps on Google Play Store: 36 states filed a lawsuit alleging Google’s monopolistic abuse as a gatekeeper for app developers on the Google Play Store. Developers have accused Google of taking an unfair cut of purchases that occur on developers’ apps.
6/22/21: The European Commission Launches an Investigation into Google’s New Privacy Sandbox, Assessing Potential Anticompetitive Conduct: Google’s plans to ban third-party advertising sparked the European Commission’s probe. With the ability to self-preference and tie products and services, EC Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the European government is “concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack.”
1/11/21: YouTube Competitor, Rumble, Sues Google for Search Ranking: Rumble alleges that Google is unfairly rigging its search rankings to move Rumble viewers to its own video-streaming site, YouTube.
10/20/20: Supposed Bug Allows Google to Collect User Data Despite Using “Clear Cookies” Settings: Business Insider reports on a recently found technical bug, revealing that Google Chrome’s “auto-delete cookies” feature doesn’t count for data attached to Google.com or Youtube.com (owned by Google).
8/14/20: Travel Companies Abroad Draw Attention to Google’s Unfair Data Extraction: Numerous travel startups complain about Google’s search dominance and practice of securing the right to extract their website and customers’ data.
7/16/20: Google Donates to Anti-BLM Politician: Judd Legum listed Google among the list of corporations supporting anti-Black Lives Matter Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Legum said that Google’s political action committee gave Loeffler $5000 on December 30, 2019.
7/14/20: Google Search Favors YouTube Over Other Video Sites: The Wall Street Journal found that Google predominantly favors YouTube videos in Google Search results over other video sources like Facebook.
7/9/20: Google Security “Singles Out” Black, Latinx Workers: Google employees report that Black and Latinx Google employees had their badges checked more frequently by security staff, contributing to a feeling of being policed while at work.
7/8/20: Study: Google To Help COVID-19 Misinformation Websites Make Millions in 2020: A study estimates that Google will steer roughly $19 million to COVID-19 misinformation sites in 2020, according to the Global Disinformation Index. Google will do this by placing advertisements alongside conspiratorial or other misleading articles.
6/18/20: YouTube Creators Allege Site Engages in Racist Discrimination: Four black women filed a class-action lawsuit against YouTube arguing that YouTube has engaged in racist discrimination against them in taking down their videos from YouTube.
6/16/20: Google Helps Website Scam Americans Out of COVID Stimulus Payments: A Tech Transparency Project investigation found that Google served ads to scam people out of their $1,200 stimulus check when people asked Google stimulus check-related questions.
6/11/20: Google, Other Dominant Companies, Feed Local Papers Op-eds: The Washington Post reported that a recent Arizona Capitol Times op-ed submitted by a local small business owner was actually written by the Connected Commerce Council, which lists Amazon, Facebook, and Google as “partners.” Corporations like Google, Amazon, or Facebook, “aren’t required to disclose how much they spend on these organizations and exactly how involved they are in their day-to-day decisions, but ethics watchdogs say their participation alone is important.”
6/2/2020: Lawsuit Accuses Google of Tracking Users in Private Mode: A class-action lawsuit argued that Google broke the Federal Wiretap Act when the technology giant collected information on user activity even when they were browsing in private, “Incognito” mode.
6/1/20: Google Profits Off of Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories: Bloomberg reported that Google helped place advertisements on sites that spread coronavirus conspiracy theories, profiting off of misinformation.
5/26/20: YouTube Censors Chinese-Language Criticism of CCP: The Verge reported that YouTube automatically deleted for at least six months comments with certain Chinese-language phrases associated with criticism of the Community Party of China.
5/18/20: Google Reportedly Cuts Back on Diversity to Appease Conservatives: An NBC News investigation quoted eight former or current Google employees claiming that Google had rolled back or cut diversity and including training programs to protect the company from criticism from conservatives.
5/3/20: Coronavirus Misinformation Proliferates on YouTube: Media Matters wrote that “YouTube remains a cesspool of COVID-19 misinformation,” pointing to three viral videos spreading false coronavirus-related information, some of which YouTube had not taken down by the time of Media Matters’ post.
4/2/20: Illinois Kids Sue Google for Collecting Their Data at School: Two Illinois children sued Google for collecting their biometric data as part of the children’s school’s use of the “G Suite for Education,” in violation of state consumer protection and federal child protection laws.
3/24/20: Predatory Unemployments Sites Among Top Google Results: Gizmodo reported that, as people increasingly turn to Google for help in finding new employment, they may encounter “scammy unemployment ads” in Google’s search results. These sites often try to collect users’ data and con them into paying to see their credit score (which they can see for free), and then selling their information to advertisers.
3/2/20: Study: YouTube Hides Some Conspiracy Theory Videos, But Not Others: New study from UC, Berkeley researchers examined 8 million YouTube video recommendations over a 15-month period and finds that YouTube can get rid of some conspiracy theories, such as flat earth theories, but not others, like climate change deniers. The researchers argue that YouTube thus has the power to choose which mis- and disinformation billions of people say.
2/27/20: Google Drags Feet in Complying with Public Investigation: The Justice Department sent a letter to Google criticizing the company for “unacceptable” delays in complying with legal orders to produce documents and other information for the enforcement agency’s antitrust investigation.
2/26/20: Google Relegates Political Emails to “Promotions,” Lets Non-Profits Buy Their Way Out: An investigation from The Markup found that Google’s Gmail filters political emails into the Promotions tab, not the main inbox. The researchers noted that emails from Democratic primary campaigns went into the more prominent main inbox while others went into the Promotions or even Spam tabs. And they quoted a Gmail official suggesting that a nonprofit advocacy group purchase ads to reach more people.
2/20/20: New Mexico AG Accuses Google of Tracking Students: New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sued Google for improperly tracking students without their parents’ permission through Chromebooks given to them through their schools.
2/4/20: Google Accidentally Sends Users’ Videos to Strangers: Google reported that a “technical issue” may have accidentally uploaded some users’ videos to the accounts of strangers.
1/29/20: Swiss Researchers Add Study Finding YouTube Radicalizes Viewers: A study from a Swiss team of researchers found that YouTube appeared to radicalize viewers by steering them to videos propounding increasingly extreme far-right ideologies.
1/10/20: Lead Alphabet Attorney, Accused of Breaking Internal Company Rules on Relationships with Employees, Retires: Alphabet quietly announced in a filing that chief legal officer David Drummond is retiring, weeks after a former employee posted about her relationship with Drummond. Jennifer Blakely’s post said that Drummond broke internal company rules and neglected their son. Within days of the post, Drummond had married a different woman, a current Alphabet employee.
12/20/19: Google Works With Koch-Backed Groups to Ward Off Regulation: The Google Transparency Project found that since 2010 Google has funded at least 32 nonprofit and university groups that Koch Networks has also given money to.
12/19/19: Fired Google Worker Speaks Out in Elle: Fired Google employee Claire Stapleton’s essay in Elle describes the retaliation she experienced from Google management after helping to organize employee criticisms of the company.
12/17/19: Google Fired Worker for Organizing-related Activity: Google fired engineer who wrote program informing fellow workers of their right to organize. The engineer filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board for an unfair labor practice.
12/16/19: Lawsuit Accuses Google, Others of Complicity in Child Labor Deaths: A lawsuit filed by Congolese families alleges that Google, along with Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla, are guilty of “aiding and abetting in the death and serious injury of children … working in cobalt mines in their supply chain,” according to The Guardian. The families accuse Google, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla, of “specific knowledge” that the cobalt they needed for their products were performed by forced child labor in dangerous conditions.
12/16/19: Google Blackmails Turkey after Antitrust Request: Google announced that it will shut down services for new Android mobile devices in Turkey after Turkey’s antitrust authority asked Google to open up its contracts to allow users to choose different search engines in their mobile operating systems. Matt Stoller called the move a “private sanctions regime against smaller countries.”
12/9/19: NLRB Investigating Google for Breaking Labor Law: The National Labor Relations Board said that it was investigating Google for violating labor law when it fired four employees who were attempting to organize into a union.
12/5/19: Communications Union Accuses Google of Firing Workers to Crack Down on Organizing: The Communications Workers of America union filed a federal labor complaint that Google broke labor law when it fired four workers. The union alleged that Google fired the workers “to discourage and chill employees from engaging in protected concerted and union activities.”
11/20/19: Google Hires Anti-Union Consultant: Google hired anti-union consulting firm IRI Consultants to help it navigate worker criticisms and potential organizing.
11/15/19: Google Games Search Results: Contrary to Google representatives, who claim that Google’s Search algorithms are largely autonomous, a Wall Street Journal investigation found that Google often favored big businesses over small ones, made targeted tweaks to produce certain results, and blacklist certain sites to prevent them from ever appearing in some searches. They also used “thousands of low-paid contractors” to evaluate the algorithm internally, though also pressuring them to evaluate the results favorably.
11/12/19: Google Fires, Disciplines Employees; Other Workers Cry Foul: Google fired an employee and put two others on leave for allegedly leaking internal information to the media and violating company policies. Workers argue that Google punishes those who criticize management.
11/11/19: Secret Google Project to Analyze Confidential Medical Records Revealed: The Wall Street Journal broke news of Google’s “Project Nightingale,” which aims to gather the confidential health information of millions of people across 21 states. Google partnered with St. Louis hospital chain Ascension and its network of 2,600 hospitals and other care facilities to analyze and experiment with recommending treatment plans and tracking care. A whistleblower who revealed the otherwise secret plans wrote an op-ed for The Guardian three days later, warning that millions of Americans’ health data is “at risk.”
10/28/19: Google Incorrectly Claims Recent DHS Hire Not Involved with Children in Cages: Google apparently misled employees by claiming that Taylor was “not involved in the family separation policy” undertaken by DHS while Taylor worked there. A Freedom of Information Act request produced documents showing that Taylor did work on immigration enforcement and helped to spin DHS policy of putting children in cages as the “Protecting Children Narrative.”
10/24/19: Google Silences Employee Questions over DHS Hire: BuzzFeed reported that Google had been removing employee questions from its internal company message board regarding its hiring of Taylor.
10/23/19: Google Ramps Up Worker Surveillance: Google employees said that Google management was producing software to monitor workers’ computers. The tool would, according to Bloomberg, “automatically report staffers who create a calendar event with more than 10 rooms or 100 participants,” ostensibly to look out for attempts to organize workers.
10/23/19: Google Products Tops Results for Most Common Queries: A Google product or service is the top result 29 times for the top 100 most common searches, according to a report by Bloomberg.
10/21/19: Google Hires Former DHS Official Who Helped Put Children in Cages: BuzzFeed reported that Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff to the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, began working at Google in September 2019. High-profile Google critic and AI scholar Meredith Whittaker said, “Hiring someone who comes from an administration that is gleefully endorsing policies that are separating children at the border and violating human rights is pretty telling.”
10/21/19: Google Quarrels with Unionizing Workers: Google tried to shut down a unionization meeting led by Google employees in Zurich. Employees called the attempt “disappointing” and “an irrational fear of anything that could possibly lead to systemic change.”
10/15/19: Google Maps Endangered Hundreds of Italian Tourists: The Italian town of Baunei had warned tourists not to use Google Maps after it gave bad directions necessitating 144 rescue missions over the previous two years. The town’s mayor said that he contacted Google to address the issue, with little change.
10/11/19: Google Backs Climate Change Deniers: The Guardian reported that Google had supported over a dozen organizations that have advocated against climate change legislation and even sponsored events with climate change deniers. The New York Times earlier reported that Google (and Amazon) have supported groups that deny the seriousness of climate change.
10/9/19: Google Gives More to Outlets Where It’s Under Investigation: The Google Transparency Project put out a study noting that Google’s grants to news organizations around the world “tracks regulatory threats” in regions where local officials are more hostile to Google.
10/2/19: Google Tricks People to Steal Their Faces: Google collected records of people’s faces to improve Google’s Pixel 4 smartphone. Workers involved in the collection tell The New York Daily News that they were told to mislead participants that video was being taken of them, and that they targeted homeless people in Atlanta as well as college students across the U.S. Since the Daily News story, Google has limited its collection of faces to its offices.
9/9/19: 51 State AGs Announce a Google Antitrust Investigation: A coalition of 51 state attorneys general announced that they are investigating whether Google has broken the antitrust laws.
9/4/19: Google Pays Millions to Settle Child Data Collection Charges: The FTC and New York Attorney General required Google to pay $170 million to settle charges that it improperly collected data from children without their parents’ consent. FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra and Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Markey criticized the settlement with Markey saying that FTC “stands for ‘Forgetting Teens and Children.’”
8/27/19: EU Investigates Google for Self-Preferencing: The European Union announced that it’s investigating Google for improperly favoring its own job search tool.
8/23/19: Google Discourage Internal Debate: Google handed down new rules discouraging political debate and cautioning employees to refrain from criticizing projects unless they have “good information.”
8/15/19: Google Gives Protestors’ Location Data to Police: Google reportedly complied with a “reverse search warrant” issued by the Manhattan District Attorney. Seeking to track down “Antifa” members, the Manhattan DA demanded Google turn over location information for all devices used in protests on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Google complied and Manhattan DA staffers investigated two people “who turned out to be innocent bystanders” according to The Daily Beast.
8/11/19: YouTube Radicalizes Brazilians: The New York Times reported that in Brazil, YouTube’s recommendation algorithm “appears to have systematically diverted users to far-right and conspiracy channels in Brazil” and the country’s far-right members attribute much of their rapid ascent to the California company.
8/6/19: Google Breaks Own Rules, Profits off Gun Sales: The Washington Post reported that Google (and Amazon) apparently offered or hosted firearms and other gun accessories for sale, in apparent violation of their own policies.
7/11/19: Google Home Listens to Users Even When Inactive: A Dutch public radio station found that Google Home speakers were often eavesdropping on users’ private conversations even when they were not activated. Human subcontractors working for Google would listen to the audio from speakers to try to improve the speakers’ analysis.
7/3/19: Google Flexes Political Power in DC: Noting that a broad range of organizations and think tanks came out against proposals to regulate Facebook and Google, NBC News pointed out that “[e]very one of those think tanks and advocacy groups is backed by Google, Facebook, or both.” With increasing scrutiny, the report wrote, “the Silicon Valley giants are unleashing some of the Washington power they’ve spent the past few years building up, going from a low-key player into the biggest spender in D.C.”
6/27/19: Google Grabs Medical Data: A class action lawsuit accused Google of improperly accessing hundreds of thousands of people’s confidential medical records through a partnership with the University of Chicago Medical Center.
6/21/19: Washington Post: Google Chrome “Surveillance Software:” A Washington Post test led their technology columnist to conclude that Google’s “Chrome browser looks a lot like surveillance software.” The columnist found that Chrome told Google what sites he visited thousands of times during the week he used it.
6/20/19: Fake Listings Rampant on Google Maps, Hurting Small Businesses: The Wall Street Journal found that fake business listings were rampant on Google Maps, estimating that approximately 11 million businesses were falsely listed “on any given day.”
6/16/19: Google Steals Lyrics from Genius: The music website Genius caught Google appropriating Genius’ transcribed lyrics to popular songs. Genius changed some apostrophes in lyrics’ text to different types of single-quotation marks that spelled out “Red Handed” in Morse Code, confirming that Google had copy and pasted them from Genius.
5/28/19: Google Dominates Web Browsing: Bloomberg found that Google runs not only the dominant web browser Chrome, but also the dominant underlying open source code for most other browsers: Chromium. Google frequently updates Google products, including YouTube and Gmail, that run more slowly on rival browsers and push users to Chrome.
5/28/19: Independent Contractors Outnumber Employees at Google: The New York Times estimated that Google used more temporary and independent contractor workers than employees in March 2019: roughly 121,000 temporary employees and independent contractors and 102,000 full-time employees.
5/21/19: Google Admits Shoddy Password Security: Google revealed that it stores some of its Google Suite customers’ passwords in plaintext, not encrypted, since 2005.
5/14/19: Google Announced More Ads for Mobile Users: Google announced that it will show more ads in its various products and applications on mobile phones.
5/13/19: Google Favors Anti-Abortion Group with Free Ads: An investigation from The Guardian found that Google gave $150,000 worth of free ads to an anti-abortion group seeking to discourage women from getting abortions. Google’s attempt to address this deceptive advertising had a loophole allowing the groups to continue posting their ads to Google Search.
5/10/19: India Investigates Google: India opened an investigation into Google for using its dominance in Android mobile operating systems to exclude competitors.
5/6/19: Google Changes Policy on Tracking, to Its Benefit: Google announced that they would limit tracking cookies in its Chrome browser, which also threatened to increase its advertising dominance since tracking cookies helped advertising competitors gather information on users.
5/1/19: Google Workers Sit-In to Protest Executives’ Treatment of & Retaliation Against Women: Google workers across the world organize sit-in protest against women who reported sexual harassment and were reportedly retaliated against by Google management.
4/26/19: Hundreds of Google Workers Discuss Fear of Retaliation: Bloomberg reported that Google employees internally discuss Google management retaliating against employees who criticize the company; Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton alleged Google retaliated against them.
4/17/19: YouTube Recommends Bestiality Videos to Children: Image thumbnails suggesting bestiality are reported alongside YouTube videos intended for children. New York Times writer Charlie Warzel noted that BuzzFeed had reported on the tendency in YouTube’s algorithm in April 2018 and January 2019.
4/15/19: Former Mozilla Exec: Google Sabotages Chrome Competitor: Former Mozilla executive accused Google of sabotaging Mozilla’s Firefox browser for years with bugs and other features to benefit Google’s competing browser, Chrome.
4/13/19: Google Gives Broad Location Data to Police: A New York Times investigation reported that law enforcement was able to issue a warrant to access a Google database, known as “Sensorvault,” tracking cell phone users’ physical locations and acting as a “digital dragnet” for police.
4/3/19: Google Feeds Money to Hungarian Authoritarian Orbán’s “Mouthpiece:” Google’s Digital News Innovation Fund gave $56,000 to the owner of a Hungarian news site Origo. According to Harvard’s Nieman Lab, Origo “is best known for being a mouthpiece of Hungary’s authoritarian government.”
4/2/19: YouTube Execs Ignore Employee Warnings Over Incendiary, Misleading Videos: Bloomberg reported that YouTube executives ignored warnings from employees that videos spreading incendiary and untrue information were skyrocketing in popularity. Each time, Bloomberg said, “they got the same response: Don’t rock the boat.” Instead, YouTube prioritized “Engagement,” meaning views, clicks, and time spent.
3/15/19: YouTube Slow to Take Down Terrorism Footage: Google and YouTube, as well as Facebook and Twitter, were slow to take down footage of the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand. One expert on counter extremism criticized the companies, saying that they’re “actually not” cooperating “because they’re allowing these videos to reappear all the time.”
2/21/19: Google Claims to End Mandatory Arbitration, Keeps for Contractors: Google announces that it will not require employees to arbitrate disputes. However, the change would not apply to the contractors and temporary workers who make up a majority of Google workers.
2/20/19: Pedophiles Use YouTube to Direct Each Other to Compromising Images of Children: A major Wired investigation found that pedophiles commented on videos of children to tip other pedophiles off as to when children’s private parts could be seen. The investigation noted that many of the videos had advertisements from name-brand companies and that Google thus likely profited off of the views.
2/15/19: Google Tells Towns to Keep Quiet: The Washington Post reported that as Google expands its geographical reach, including by building more data centers, Google has also required imposed nondisclosure agreements on the communities it contracts with, to avoid unfavorable press and delay disclosure.
2/1/19: YouTube Promotes Anti-vaxxer Videos: An investigation from The Guardian found that YouTube (and Facebook) and its recommendation feature often “steer[ed] viewers from fact-based medical information toward anti-vaccine misinformation.” A BuzzFeed report later that month found that YouTube still returned vaccine-related search queries with anti-vaccine misinformation.
1/21/19: France Fines Google for Violating Data Law: France fined Google 50 million euros ($57 million) for violating the European Union’s general privacy law for improperly informing users it collects their data across services to present them with targeted ads.
1/2/19: Former Google Exec Says “Things have changed” Since “Don’t be Evil” Days: Google’s former Head of International Relations penned a Medium post explaining why he left the company, with the subheading: “The company’s motto used to be ‘Don’t be evil.’ Things have changed.” Ross LaJeunesse criticized, among other initiatives, Google’s plans to release a censored Search product to expand into China as well as “Cloud executives … actively pursuing deals with the Saudi government.” LaJeunesse told of workplace toxic to women, queer, and workers of color.
12/20/18: YouTube Promotes Anti-Abortion Videos: Reporting finds that YouTube searches for “abortion” promoted gory, misleading, and other anti-abortion results.
12/20/18: Apps on Google’s Store Leads Users to Child Porn: TechCrunch reported that third-party apps on Google’s Play Store led users through links to WhatsApps groups that shared child pornography. (By December 27, 2018, Google had reportedly removed the third-party apps from its app store.)
12/17/18: Google Makes Congressional Study Harder: Google got in trouble with the U.S. Senate for making it difficult for a committee to study election interference. Compared to Facebook and Twitter, the researchers said, “Google’s data contribution was by far the most limited in context and least comprehensive.”
11/26/18: Apps Reaching Billions Defraud Advertisers, Hurt Websites & Publishers: BuzzFeed reported on a study that found that eight apps downloaded over 2 billion times in total from Google Play’s Store “have been exploiting user permissions as part of an ad fraud scheme that could have stolen millions of dollars.”
11/13/18: Google Gets Millions of Peoples’ Confidential Health Info: Alphabet announced that its DeepMind subsidiary would be reorganized under Google’s health division. Researchers criticized the move for connecting people’s “intimate, identifiable health data to Google,” noting that “Google just got its hands on the personal data of 1.6 million [UK] NHS patients.”
10/25/18: Google Pays and Protects Executives for Sexual Misconduct: A New York Times investigation finds that Google protected and paid various high-level executives after they were accused of sexual misconduct; one executive received $90 million. Just over a week later, more than 17,000 Google workers walked out to protest Google’s handling of the matters.
10/23/18: Apps for Android Phones Target Kids, Defraud Advertisers: A BuzzFeed News investigation found that over 125 Android apps and sites, some of which targeted children, were part of a “massive, sophisticated digital advertising fraud scheme” that showed ads to bots instead of people.
10/8/18: Google Accidentally Leaked 500,000 Users’ Data, Then Kept Quiet About It: In Spring 2018, Google learned that it had exposed the personal information of over 500,000 Google Plus users and kept it secret to avoid popular backlash and regulatory consequences.
9/29/18: Google Pays Billions to be Default on iPhone: Google reportedly paid Apple $9 billion to be the default search engine on Apple’s mobile Safari browser.
9/12/18: Google Profits Off of Children’s Data: The New Mexico Attorney General sued Google and other companies for violating children’s privacy when they played games onto their phones. Google’s AdMob and Google Play’s programs allegedly profited off of collecting the children’s data.
8/30/18: Google Works With Mastercard To Track Purchases: From 2017 to 2018, Google secretly paid millions for credit card transaction information from Mastercard to test its advertising products’ efficacy. Google reportedly has said that it had information on “approximately 70 percent” of all U.S. credit and debit cards through other card-issuing partners.
8/13/18: Google Follows Users Even When They Tell It Not To: The Associated Press reported that Google software tracks users’ location data even if they had opted out of location tracking in their privacy settings.
8/11/18: Google Misleads Users and Advertisers with Fake Ad Views: A New York Times investigation found that users could easily purchase fake views to inflate viewing figures on YouTube videos, “misleading consumers and advertisers.”
8/1/18: To Enter China, Google Plans Censored Search Engine: Google planned to develop a censored search engine, called “Dragonfly,” to enter into the Chinese online search market and comply with Chinese government rules, according to The Intercept.
7/30/18: Right-Wing Conspiracy Theorist Videos are Found at the Top of Youtube Search Results, Despite Its Promises to Curtail Misinformation: Right-wing conspiracy theorists successfully had their videos accusing famous celebrities of pedophilia ranked atop of various YouTube search results.
7/24/18: Google “Courts” Fossil Fuel Companies: Google created a new subdivision “to court the oil and gas industry,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The subdivision reached an agreement with French oil company Total S.A. in April 2018 to use artificial intelligence to evaluate land for oil and gas drilling. Google also entered into partnerships with other Texas energy companies including Anadarko Petroleum in December 2018. In January 2019, Google paid $25,000 to sponsor a conference that included a group that, according to Gizmodo, “advocates for more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” (Wired)
7/24/18: Google Profits from Fake-Review Websites, While Fake Reviews Violate Google’s Terms of Service: Businesses that place fake reviews have paid Google to appear higher in search results for “fake Google reviews,” The Times reported, despite fake reviews violating Google terms of service and UK law.
7/20/18: Rival Search Engine Accuses Google of Excluding It From Android: Rival search engine DuckDuckGo has also claimed that Google has excluded DuckDuckGo from being added to Chrome for mobile operating system Android and even claimed the URL “duck.com” to redirect users to google.com.
7/16/18: Google and Apple Profit Off of Far-Right Conspiracy Theory App, Allowing it On their App and Play Store for Months: Google and Apple profited off of sales from a conspiracy theory app on their Play Store and App Store that helped amplify the right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory.
7/2/18: Google Reads Your Email, and Allows Hundreds of Outside Developers to Do the Same: A year after it said it would stop reading the emails of Gmail users, Google continued to allow software developers to use millions of Gmail users’ emails to train programs to offer travel or other online comparison services.
6/21/18: Google Successfully Lobbies Against NY State Bill Criminalizing “Revenge Porn”: Victims’ rights attorney Carrie Goldberg told The New York Post, “Big Tech, especially Google, created the revenge porn problem. And now, just as we were about to enable victims to demand removal of their most intimate material from the internet via this law, Google renews its abuse.”
6/18/18: Outside Security Firm Finds Bug in Google’s TV and Speaker, Giving Access To Users’ Precise Location Data: Due to a coding bug, Google’s Home speaker and Chromecast TV stick allowed third-party websites to track users’ locations to a “within a few feet” of their homes. Google only agreed to issue a fix once contacted by a security reporter who made it clear he was intending to write about the issue.
4/12/18: Google Search Influences Voters, Sways Elections: Google’s power over information means that it has likely affected voters’ choices and even election results themselves. One research team has documented Google search results affecting votes in national elections in Australia, India, the UK, and the US.
2/12/18: Google Search Autocomplete Still Makes “Vile Suggestions:” Despite Google claiming to have addressed in 2016 a tendency for Search’s autocomplete feature to suggest racist, misogynistic, and hateful queries, Wired found in 2018 that Google Search still suggested automatically filling, for example, “white supremacy is” with “good” and “black lives matter is” with “a hate group.”
1/31/18: Princeton Study Finds That 76% of Websites Have Hidden Google Trackers: DuckDuckGo CEO called for stricter regulation of Google and Facebook and cites a Princeton study finding that 76% of websites have hidden Google trackers (and 24% have hidden Facebook trackers).
1/12/18: Racist Auto-Tagging in Google’s Photos App Reveals Serious Issues in Their Facial Recognition Software: After a software engineer in 2015 noted that Google Photos had classified his black friends as “gorillas,” Google struggled to fix the problem. Three years later, Wired showed that Google simply prevented Google Photos from returning any results for “gorilla,” “chimp,” “chimpanzee,” and “monkey.”
10/30/17: Google Profits Off of Fake News Sites: A Campaign for Accountability study of Google’s ad business found that Google made at least $48 million off of serving ads to right-wing websites, including publishers of “hyper-partisan sites that often post inaccurate information.” Despite Google’s promise to refrain from serving ads on fake news sites, the study found that Google circumvented that promise by continuing to work with fake news sites and often helped prevent advertisers from seeing where Google placed their ads.
10/9/17: Google Finds Russian-Bought Election Ads on Its Network: An internal Google inquiry found that agents of the Russian government and other Russian internet addresses bought over $50,000 worth of advertisements in an attempt to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.