Photo: goldend via Flickr
One of the truisms of business is that you can’t beat the United States government.Over the years, many companies thought that they could, from US Steel to Microsoft. They all lost.
So these days, companies make sure that they maintain full-scale lobbying operations in Washington, DC and that their senior people are active in fund-raising efforts for both parties.
Google has long imagined that since it “did no evil,” the normal rules didn’t apply to them. This conceit has now run into a new reality. The National Journal reports:
Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), cochairmen of the Bipartisan Privacy Caucus and longtime members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, don’t agree on much. But after Google was caught last month collecting Social Security information from children who took part in its annual doodling contest, the lawmakers set aside their differences. In a scathing joint statement, they called the action “unacceptable.”
The rebuke was just the latest in a series from lawmakers in both parties, and it highlights a deeper problem for the online giant: Its star is falling fast in Washington. Long the darling of the technology community, Google had carefully cultivated an image of corporate responsibility with its “Don’t Be Evil” motto and its mission “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But in recent years, the company has distanced itself not only from the motto but also the principles behind it, say experts who monitor its business practices.
And members of Congress are noticing. In recent months, they’ve criticised Google for its proposed acquisition of an online travel-reservations company; a privacy breach involving the collection of unsecured wireless data; and its short-lived effort to circumvent tough new Internet regulations. “There is an awareness that Google just isn’t exactly the warm, fuzzy, cuddly, little start-up that everybody loved [and] that we thought it was,” said John Simpson, director of the Inside Google project for Consumer Watchdog, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit and fierce critic of the company. “It’s such an all-pervasive force in everyone’s lives that it’s coming under scrutiny—and deservedly so.”
Google, of course, is not naive. They maintain a vast lobbying operation in Washington and a number of their senior executives are fund-raisers and bundlers for President Obama. (A “bundler” is someone who raises a bundle of money from friends and business associates). At a recent dinner meeting in San Francisco, called the “Tech Bundlers Ball” by one Washington veteran, Google was well-represented.
So it seems unlikely, to say the least, that the Obama Administration will allow its Justice Department to do anything like what the Clinton Justice Department did to Microsoft back in the late 1990s. But the problem for Google is that Congressional investigations mean subpoenas and subpoenas find trouble. Trouble for Google.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.