Any large company with half-way competent legal counsel is going to tell their employees not to say, "our goal is to crush our competitors, dominate the market, and hear the lamentation of their women." Instead they will tell their employees to focus on making life better for their customers. It's a much healthier way for product managers to focus, and what you might do if the goal is "crush/dominate the competition" is *not* the same than if the goal is delight the customer. So it's not just a messaging strategy to prevent embarassing e-mails from coming out at trial; it's a business strategy, too.
I think some historical background is necessary here. Nowadays IBM isn't a monopoly but during the 20th century, IBM was more or less a monopoly. IBM's antitrust problems go back to their 1936 consent decree and 1956 consent decree. IBM was subject to a huge antitrust case that went on from 1969 to 1982 as well as many other antitrust lawsuits.
The first point is that of course IBM and other at-risk companies will have training to keep people from writing things that will cause antitrust problems. (Their antitrust case had 30 million pages of discovery.)
Second, antitrust cases hinge on the "market" (as a legal term), so it's not surprising that Google wants employees to avoid using that word. In an antitrust case, each side will argue over what is "the market", and you don't want to lose the case because of a random email discussing the "market". Google's recommendation to say "Area" instead of "Market" hardly limits thought, but it makes a big different in antitrust.
Third, I don't want to go all CLS, but antitrust law is pretty much incoherent and illogical. Even after the antitrust case against IBM ended (by fizzling out after 13 years), nobody agrees on whether IBM was violating antitrust laws or not.
One frustration is that it has morphed from things around consumer harm to a new focus on harm to other ... businesses.
Google downranks some crappy content farm / shopping aggregator - bam - antitrust complaint. Yes, it hurt that business and so helps google shopping - but no one asks - do users like these crap content farms? Same with google finance - I liked it. Now google can't prioritize that - even through I want it and so I get sent to a giant ad laden garbage fest of another finance / stock quote site.
The other issue consumers no longer have any leverage with respect to very large businesses and govt is no where. So Apple can build a very valuable offering by playing "cop" in their closed garden. That is a consumer benefit.
In other words, you individually would never be able to negotiate a deal where someone would let you sign up for their service anonymously, but apple can force that.
They can force trials signups to have full details of renewals (same font).
They can force folks to allow you to cancel subscriptions without huge advance warnings and will remind you of subscriptions in advance. Yes, this sucks for developers, but the consumer is helped by these steps.
Until govt steps in, I'd love for them to back off on folks creating these places where the tons of crap the govt allows on the broader internet is not permitted.
As far as I know, it is actually the focus on "consumer harm" that is, well was, the new thing, introduced in the 1980s under Reagan, and it largely gutted antitrust law. And that was exactly the purpose.
For much of that history, including the seminal breakup of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil in 1911, the ruling antitrust theory was “harmful dominance.” That’s the idea that companies that dominate an industry are potentially dangerous merely because they are dominant. With dominance comes the ability to impose corporate will on workers, suppliers, other industries, people who live near factories, even politicians and regulators.
The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 saw the rise of a new antitrust theory, based on “consumer welfare.” Consumer welfare advocates argue that monopolies can be efficient, able to deliver better products at lower prices to consumers, and therefore the government does us all a disservice when it indiscriminately takes on monopolies.
Software on the web - endless issues buying / refunding / renewing.
And if I don't like apple (which only has like 15% market share) I can switch to any number of android phones.
It's just weird seeing the FTC going after a player that is generally doing things consumers like. Meanwhile, android phones ship with rom loaded rootkits / trackers / overlays and app stores and what do we hear from FTC? Crickets - literally.
It took them ages to deal with kids making unauthorised in app purchases and AFAIK they still haven't dealt with scam apps and scam subscriptions ($150/year QR code scanning app).
Consumers would appreciate PWAs but it doesn't suit Apple's corporate strategy so they are poorly supported.
You can't pay through the Netflix or Kindle app due to their ridiculous rules.
They look for ways to keep market dominance and move into more markets and then they think about consumer benefits they can add on the side.
Nothing prevents apple from providing the exact same experience and still have a setting in the phone that allow third party markets from installing their applications. It would be just like the app store in windows.
Nothing prevents you working 10 minutes a day on something I want you to do - and yet I suspect you will not.
Apple has proven to be the most competent organisation on the planet, in the 50 odd year history of mobile phones, at getting consumers what they want. Suggesting that they should run things some other way needs some much stronger arguments and is going to be highly debatable.
To get to this point they've taken on all the major tech giants, the mobile phone industry, the telecoms and various foundational web technologies (including Flash, happily) and out-competed anyone in the business of making profits. At every step of the way they proved to be much better at anticipating what was a good idea than everyone. Much more serious voices were made to look foolish than the backseat drivers.
If you don't want what Apple is selling, buy something else.
Apple has CONSISTENTLY chosen to go outside norm. For example, carriers wouldn't let you have more than 10 songs on their devices? Carriers putting crapware on devices? Carriers making you do contracts to get a specific device?
Apple took all that on - and I was happy for it. You can buy an unlocked iphone for most iphones outside of carrier channels, and you don't need to worry too much about who you buy from because apple doesn't let carriers screw with device.
One interesting pattern is the criticize and then copy pattern. Folks are 1) outraged at a change apple is making and then 2) rush to copy it.
I hate the lack of a headphone jack personally (was amazing for low latency audio work). But I can't deny that literally almost every company that criticized them then COPIED them on this.
I expect the same thing with their move away from more chargers in the box. Lots of outrage and criticism, then folks will probably copy them.
I do wish lighting cables had become a standard. The USB-C port is just less solid when plugged in - I have lots more problems with it for some reason (stuff getting inside cable, loose fitting etc etc.
If there is only one buyer/seller then in order to fight their price making power, you can’t form a cartel (illegal price collusion!) but you can consolidate into another monopoly and push the monopoly price making power elsewhere in your benefit.
This is the root of most hullabaloo around Apple, isn’t it? Many of the things they do, like limiting exploitation by third-party payment systems (e.g. which rarely offer refunds for regretful purchases, unlike the App Store which always complies) or hiding your email from personal data farmers, ultimately benefit consumers, but of course Apple’s competitors would love to break those walls down and invade the garden.
We already know how the other guys do it, they screw you. must cancel 30 days in advance or you get a 1 year renewal. Meanwhile, when I delete an app that has a subscription apple reminds me and suggests cancelling subscription!
The problem is individuals have NO / ZERO leverage in these deals these days. This is not your corner grocer. Match Group etc are major companies - and yes, they will do everything they can to extract every $, long term brand strength be darned.
Of course they can: they could let you opt-in to this specific facet of customised search results. The general issue is about the default search results.
a: Because imprecise language clouds thinking and makes things less intelligible, and Google is a company that makes its money from intelligence. People have been incorrectly referring to areas as markets, in order to better communicate we laid down guidelines. We often lay down guidelines about corporate communications to heighten their efficiency, as do other companies
on edit: I'm not saying that this is true, but one can easily make an argument as to why you use area instead of market in communication and ask your workers to do likewise. I would think the courts would require more evidence than that.
But there are two ways to hold a company to account. One is a civil mechanism, producing civil penalties and consent decrees (or damages, maybe?). The other is by the prosecution of a criminal offence. Enforcement via the latter is harder to do. It requires showing the actions were done intentionally, just like every criminal prosecution. It also has a very high standard of proof. Using the word "crushing the competition" in the context of buying competitors or engineering them out of the first page of search results is evidence of that. Google doesn't want exposure to criminal liability. It is undoubtedly harder to prove they did this stuff intentionally if they deliberately refrain from talking about it and do it in winks and nods.
I don't know what you're referring to by "try to be clever or cute" but using these language guidelines to decode discovered materials and show a criminal intent to do things that constitute criminal violations of antitrust law is not cute, and neither is relying on the absence of directly incriminating language to absolve yourself.
In all seriousness, a clever argument can be very good, as long as it's also solid. Not mutually exclusive.
Because really, when there’s a profit to be made, American companies are there to fill a “need”, right?
I hope every HN reader has the awareness and moral strength to resist, where the corporations are unable, the next time such à job comes.
I have literally never seen anyone here argue that "murder and genocide isn't morally wrong if it is legally right".
Are you sure you aren't equivocating "I don't support $FOO political position" with "I support murder and genocide"?
Because I have seen a number of people argue that some aspect of their personal moral code, which isn't currently written into law, should be written into law and enforced on the rest of the people who don't have that moral code.
I was discussing the trolley problem with a lawyer a few years ago, and her conclusion to the dilemma, no joke, was literally "It depends if I would be legally culpable in the country I'm in." Which is a very legalistic, and utterly amoral answer.
> Another user believed that they should base the decisions of who to save on the cultural mores, history, and laws of the region where they are sold.
This brings up a different issue: the product will then be considered amoral in the particular region that it is deployed in. That's the problem with using "morals" as a yardstick - it's too subjective because every culture has their own set of morals, and these morals change over time anyway.
For a product sold in multiple regions, it makes sense to follow the cultural mores of that region. If you don't like their morals, don't do business with them.
Also that quote from the article, from IMB's spokesman:
"We are a technology company, we are not historians."
That's fucking rich. Imagine Bayer saying the same when questioned if their company used to make Zyklon B.
The fascinating part of the deal of IBM with Nazi Germany is that it boils down to _tracking_of_individuals_. Their personal profile, location, capabilities, health status.
I don’t really see what’s surprising about any of this. The implication seems to be that the US directors of IBM were supposed to do something about it, but I’m not sure what.
Of course if some of these contracts for the concentration camps and such were tendered during peacetime, and this was known and it was possible for the US operation to exercise oversight, that would be incredibly damning.
We can argue about the scale of involvement and its meaning, but if you're not just speculating you should mention a source.
I don’t think anyone is disputing that — but every thing Google is doing is the result of fallible humans acting in pursuit of profit.
It doesn’t matter who or when. What matters is that people put aside their ethics in pursuit of profits. I think that needs to end.
Most things antitrust are incoherent and illogical. The unofficial plan seems to be literally to find market leaders who are offering substantially better products than the competition and then attack them for unspecified and likely immeasurable gains. Whether or not we've seen benefits from past antitrust actions, I don't believe measurements and observations of the actual outcomes are part of the debate. There is just an assumption that because they happened and big companies are bad ergo the outcome must have been good.
The article alludes to Google's 92% search engine market share as some sort of concealed monopoly. As a problem, this doesn't make sense! There is absolutely nothing stopping anyone switching to another search engine except the other search engines aren't generally very good. Google is better at providing search results than they are. Or presumably it is, I don't know since I stopped using Google Search a long while ago. This is a monopoly only in the sense that everyone agrees Google is a better option.
The problem with Google is that it is likely integrated with the US intelligence services. No antitrust suit is ever going to attack that; because it is the part that the government supports.
The same is true of Google. It’s hard to show concrete harm (though wrecking flight search counts for me) when we have no counterfactual to consider. For example, in a truly competitive display ad market (instead of a duopoly), maybe our civilization would have figured out that display ads are a waste of money and consumer product manufacturers and retailers would stop buying them. But it’s hard to know. This is why we should go after any company that is dominant in any market.
If we skip to the handwave, what is and how solid is the evidence that the regulator's actions were sensible? Targeting the most competent company for harassment is, on the face of it, a bad strategy.
> Imagine trying to build the modern internet under a telco monopoly
"Before the 1996 Act was passed, the largest four ILECs owned less than half of all the lines in the country while, five years later, the largest four local telephone companies owned about 85% of all the lines in the country." 
Yeah, that'd be really hard. But the major problem is poor regulation creating monopolies/incentives for them. The correct approach is to go for the root cause - competition stifling regulation - rather than setting up monopolies and then ineffectually trying to fight them in courts.
"Antitrust" is a distraction from the actual problem - bad regulation and incentives. And if the coversation revolved around actual attempts at showing evidence the antitrust stuff is hard to sustain. The examples are trivial. People on HN were whinging about Google removing an alert box in Chrome the other week.
Copyright and patent law would be the closest thing, but Google's core business isn't selling licensing agreements. They owned the search market way before Android was even a public project, much less the open-core monstrosity it is today. Google got to where it is because it legitimately hunted the rest of it's competitors into extinction, not because it got better at throwing red tape at them.
I've been working to untangle myself from them for a while. It isn't particularly hard, there are just a lot of really good services that need to be replaced.
The only thing I can't evade is the constant snooping all over the web. And that isn't something antitrust regulators are going to be dealing with.
The idea that things such as access to information, mailbox, applications, storage, … should not cost you any money and that it’s acceptable (for the few people who even know) to pay with a log of every move you do.
Just go read any paid app reviews on any of the App Store to read tons of comments like « 1/5 It’s not free ».
If I need more, I’ll go to a specific carrier’s site or to Matrix, but I’m usually using Google to get the overview picture (and it seems to work well).
If you want to make money from your site/channel, you pony up to Google's ad services to get ads from Google's ad networks to show up higher in Google's search engines so your customers with Google accounts can easily sign into your site running Google's authentication and feed metrics back into Google's web browser that's optimized for Google content. That's some kind of vertical integration, baby.
I'm deliriously sleepy, but I'm sure I got like, 70% of that right. I don't want to just de-Google, I want to be able to extricate and cordon off it and everything related to it on the web like I do with Facebook. But how?
So, having a monopoly in the search engine market isn't necessarily a problem (especially given the low switching costs you noted), but leveraging that monopoly to compete with non-search-engine companies by essentially choking off their search engine traffic is a BIG problem.
The exact means used that results in said choking-off may or may not matter (this is where the incoherence pops up), but the fact is that the conduct of any company with a monopoly (including entirely legitimate and legal ones) MUST face additional scrutiny for how it affects other markets.
When it was just starting out, Google was proud of how quickly users left Google search results by clicking a link. AFAICT, that didn't change until sometime well after AdWords was introduced (in fact, how quickly users left was an AdWords selling point and increased competition for the top ad slots), but at some point, Google started cannibalizing their SERP traffic in various ways. It was going to bite them in the ass sooner or later.
The lawn mower would like to have a word with you: <https://youtu.be/-zRN7XLCRhc?t=2040>
Answer: When you become a monopoly (or are on your way there), and need to hide from regulators. That's the point where the market becomes irrelevant, so tracking market share is nothing more than a liability.
The "improve life for customers" stuff is all fluff that you might read in a training manual alongside photos of happy employees playing ping pong at work.
I'd say Google is redefining the word "customers". What they really mean is users. Customers are traditionally those who pay for products or services. I'm sure Google also makes things easy for those who pay them, but that's not who they mean by "customers".
If I'm not mistaken the GoogleSpeak word for "companies we extort money from to maintain relevance in search results" is probably "partners".
Sherman Act, Section 2  - definitely worth a read.
I guess burger joints can't be monopolies.
The question antitrust has historically asked here is the concentration, and the extent to which have they have pricing power.
People seem to forget that the market, as a system of competing actors, doesn't care. It's like the lawnmower/Oracle mentioned elsewhere in the thread. It just doesn't give a damn. All the wealth any member of society enjoys is merely a side effect - the same way the motive force for a car is a side effect of combustion in the ICE. Gasoline doesn't give a damn about you being late for work, it only wants to violently oxidize. We make the market economy work the same way we make a car work - by carefully harnessing powerful forces that, inadequately constrained, are deadly.
I don't think that's true. I work for Samsung and we talk about market share and competitors all the time.
I mean, why shouldn't we? Being crystal clear is a very good step to achieve a goal. We need to be more honest.
BTW: (Yesterday-News) "News For South African Looters As Samsung Moves To Block Stolen TVs..."
1998 Idealism. "I think I want to make the world a better place."
2000 Disaster and desperation. VCs tell SB what Google must do.
Sergei Brin pushed the company to invest in his wife's company, had an affair with a subordinate, and probably quotes some other funny things along the way, it might say 'something' but I'm not sure if it speaks to 'competence'.
I'm not sure if this attack on the character of the companies, while maybe somewhat relevant, really speaks to the 'legal posture' of the companies.
They will require you not to say 'crush competitors' because it would be used as evidence.
The issue 'make a better product vs. crush competitors' is usually a more of a strategic issue.
Edit: it's not illegal to want to 'crush competitors' FYI the issue is the language that would point in a particular direction. The evidence of my point is Google's existence - I would argue it participates in a number of anti-competitive practices for which it's very smart legal team has made sure the language they use doesn't support legal scrutiny.
People can use all sorts of language, colloquially, and it can be interpreted in many ways.
You could absolutely use language within the company like 'crush the competition' wherein the culture is fully product oriented, great quality, support etc. and 'win the market'. That's perfectly legal and frankly ethical.
Legal's job is to protect from scrutiny and litigation, in which case, they will, among other things, say 'don't use this language'. Because it could be used as a kind of evidence, even if it's totally contextualized and misunderstood.
They will also obviously advise the CEO and product leadership on materially illegal activities, but it's unlikely that rank and file are going to hear about that.
For example, colluding with your industry partners on hiring practices ... you're not going to be privy to that.
If the company is not getting sued, legal is doing it's job. The rest of the equation mostly up to the rest of the executive team.
This works less well when employees are not taught from birth only the language Google's legal team want them to learn.
If people aren't allowed to talk about "crushing competition" they also can't think about it. If they can't think about it they also can't recognize it when it happens.
They kind of agree Google is the search/Android company, and FB is the social network company, and that way they can both sell ads.
Even Reddit, Snapchat, and TikTok, FBs main competitors, were never “crushed.” There was never a full out assault on them.
FBs attitude seemed to be to watch them, learn from them, and adopt their best practices.
Source? the FAAMG plan with horizontally scaling the business into more markets is ultimately "benefit the consumer", so disallowing such expansion is effectively making products worse (for the majority; the minority customers unhappy with the new FAAMG-backed competing product do indeed suffer). If this policy is that narrow, they'll just slow acquisitions/product development and either start spinning off more companies or increasing VC spending, which doesn't move the needle besides detaching the company's name from their money.
What do you think Biden meant when he said "capitalism without competition isn't capitalism"?
Until we see some antitrust action that's an actual breakup and not 'locked down devices that aren't game consoles need to allow third party App Stores' we won't know the actual extent to which Biden is serious about doing anything to natural horizontal monopolies.
Via market share, competition amplifies the rewards of being better. if you make your product 1% better than the competition, you might go from 30% to 70% market share. But to do so, you have to actually gain the market share. You can't just "build it and they will come"; in many industries, someone has to go out and win the market after the product is built. And so a lot of people in companies are really, really, really, motivated to gain market share. That's what increases their share option value, and gets their bonuses. And that's what tempts companies towards lock-in and all the rest.
And yes, when armies of lawyers are routinely descending on your internal communications then it sucks but PR-speak has to become the norm for all. Most people don't like it, but the consequences of not doing it are even worse.
But the current approach is to mask the ends, the end goal may actually not be what we desire, e.g. corrupt monopolies leeching off society. But as long as we create approaches and incentive structures that get us to the same ends that are deemed acceptable, then it's just an "undesired side effect" we can handwave away, or so many managing businesses think.
Both the ends and the means matter.
Like, the thing here that really boggles my mind: if the training materials had said literally the exact opposite of what they do: "crush the competition, find ways to prevent competitors from competing fairly with us" etc. — someone like the author would write an article vilifying them. (And rightly so.) So the company instead says "focus on our product; competition is good and okay" and … they're vilified for it. Damned if they do, damned if they don't.
By this article's twisted logic, any company focused on their product is just engaging in newspeak for thinly veiled anti-competitive behavior. Or is it just if Google does it?
(It kills me to argue this, since I think normally these threads/articles spawn good debate about the size and scope of FAANG. But… this one is ridiculous.)
Also I don't see how changing "Cut off competitors' access to target" to "Integrate target with Google" matches your idealistic view of "focus on our product; competition is good and okay".
They basically acknowledge competition will be crushed, and are asking for appropriate communication to avoid troubles. It makes sense from Google's point of view, but I don't see why we should be advocating for them in any way.
It's literally communication guidelines of a profit oriented company dominating it's market in a monopolistic way that says "avoid talking about market or market share, this is bad"
The only way to have a "charitable" interpretation of this is to partake in their game, imho.
If the material was written exactly the opposite, it'd almost make more sense, most companies want a high awareness of their market share... unless they're worried about being hit with an anti-trust case.
And so, when it comes to banning phrases like "crush the competition" it's not that
rule alone which is worrying, it's the whole package.
Your argument is also a bit flawed, in that the alternative isn't training material that encourages talking about "crushing the competition". The realistic alternative is that the training material wouldn't have to mention it at all. Either because the company doesn't have a problem with that kind of culture, or because the company isn't close to being a monopoly, such that talking about "crushing the competition" would just be interpreted as healthy competitiveness.
That is a very charitable interpretation of the training materials.
When I was at IBM 15 years ago, IBM was far from being a monopoly, since there were plenty of competitors in the hardware space (HP, Sun, Dell, etc) and in the software space (Oracle, SAP, etc.) and in the Services space (Accenture, PwC, KPMG, etc.) employees still had to complete annual legal training that was very similar to what was described in the post.
Any large company with half-way competent legal counsel is going to tell their employees not to say, "our goal is to crush our competitors, dominate the market, and hear the lamentation of their women." Instead they will tell their employees to focus on making life better for their customers. It's a much healthier way for product managers to focus, and what you might do if the goal is "crush/dominate the competition" is not the same than if the goal is delight the customer. So it's not just a messaging strategy to prevent embarassing e-mails from coming out at trial; it's a business strategy, too.
Too many thought leaders masquerading as engineers.
Google has so many employees that they need training to limit the damage from random chatter and speculation.
It’s more cumbersome to have to talk about some things via video chat, but it’s not about limiting thought.
Even U.S. government officials have used private email servers to avoid having to serve them up via requests.
And when that failed they destroyed the hard drive that contained the exchange server db. (See IRS scandal)
> There is no legitimate business reason for that policy.
So the policy is about limiting the chance of potentially very expensive lawsuits, and has no legitimate business reason? Choose one.
I wish people stopped overusing "Orwellian": the term is so overused that you could use it next to "agile" and I wouldn't notice.
"Orwellian" is an adjective describing a situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It denotes an attitude and a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, disinformation, denial of truth (doublethink), and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson"—a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practiced by modern repressive governments. Often, this includes the circumstances depicted in his novels, particularly Nineteen Eighty-Four but political doublespeak is criticized throughout his work, such as in Politics and the English Language.
I defend my use of the term. Disappearing the past absolutely is Orwellian. Down the memory hole!
Eric Schmidt’s retention policy was 72 hours.
More than likely Schmidt may have said something along the lines of deleting anything more than 3 days old because at the pace of his business, it's 'time out' and not relevant. But that's just a matter of his peculiar communications style. That the label has changed to 'archive' doesn't mean anything really from a corporate perceptive.
So yes, illegal to actually delete, and seemingly impractical to bump from one's inbox, but perhaps at 'Google Speed' there's some reason for it (and maybe there's a big caveat i.e. anything that's 'starred' or whatever doesn't get deleted, or, maybe anything older than 3 days that's opened or unopened gets deleted).
EDIT: For those who are wondering, here is a quick summary .
Eric Schmidt's emails are definitely kept around a very long time, for very legal reasons, and whatever he happens to do with his own personal 'inbox' is not relevant to the subject at hand, and amounts to a kind of personal email/habit choice.
To suggest '72 hours' in response to a discussion about legal discovery etc. is basically misleading in that regard.
Eric Schmidt is not deleting his emails after 72 hours for the reason you mentioned and certainly the company is not, which is the salient issue.
One could say 'oh that's just from his inbox' but that's pointless in the context of this conversation because we're talking about 'If the corporation has a copy or not' i.e. 'IT' etc..
Scmidt deleting maybe a local copy after 72 hours doesn't really have anything to do with anything other than his personal email habits.
>"Orwellian" is an adjective describing a situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It denotes an attitude and a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, disinformation, denial of truth (doublethink), and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson"—a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practiced by modern repressive governments.
Stop overusing terms you don't understand
Many business have auto-delete for the simple business purpose - when someone hacks your email (which will happen somewhere in a large business) - why do you need to keep all that crap around forever? And yes, people email payroll details, passwords, logins and the list goes on - stop with the preaching about how to email securely.
So you auto-delete, which reduces the blast radius. In most cases folks are not looking at emails past 3 years old.
You already completely answered the perfectly standard and reasonable business reason: "to limit legal exposure. "
In fact, this legitimate business reason is 100% the reason for the policy. Increasing legal exposure for no reason is a bad idea, for companies and for individuals.
This explanation was given to me by a corporate lawyer who was trying to figure out whether the same kind of expiration could be put on tickets in bug and project trackers, which would have been even more harmful to institutional memory than an email expiration policy.
Depending on context, these are either shared with the other person (and usually editable by them) or is accessible only by me.
Yes, it has: GDPR requires that you delete PII in reasonable time. I have a lot of customers contacting me by email for example, but also the JIRA notifications which all end up in emails with extensive PII. It must be deleted in a controlled way according to GDPR.
But you are correct that this excuse goes away with Google, since they don’t do support ;)
The training/policies just codify that.
The language, at best, just makes the cognitive dissonance a little easier.
When I started at Google in 2015, in my first week here chatting with some peers, some of them were complaining about some of our policies around Android and that they much preferred Apple (the person didn't work anywhere near Android, but was complaining about it more as a user).
There are many people at Google that have issues with various parts of Google's businesses. Some are more vocal about it than others. One great example was Brad Fitzpatrick complaining about the first-gen Nest smoke alarms (2015): https://twitter.com/bradfitz/status/566072337020112896
I'm not saying Google is the great Satan or anything, I'm just saying it's impossible for most people, especially the typical Googler, to simultaneously work at a place for a nice paycheck and think it's bad for society. Everyone justifies, whether it's Phillip Morris or Google.
Have you ever been affiliated with a political party that was highly popular (or a monoparty even) in your country but was held in contempt by the rest of the world because of how totalitarian/inhumane it was?
In both cases, you could read whatever, even critical information about your values. But you would have an explanation ready — enemies envy and slander us, they either know they lie or they are repulsed by the God's light because of how corrupted they are, they are not aware of the whole truth... You would have a whole arsenal to explain things away, because you are committed, and your commitment makes it hurt to realize that the purpose your values serve is not very noble, or that you're a part of something atrocious. It's the human nature.
But there are also a lot of employees who have strongly opposed various Google policies and engaged in various political activity based on that, so the groupthink doesn’t seem to be working very well? Also, the company leaks like a sieve these days.
Even before that, there were a lot of internal debates. (They just didn’t leak as much.) It’s in part because of these debates that you need policies; people sometimes say careless things in heated discussions.
(Former Googler, but it’s been a while.)
I suppose you could make a case for continuing if the policies are/have been/could realistically be changed.
But if that's unlikely?
Similarly, at a large enough company, if your work is good, but some other division of the company is bad, should you leave the company(city/country)? Or just avoid the bad division?
 Leaving aside the question of whether it's a good thing for companies to get that large.
And it's limited, by necessity, even outside working hours, lest your tongue/fingers slip and you utter a bad word in your Googler capacity so that a liable deed gets a liable name and there won't be any lawyering around this.
Heck, it's almost, though not entirely, like a brainwashing cult!
I guess in China they also force their Uighur camp operators to not even think about what they do as "torture", but "reeducation". It makes them happier in their workplace.
The overarching concept is "don't make it hard for the company to do business." The point of those trainings is that the words to avoid have legally-defined meanings that may or may not be what the Googler intended, but are likely to be interpreted in an antitrust sense in a court of law. The underlying concept is "don't talk like a lawyer if you're not one of our lawyers."
Watching what you put in email (as described in this article) is in the same training where Googlers are given the overarching advice "always communicate via email as if those emails are going to show up on the front page of the New York Times tomorrow."
The fact alone that there exists such an extensive training specifically about monopoly-related stuff hints that there is extensive monopolistic behavior liability for which only hinges on whether it's acknowledged as such in the internal communication.
Also, it adds a whole new (new?) meaning to any press release or a blog post from Google using any of the terms from the right column if you substitute them with the terms from the left column. They say "dedicated to providing the best services to our users", you see "dedicated to eliminating our competitors".
But they do, and the good ones are really good at it.
Any competent company is going to train its people with some sort of variation on a course named "The Ten Dumbest Things You Can Write In An Email So Don't".
I don't work for Google or have much of an opinion on "Googlespeak".
However, that the practice of law is allowed to exist in its current state is an indictment on our society. The legal profession is one that polices itself, has no proper oversight (judges are just lawyers with a more refined superiority complex), raises barriers to entry with a level of zeal only matched by medicine (to which it is not actually comparable), and is also allowed to maliciously and limitlessly wield this power over the people who do real work is a foundational problem with governmental design.
In a different vein, when I was younger I didn't understand why people preferred phoning.
I as a Deaf engineer rely on written communication. This exposes myself and people communicating with me to «showing what has been said». I am sure that in my career I missed some important information just because people weren't willing to create a persistent record of communication.
My friend «solved» this problem, but I am sure his interlocutors would be miffed if they knew that.
Yes, it stands to reason that if you’re engaged in a potentially unlawful conspiracy you need to be careful what you put in writing.
However if this is coming up constantly and prevents you from using common sense words for your regular business operations then it’s a pretty clear red flag that your actions may be subjecting you to legal liability.
The other side of "Be careful what you put in writing because lawyers, lol" that is always ignored is:
"If you think we need to dress up the way we talk about this one particular thing we're doing, then maybe we should reevaluate whether we should be doing this thing. If you think we need to dress up the way we talk about literally everything that this company does, then maybe it's time to step back and reevaluate the ethics of what this company stands for."
A company is a machine that is going to do whatever it can to print money, including brainwashing its employees. You and your colleagues are the only entities capable of ethical reasoning. The company and its executive functionaries are not going to do this for you. In fact, they're more likely going to try and stop you.
It's your responsibility to do it anyway.
At Google, the team responsible for deciding whether a given project is legal is the legal team. Googlers are encouraged to get a member of legal on board as soon as a project gels far enough to have a concrete description that could have legal consequences. At that point, a set of attorney client privileged communications could begin where any of the words listed here can be on the table (because that communication is not in discoverable media).
But in general, Google doesn't encourage its software engineers to think they're experts in law any more that it encourages its lawyers to think their experts in BigTable performance tuning.
I'll grant you that not every corporate policy will agree with me, but I would argue that every human with a brain has a responsibility to think about whether what their boss asks them to do is ethical, and a responsibility to raise hell if they think it isn't.
I don't believe it's ethical to abdicate this human responsibility to a corporate legal team.
Part of what these corporate policies are deliberately designed to do is condition employees into believing that "deferring to the legal team" is where their responsibility ends. They want to convince you that this checks the box for both "legal" and "ethical" so that you feel like you've done your duty, and now you don't need to think about the ethics of your work anymore. This is what I meant by corporations "brainwashing" their employees. But you're always on the hook for the ethics of your work.
That's the key difference and the purpose for constraining what ends up in discoverable media.
There is, perhaps, a meta-ethical question of whether companies should, in general, be factoring into their calculus ways to minimize the government's capacity to hinder their activities. It's a good question. I don't have an answer that's universally true. I suspect if we sit down and consider it, we find lots of circumstances where it's not in the best interests of anyone to just hand the government a company's throat to be slashed. After all, especially if we're talking about the United States, it's not like the government itself has proven a bastion of ethical reasoning either.
Since legality in a corporate context is not typically a binary evaluation, it would be far more accurate to say that their job is to ascertain the relative financial and business costs of potentially illegal behavior so it can be effectively compared to that behavior’s potential profits
They were also in blue or yellow (I forget which, but one was WAY more lucrative than the other!) so it was very easy for the user to distinguish an ad from a search result.
I just did the canonical $$$ search "flowers" on my Macbook. The entire first page was ads and they are not colored anymore (although they do say "Ad"). There is also a Maps snippet which shows where I can buy flowers.
What happened? Well, I can guess: they did experiments, and not coloring the ads produced more revenue. I know from talking to ordinary users that they often say proudly "I never click on ads!" Now they do.
I very rarely use Google Web Search.
Poor relevance and ubiquitous tracking is a key condern. But the ad-spamming is also tremendously out of hand.
I'd switched to Google from AltaVista in 1999. I ditched GWS effectively by 2013.
Yes, I'll still occasionally run a "!g" bang search. And there are Google services I find genuinely useful --- Google Books and Ngram Viewer most especially.
But the bloom hasn't been anywhere near that rose for a long, long, long, long time.
The most relevant quality content tends to come from published rather than online sources, or by going direct to source.
The Web has been a mistake.
That said, Google's SERP page content, layout, tracking, and advertising all effectively drop relevance by a tremendous amount --- I've got to consciously filter out Google's own crap on top of the irrelevant web results returned.
DDG's cleaner presentation increases effective quality by a subjectively-assessed factor of 2--10.
Date-bounded search remains one of the very few reasons to favour GWS for a specific search, though even that is highly unreliable. Often what I want is a searchable archive from a given period, not a guestimate of a date-ranged search over the live Web.
Even in Google Books, date-ranged search results very often fail to return content from the requested period.
In hindsight, what would have been better?
I'm also not sure that djin can be rebottled. The history of media advances has been that they tend to progress and proceed, and human culture changes around them, they do rather less adapting to human culture.
(I've become aware in the past five years or so of the study of media and its impacts on society as a whole. Elizabeth Eisenstein's The Printing Press as an Agent of Change only hints at the full breadth, but is one of the major works on the topic. She draws heavily on Marshall McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy (literally: we live in the universe Johannes Gutenberg created), and there are numerous others who explore this, notably Adam Curtis and Neil Postman. Again, the Web, algorithmic social media, and mobile computing each bring their own twist. Again, this isn't the first time media's transformed society. I'd argue that every advance, from speech on up, has. The changes can be tremendous and catastrophic --- to the previously existing order --- as with the printing press and the Reformation and Hundred Years War.)
One useful approach is to look at each of what were touted as the Web's strengths, and consider them from the perspective of "what could possibly go wrong". Several principles of the sociologist Robert K. Merton are helpful here: overt vs. covert functions and phenomena, unintended consequences, and possibly self-fullfilling prophecies.
It's not clear to me what boundaries can be established for the Web, or what the consequences of a failure to establish those might be. Either case the future appears bleak.
Trying to find information given only fuzzy details almost never produce relevant links; anything remotely commercial, like trying to find a product reviews, film to watch, a store nearby, etc. produces tons of synthetic websites full of ads that magically match my query; specific technical information can result in low-effort blogspam or total rip-offs from other websites (stackexchange answers, other blogs, etc.); and the list goes on.
It seems to me the only actually interesting material is now found in forums, message boards, wikis and other kind of websites where users generate the content. Unfortunately searching these is far from handy because they aren't always indexed or have archaic interfaces or require a login. I think search engines in general, either by prioritising revenue or being tricked by spammers and CEO, are now blind to the real information contained in the web. I wish for a search engine that would only index a curated list of genuine websites based on a topic, but I don't think we'll ever have one because it's not profitable.
This I find impossible to believe. So you basically don't get any useful results for 80-90% of your searches? I wish you could give some examples.
1. There's a shell (program) which feature a built-in file manager inspider by ranger, I forgot its name: try to find it. Answer: 
2. There's a particular gas that can (temporarily) kill a smartphone, but you forgot which. Find the article about this. Answer: 
3. There's a blog post (well-known if you're into networking) that argues IPv6 was meant to replace MAC addresses. Answer: 
2. "(this) gas causes smartphones to temporarily deactivate" second result
3 "blog post ipv6 was supposed to replace MAC adresses" 3rd result
In some cases some slight change in the wording changes the ranking drastically. However, I am not sure "The old good google" would find these at all honestly.
This is insane:
Interestingly, I tried the same on DuckDuckGo and it seemed almost identical: some inlined ads, shopping results, have to scroll down to find actual search results. (main difference: embedded non-ad results like wikipedia and news).
Occasionally Google is still better. Just today, I was looking for old financial data on Synoptics (late 80s). Google has books & journals from back then; DDG does not.
At one time, this was the highest-priced ad in Google (idk if it still is), because personal injury lawyers were desperate to get clients.
TLDR: 2 ads, the rest organic.
Top-2 were ads, a maps widget, organic result, people also ask, 4 organic results, people also search for, images, 4 organic, 1 ad.
It's a method of avoiding responsibility oft credited to Henry II, who stated off-hand "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"
These large companies are going to be involved in lawsuits, no matter what. Their written communications are going to be trawled through, more than likely. Everyone in the company would have to be a bit simple for there not to be some preparations to defend against legal discovery.
Even if you believe yourself to be completely innocent of any crime, it is still stupid to make life easier for some legal assailant.
When you are tied to the hip to something, you will never change. The network effect keeps you on the same Ferris wheel.
Yes, it's systemic, not just in capitalism, through all of nature.
In cell biology, it's the Krebs cycle.
Google results are dominated by the Expedia Group (a conglomerate of tons of different brands: https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx). While Google's practices have definitely hurt, it's a huge business, and probably a larger reason why a new flight search competitor can't get off the ground.
As a customer, it's annoying there isn't more diversity anymore. Generic travel searches are dominated by these brands, plus articles full of affiliate links that are hard to trust.
Google was about to release a new version of Android or of Nexus phones.
(I don't remember the exact details)
And there was an insider leak, so the details of the innovation were published on internet a few days before the official announcement.
Leaks are now very common and often organized by companies, but a few years ago it was not yet the case.
I had a lunch with a few people including some Google engineers a few days after the leak. A discussion started about this topic, and the googlers said things like: "what a scandal the leak, we hate so much the person that did that, that we would have like to have him dead. If anyone in the company find who he his, we would seriously punch his face".
I was surprised, because, this was just a leak of the features, same content has what would have been disclosed in the PR announcement. Personally I would be happy that people have so much interest in my product that they spontaneously reshare early details about it. I did not see where the offense was for some random engineers of the company.
So, I asked them, and they told me that they felt that the insider "stole their announcement of their product".
I told them that it is ridiculous, because as an engineer you should like that your product is known, and that people hear and talk about it. But it should personally make no difference if the feature list/preview is published a few days earlier by a leak instead of by a random PR guy or by a big head of the company.
The only offended one might be the big head and the PR/marketing guys that had their plan ruined, but not common Google software engineer salarymen.
But the Googlers were not able to understand this idea, and then, they became hostile to me for the rest of the lunch for even having suggested that their feeling might not be justified.
So then I realized that they were brain washed by the company internal communication to feel that anything annoying for Google was bad for them personally!
In the exact same way that there are dictator led countries were most of the inhabitants are blindly following whatever the dictator says is the truth!
There's a lot of work that goes into those announcements. It's not just advertising the product that is the goal, it's presenting it their way.
Similarly, when someone is telling a joke and someone else tells the punchline, they get upset about it. According to your logic, they shouldn't. The joke was told, and the audience heard it. But I've yet to meet anyone who wouldn't be upset about someone else telling the punchline to their joke.
They were not brainwashed. You were incredibly insensitive to their feelings.
This kind of things happened in my case, and I was more happy to see the interest of the potential users than knowing who disclosed it as it would not be me anyway in all cases.
It might not be true in a small company/team/product. But in a big tech corps, the guy that will do the official announcement is usually quite far and unrelated to the engineers that did the feature.
Also, maybe a piece that was missing from my story is that the Googlers were not even in a team working or related to the disclosed thing. For example they were in the chrome team and it was an Android announcement or something like that.
Another point is that, at Google, it looks like that each big product team is firewalled from the other team. For example, people not working on Android core will not know anything about it or it's development and be in separated buildings and co.
You're being super presumptuous by saying engineers shouldn't care about the PR around the feature they worked on, even if someone else is running the PR
From what I hear, Google has/had a policy/culture of largely free information flow inside the company while not having information flow outside the company; a leak undermines that culture/policy and leads to more locked down information flow on the inside, and it's reasonable to be upset about that.
> they became hostile to me for the rest of the lunch for even having suggested that their feeling might not be justified.
People don't usually apprechiate it when they're upset and others tell them their feelings aren't justified and they should feel differently. That's simply not a good way to engage people.
It's not like the leakers did some kind of noble service, either. They were just assholes who destroyed something nice.
Sadly, this is "had" rather than "has" (it was the latter until a few years ago). As you point out, not least due to leaks.
Now I certainly wouldn't be talking about "punching people" or "wanting them dead"... But I am not happy when my coworkers violate trust by leaking. Unless we're talking about gross ethics violations, harassment, etc. leaking internal stuff doesn't improve anything for anybody except maybe the ego of the leaker.
I'll leave you with a quote: "If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place." - Eric Schmidt, former CEO and chairman.
The fact that Google locked down communication in response to the leaks, is a tacit confirmation that they are doing things they probably shouldn't be doing in the first place.
I think your interpretation of this experience is incorrect. Their visceral reaction was against leaking specifically, not negative information generally. Part of the propaganda behind TGIF, the internal newsletters, and so on is the idea that this inside information is part of what makes you special as a Googler.
> "...we hate so much the person that did that, that we would have like to have him dead."
While I'm sure you caught a big fish that day, I'm also sure it wasn't that big (come on: the retelling of this anecdote does not need quite that much exaggeration).
I don't exaggerate that point, the sentence was not exactly that but something very excessive and very close to that.
This is the intensity and violence of their feeling that shocked me to the point that I still remember this case after around 5/6 years or more.
As a bonus, follow-up with George Lakoff's Metaphors we Live By.
With thousands of employees, a company can’t take the risk that some random college hire mouths off over Slack on something they don’t know anything about and it shows up in discovery for something in the future and is used as evidence of planned malfeasance on the part of the company. I know we don’t like Google but this is not a Google thing, it’s a “opposing lawyers will take speculation from random low level engineers wildly out of context and judges and juries are too dumb to put it in context” thing.
Or.. maybe you're just using english with its rhetorical richness? the quality of emphasis is not meant to imply actual dislike or distain? In which case.. why can't you ascribe the same motive of language style to the original author?
I'm sure that there is a great deal of discussion about potential anticompetitive issues within Google and with their outside counsel, but in a context where legal privilege protects against disclosure.
It's not an abstract point. It has very real consequences because it's supposed to - and does - trigger expected emotions and behaviours.
PR consultants, politicians, lawyers, ad copy writers, and others who use rhetoric professionally use this kind of loading very deliberately.
If you need to take into account that every single message sent over internal media may be one day combed by hostile investigators for anything that might be considered your wrongdoing, you need to be careful, regardless of your size.