Issue 81

Breaking up Google

Delivered on 08 June 2020 by Justin Pyvis. About a 3 min read.

Apparently there's a push within the ranks of US Attorneys General to break up Google, specifically its advertising business:

Fifty attorneys general have been probing Google’s business practices for months, alongside a similar probe being led by the U.S. Department of Justice. Both the states and the DOJ are looking to file a suit against the internet giant as soon as within the next few months, the people told CNBC.

The states and the Justice Department have not yet officially decided whether to combine their expected suits, the people said, though they have been collaborating closely. Both have been investigating Google’s search, ad technology and android business.

The attorneys general investigating Google, which is owned by Alphabet, haven’t yet definitively ruled out pushing for alternatives for its ad technology business, like imposing restrictions on how it runs its business, one of the sources said. A suit may also include a push for both that option and breaking up the ad tech business.

Let me be perfectly clear: if this goes ahead, it would almost certainly be bad for consumers. Google might dominate digital advertising right now, but that doesn't mean there's a monopoly or antitrust issue. The market is highly contestable and Google dominates the space only because it's better than the alternatives. That's bad for Google's competitors, whether it's in advertising, search or mobile, precisely because it's good for consumers.


There's a reason why most of the big, successful tech companies come out of the United States and not Europe. Breaking up Google would set a dangerous, European-style precedent that would handicap a sector of the US economy that has been responsible for enormous growth and innovation.

Enjoy the rest of this week's issue. Cheers,

— Justin

Other bits of interest

Two consequences of the protests

  1. Lots more people are using encrypted messaging apps, which will reduce the already limited usefulness of dragnet surveillance.
  2. Lots more people will get infected with COVID-19 and public health officials in many countries have obliterated their credibility, meaning there is zero their advice will be followed in the future.

Bravo Italy 👏

Shame on you, France. Here's how to do digital contact tracing:

  1. Immuni’s design and development are based on six main principles: utility, accessibility, accuracy, privacy, scalability, and transparency.
  2. The system uses no geolocation data whatsoever, including GPS data.
  3. To implement its contact tracing functionality, Immuni leverages the Apple and Google Exposure Notification framework.

There are two models for contact tracing apps and only one has a chance at success (hint: it's the Italian/Swiss model, not the French/Australian one).

How the CDC botched its COVID-19 response

A good exposé in the New York Times:

The C.D.C…. failed to provide timely counts of infections and deaths, hindered by aging technology and a fractured public health reporting system. And it hesitated in absorbing the lessons of other countries, including the perils of silent carriers spreading the infection.

…the C.D.C. is risk-averse, perfectionist and ill suited to improvising in a quickly evolving crisis — particularly one that shuts down the country and paralyzes the economy.

Some staff members were mortified when a Seattle teenager managed to compile coronavirus data faster than the agency itself, creating a website that attracted millions of daily visitors. “If a high schooler can do it, someone at C.D.C. should be able to do it,” said one longtime employee.

The failure appears to be a long running incentive / bureaucratic governance problem, rather than a funding issue (it has 11,000 staff and real funding has increased over time).

You should be using Firefox

Firefox and the Mozilla Foundation put privacy first. Use it with the uBlock origin and Multi-Account Containers extensions for the best results.

Issue 81: Breaking up Google was compiled by Justin Pyvis and delivered on 08 June 2020.