Archive for February, 2016

The Disconcerting Relationship Between Obama and Google

obama schmidtAlthough there are plenty of instances in which technological advances harness the power of the collective people to solve major issues, there’s also an unfortunate trend between tech goliath harnessing the power of politicians to further the tech goliath’s own (generally financial) agenda.

Unfortunately for Americans, this trend reaches all the way to the top of the political/corporate ladder (the difference between the two has been steadily blurring since the Citizens United ruling). That’s right, according to some sources, Barack Obama has been comfortably nestled in Google’s luxury pockets since his first campaign for presidency. Let’s take a closer look.

Google employees donated a total of $1.6 million to Obama’s two presidential bids, all around the time that Google was having some major issues with the United States Federal Trade Commission regarding antitrust concerns. It was investigated in 2011 and was later let off the hook instead of being sued and broken down by the FTC. The FTC has found that Google has manipulated search results in ways that favored its own products and put other companies like eBay and Amazon at a disadvantage. Around this time, Goodle chairman Eric Schmidt met with Obama senior adviser Pete Rouse in the White House and Google co-founder Larry Page met with FTC officials in late 2012. Two months after Obama won re-election, the government closed its investigation.

Then in the 2012 election, Google’s search algorithm customized results for Obama but not for Mitt Romney.

Also worth nothing: Google executives have left to work in the White House many a time, and a past Google executive currently holds the position of Obama’s chief technology officer. Hillary Clinton’s tech chief also came from Google.

And Google is, of course, big on lobbying. In 2014, it spent $16.8 million on lobbying, which was four times the amount spent by Apple.

kissSchmidt’s influence in Obama’s political career and Obama’s influence in Schmidt’s business and political career has been an ongoing relationship since 2007, when Obama visited Google’s California headquarters for a one-on-one interview viewed by 16,000 Google employees. The interview allowed for Obama to collect more tech donations than any other candidate.

Obama offered Schmidt a variety of political positions on his cabinet in 2012, from Treasury to Commerce to a new position known as the “Secretary of Business.” Schmidt declined but did take up a post on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.

Schmidt was even working on Obama’s campaign on election day in 2012, overseeing the attempts to leverage Big Data results so as to better enable last-minute voters to enter the polls. His specialized software gave the then-Senator access to high-tech voter targeting algorithms in 2008 that Republican John McCain was totally unprepared for.

In fact, Obama’s successful campaigns have gone down as testaments to the power of effective utilization of technology in the political arena, and politicians after him have been mocked for not taking advantage of the same technology which gave Obama such a big boost. Without the kind of big data collection and analysis technology that Obama used in 2012, he likely would never have won 2012 despite having negative approval ratings.

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