Tag Archives: google

Google Used “Double Irish” Tax Structure to Shift Profits Out of Ireland



One of Google’s headquarters is based in Dublin, Ireland. According to The Irish Times, Google shifted more than $75.4 billion in profits out of Ireland using the controversial “double Irish” tax arrangement in 2019.

Financial Times provided information about the “double-Irish” in 2014. In short, it is a simple structure used by US technology and pharmaceutical companies to route profits to tax havens like Bermuda where they hold intellectual property.

The double Irish exploits the different definitions of corporate residency in Ireland and the US. Dublin taxes companies of they are controlled and managed in Ireland, while the US’ definition if tax residency is based on where a corporation is registered. Companies exploiting the double Irish put their intellectual property into an Irish-registered company that is controlled from a tax haven such as Bermuda.

The Financial Times continued: Ireland considers the company to be a tax-resident in Bermuda, while the US considers it to be a tax-resident in Ireland. The result is that when royalty payments are sent to the company, they go untaxed – unless or until the money is eventually sent home to the US parent company.

The Irish Times reported that the “double Irish” was abolished in 2015 for new companies establishing operations in Ireland. However, it allowed companies already using it until the end of 2020 to phase it out.

To me, it sounds like Google took advantage of its ability to continue using the “double Irish” structure to move profits out of Ireland and to also keep those profits safe from being taxed in the United States. It bothers me when huge corporations make efforts to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

That said, it appears what Google was doing was considered legal until the end of 2020. It appears that Ireland abolished the “double Irish” tax arrangement. My hope this means that big corporations will actually have to pay their taxes, just like small businesses are required to.


Google’s FLoC is Unpopular with Other Browser Creators



Google introduced a new piece of technology called “Federated Learning Cohorts” (FLoC). According to Google, FLoC “protects your privacy” because it “allows you to remain anonymous as you browse across websites and also improves privacy by allowing publishers to present relevant ads to large groups (called Cohorts)”.

EFF has launched “Am I FloCed?” It is a new site that will tell you whether your Chrome browser has been “turned into a guinea pig for Federated Learning of Cohorts or FLoC, Google’s latest targeted advertising experiment.”

Google’s FloC is unpopular with other browser creators. Brave posted a blog titled: “Why Brave Disables FLoC”:

“Brave opposes FloC, along with any other feature designed to share information about you and your interests without your fully informed consent. To protect Brave users, Brave has removed FLoC in the Nightly version of both Brave for desktop and Android. The privacy-affecting aspects of FLoC have never been enabled in Brave releases; the additional implementation details of FLoC will be removed from all Brave releases with this week’s stable release. Brave is also disabling FLoC on our websites, to protect Chrome users learning about Brave.”

Vivaldi posted a blog post titled: “No, Google! Vivaldi users will not get FLoC’ed.” In the blog post, Vivaldi makes it clear it does not support FLoC, which they call “a privacy-invasive tracking technology”. From the blog post:

“The FLoC experiment does not work in Vivaldi. It relies on some hidden settings that are not enabled in Vivaldi… Although Vivaldi uses the Chromium engine, we modify the engine in many ways to keep the good parts but make it safe for users; we do not allow Vivaldi to make that sort of call to Google.”

DuckDuckGo posted a blog in which it points out that you can use the DuckDuckGo Chrome extension to block FLoC’s tracking.

Mozilla gave The Verge a statement that included: “We are currently evaluating many of the privacy preserving advertising proposals, including those put forward by Google, but have no current plans to implement any of them at this time. We don’t buy into the assumption that the industry needs billions of data points about people, that are collected and shared without their understanding, to serve relevant advertising.”

Opera gave The Verge a statement that included: “While we and other browsers are discussing new and better privacy-preserving advertising alternatives to cookies including FLoC, we have no current plans to enable features like this in the Opera browsers in their current form”.

The fact that so many browser creators have decided against enabling Google’s FLoC is significant. It means that FLoC is really bad for users, and that Google should not impose it upon people who use Chrome.


Australian Court Finds Google “Partially” Misled Consumers



The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found that Google misled customers about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018, in a world-first enforcement action brought by the ACCC.

The Guardian provided a good explanation of what happened. The Court found that Google continued to collect “Location History” and “Web & App Activity” on some Android and Pixel phones, even for customers who ticked “No” or “Do not collect” on their settings.

If a customer said no to “Location History”, but left “Web & App Activity” switched on, Google continued to collect location data, the ACCC said.

The ACCC also stated:

The Court ruled that when consumers created a new Google Account during the initial set-up process of their Android device, Google misrepresented that the ‘Location History’ setting was the only Google Account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept, or used personally identifiable data about their location. In fact, another Google Account setting titled ‘Web & App Activity’ also enabled Google to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default.

In addition, the ACCC wrote: The Court found that when consumers later accessed the ‘Location History’ setting on their Android device during the same time period to turn that setting off, they were also misled because Google did not inform them that by leaving the ‘Web & App Activity’ setting switched on, Google would continue to collect, store and use their personally identifiable data.

According to The Guardian, a judgment published by Justin Thomas Thawley said that Google’s behavior was “partially misleading” He felt that some consumers would have been misled, and reasonably believed that this data would not be collected, and others would not have.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications orders, and compliance orders. These will be determined at a later date. In addition to penalties, the ACCC is seeking an order for Google to publish a notice to Australian consumers to better explain Google’s location data settings in the future.

Personally, I think its very sneaky of Google to try and trick people into giving Google their location data. Anybody else remember when Google’s motto was “Don’t be evil”?


Google Dumps Play Movies to YouTube for Smart TVs



Google Play Movies LogoGoogle has announced that it’s discontinuing support for Play Movies on smart TVs and will make purchases available on the TV’s YouTube app instead.

In a small posting on its support forum, Google said that from mid-June the Google Play Movies & TV app will no longer be available on Roku, Samsung, LG, and Vizio smart TVs. Previously purchased films will be available in the YouTube app under “Your Movies”.

I’m not happy. Up to this point, Play Movies was my video store of choice: I don’t have a huge collection but before Disney+ came along, it was where I bought my Marvel films and cartoons, sorry, animated features. The really good thing was that Play Movies was available across smartphone, tablet, smart TV and web. It also had a simple user interface with curated content – children could not access inappropriate material.

And now we have YouTube. Clearly Google has learned nothing from the bloatware that is iTunes or the mess that Spotify is rapidly becoming, and is trying to throw all media into YouTube so that it can further sell adverts and tracking. The home of user-generated content has already gobbled up Play Music and unless I’m very much mistaken, it looks like the writing is on the wall for Play Movies too. The parental controls on YouTube are next to useless and going by the comments on the support forum, I’m not alone in my displeasure.

Everything doesn’t have to be a social media experience. I just want to watch my films: I’m not going like, favourite or subscribe something I’ve already purchased.

And Google, just in case no-one’s mentioned it, I don’t think anyone associates YouTube with quality programming.


Google Faces Lawsuit Over Incognito Mode Tracking



Google is facing a lawsuit that it tried (and failed) to kill. Bloomberg reported that the suit alleges that Google secretly scoops up troves of internet data even if users browse in “Incognito” mode to keep their search activity private.

The case is called Brown v. Google LLC, and was brought by three plaintiffs (individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated). The defendants are Google LLC and Alphabet Inc. The case was filed in June of 2020 in U.S. District Court Northern District of California.

Plaintiff’s alleged: “… To prevent information being shared with Google, Google recommends that its consumers need only launch a browser such as Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, or Firefox in ‘private browsing mode’. Both statements are untrue. When users undertake either – or both – of the aforementioned steps, Google continues to track, collect, and identify their browsing data in real time, in contravention of federal and state laws on wiretapping and in violation of consumers’ rights to privacy.”

…Google knows who your friends are, what your hobbies are, what you like to eat, what movies you watch, where and when you like to shop, what your favorite vacation destinations are, what your favorite color is, and even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing things you browse on the internet – regardless of if you follow Google’s advice to keep your activities “private”…

Bloomberg reported that the plaintiffs alleged that even when they turn off data collection in Chrome, other Google tools used by websites end up amassing their personal information. Federal judge Lucy Koh denied Google’s request to throw out the case.

“The court concludes that Google did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode”, Judge Koh wrote.

According to The Verge, that Google said in a court filing that it makes clear to users “that ‘Incognito’ does not mean ‘invisible,” and that the user’s activity during that session may be visible to websites they visit, and any third-party analytics or ads services the visited websites use.”

As far as I can tell, there has not been a ruling on the case yet. One thing is clear: there are likely a lot of people who believed that they would not be tracked while using the “Incognito” part of Google’s browser. If the plaintiffs win their case, it could mean big problems for Google, especially in regards to users from states with strong data privacy laws.


News Corp and Google Agree to Global Partnership on News



News Corp announced today that it has agreed to an historic multi-year partnership with Google to provide trusted journalism from its news sites around the world in return for significant payments by Google. The long-term deal involves payment for premium content for Google News Showcase.

Among the News Corp publications joining Google News Showcase will be The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch, and the New York Post; in the UK: The Times and The Sunday Times, and the Sun; and in Australia a range of news platforms including The Australian, news.com.au, Sky News, and multiple metropolitan and local titles.

Reuters reported that the companies will develop a subscription platform, share advertising revenue through Google’s ad technology services, build out audio journalism and develop video journalism by YouTube.

According to Reuters, this deal comes after years of public feuding between Murdoch and Google, most recently in Australia, where Google has threatened to shut down its search engine to avoid “unworkable” content laws.

The New York Times reported: Google’s rush to pay up in Australia shows how regulation in a relatively small country – or just the threat of it – can sharply alter the behavior of a global tech behemoth that grew with impunity back home in the United States. The New York Times noted that “journalism seems to have fewer friends in the halls of power” in the United States.

Google’s decision to pay news publishers is a good idea. In my opinion, it makes sense for Google to pay news publishers for their content. Both sides benefit from this situation. According to Reuters, Microsoft Corp. has publicly endorsed the proposed Australian law and recently urged the U.S. government to copy it.

The decisions made by Google and Microsoft stands in sharp contrast to Facebook’s decision to block Australian news from its platform. It seems to me that Australians have the opportunity to get their news from Google – and spend less time on Facebook.


France Wants Changes to EU Tech Regulations



France is pushing for changes to the EU’s legislation that would force big tech companies to pay for the news, Financial Times reported. It appears France wants changes that would allow member states to wield more power to punish bad behavior and police more types of content.

French officials want to see changes to the EU’s Digital Service Act, which sets out the responsibilities of Big Tech companies when it comes to policing the web.

Paris wants every member state to have the right to fine tech platforms and force them to remove illegal content. Currently, only countries where tech companies have their headquarters can enforce the EU’s laws.

As a result, Ireland and Luxembourg, where Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are based, have disproportionate responsibilities in regulating Big Tech.

Financial Times reported that France is also pushing for the DSA to widen beyond illegal content to the policing of harmful content and disinformation. Apparently, EU officials have concerns that France’s proposals will erode the EU’s single market.

The EU has begun working on two landmark draft European digital regulations: The Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

The DSA creates a common set of rules on intermediaries’ obligations and accountability across the single market that will open up opportunities to provide digital services across borders while ensuring user protection. It also establishes criteria for qualifying a large online program as a “gatekeeper”. The DMA includes fines of up to 10% of the “gatekeeper” platform’s total worldwide annual turnover, periodic payments of up to 5% of the average daily turnover, or additional remedies.

In short, it means that companies like Facebook and Google will have to pay news organizations for the news that the platforms post. Both companies used scare tactics to sway the opinion of Australians when their government made a similar law. I expect they will do the same to the EU law.