Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish political party the “Pirate Party,” formed six years ago around issues related to intellectual property, blogged about an experience of attending a seminar on privacy at the European Parliament in Brussels. The seminar was put on by Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, which is funded by Microsoft.
The subject of the seminar was “privacy, big data, profiling, and online identities.” Falkvinge was unaware of the group’s funding and ties to Microsoft. He expressed indignation upon discovering the session was essentially about attacking Google:
The next ten minutes were nothing like I had ever experienced. It was the most shameless bashing of a single company with hints and allegations that I had ever seen. In practically every sentence of the keynote, which was exclusively about how bad Google was as a company, words were snuck into the overall flow that were designed to plant ungrounded ideas in the audience’s mind . . .
It went on and on. This was not a seminar on privacy at all. This was Microsoft-funded Google-smearing, plain and simple, and I felt my blood starting to boil . . .
The Economist covered the session somewhat less emotionally but agrees that it was ineffective in accomplishing its goals:
Lobbying is what companies do. Google indeed dominates online search. Concerns about its privacy practices are spreading. Microsoft should not have a hard time flagging up its competitor’s faults. Which makes it all the more remarkable that ICOMP does such a lousy job of it—and shows no sign of easing up despite all the resulting bad publicity for its partner.
Microsoft directly and indirectly funds multiple anti-Google lobbying efforts in the US and EU. These individuals and entities regularly put out reports and information critical of Google. Again, this is not new or uncommon.
What got Falkvinge, a former Microsoft employee, so upset apparently was the “bait and switch” quality of the privacy seminar and what he perceived to be the “audacity” of “a convicted monopolist.”
Ironically, Google’s own recent privacy and communications missteps are probably more “effective” for Microsoft’s cause than any aggressive anti-Google lobbying effort such as the one in Brussels.
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