Inept Lobbying By Anti-Google Front Group Does More Harm Than Good For Microsoft

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:

The latest seminar was a textbook example of how not to lobby . . . [The] aim of the evening seemed to be to give Pamela Jones Harbour, a former commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, a platform from which to attack Google. Ms Harbour, who left America’s consumer-protection agency to become a partner at an American law firm that represents Microsoft, began by telling the gathered activists and digerati that Google’s new privacy policy hurts consumers . . .

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.

Related Entries

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google | Google: Business Issues | Google: Privacy | Legal: Privacy | Microsoft: Business Issues


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Roy Lawson

    Lobbying is what companies do”

    Yes, but there is a difference between lobbying – where you run ads that say “we represent such and such company/group and this is our position” and front groups which pretend not to be funded by such companies or groups.  It is deceptive and should be illegal.  

    Companies that use these front groups are engaging in unethical behavior and they all need to be called out for it.  They need to be stopped.  Unless consumers and legislators know exactly who they are dealing with, groups like this should not be welcome in the halls of Congress/Parliament/etc.

  • Roy Lawson

    But to be fair (just checked the group’s website), the group does list who funds them… so they technically aren’t a front group.  They are an industry group.  A front group is more deceptive about who they represent (often disguised as a non-profit).

    Not saying that it was a corporate-whore fest; it probably was.  But I don’t think they fall under the category of “front group” at least if you go by the definition.

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