google…stung!!! (Part 1 of 2)

Google 的貼牌冰箱(Google refrigerator)

Image by Aray Chen via Flickr

Hot on the heels of my previous post about Internet Goliath Google, is a sister story from today’s Wall Street Journal. Learning that it got caught in a web of its own lies was too good an opportunity to let slip.

Con Artist Starred in Sting That Cost Google Millions
by Thomas Catan 
    
Wearing leg irons and guarded by federal agents, David Whitaker posed as an agent for online drug dealers in dozens of recorded phone calls and email exchanges with Google sales executives, spending $200,000 in government money for ads selling narcotics, steroids and other controlled substances.
     Over four months in 2009, Mr. Whitaker, a federal prisoner and convicted con artist, was the lead actor in a government sting targeting Google Inc. that yielded one of the largest business forfeitures in U.S. history.
     “There was a part of me that felt bad,” Mr. Whitaker wrote in his account of the undercover operation viewed by The Wall Street Journal. “I had grown to like these people.” But, he said, “I took ease in knowing they…knew it was wrong.”
     The government built its criminal case against Google using money, aliases and fake companies–tactics often used against drug cartels and other crime syndicates, according to interviews and court documents. Google agreed to pay a $500 million forfeiture last summer in a settlement to avoid prosecution for aiding illegal online pharmaceutical sales.
     Google acknowledged in the settlement that it had improperly and knowingly assisted online pharmacy advertisers allegedly based in Canada to run advertisements for illicit pharmacy sales targeting U.S. customers.
     “We banned the advertising of prescription drugs in the U.S. by Canadian pharmacies some time ago,” the company said in its sole comment on the matter. “However, it’s obvious with hindsight that we shouldn’t have allowed these ads on Google in the first place.”
     The half-billion dollar forfeiture, although historically large, was small change for google, which holds $45 billion in cash. But the company’s acceptance of responsibility opened the door to potential liability for taking ads from other people involved in unlawful acts online, such as distributing pirate movies or perpetrating online fraud.
     Google has long argued it wasn’t responsible for the actions of its more than one million advertisers. But the forfeiture paid by Google represented not just the money it made from the ads, but also the revenue collected by illegal pharmacies through Google-related sales.
     In an important shift, the settlement “signals that, where evidence can be developed that a search engine knowingly and actively assisted advertisers to promote improper conduct, the search engine can be held accountable as an accomplice,” according to Peter Neronha, the lead prosecutor.
     Unknown is whether the company will toss aside advertisers as a result. “If Google were to adopt a much more restrictive definition of problematic advertisements, everyone would immediately notice a drop in their revenue,” said Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.
     The government’s case also contained potentially embarrassing allegations that top Google executives, including co-founder Larry Page, were told about legal problems with the drug ads.
     Mr. Page, now google’s chief executive, knew about the illicit conduct, said Mr. Neronha, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island who led the multiagency federal task force that conducted the sting. “We simply know from the documents we reviewed and witnesses we interviewed that Larry Page knew what was going on,” he said in an interview after the August settlement.
     Mr. Neronha declined to detail the evidence, which was presented in secret to a federal grand jury. Other people familiar with the case said internal emails showed Sheryl Sandberg, a former top Google executive who left in 2008 for Facebook Inc., had raised concerns about the ads.
     Prosecutors could have used that evidence to argue Google deliberately turned a blind eye to lawbreaking to protect a profit stream estimated by the government in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
     Ms. Sandberg declined to comment through a spokesman. Mr. Page also declined to comment.
     Google says it has strict policies in place to prevent criminals from using its ad services and it bans advertisers who repeatedly violate its guidelines.
     “We ban not just ads but also advertisers who abuse our platform, and we work closely with law enforcement and other government authorities to take action against bad actors,” said Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel.
     Mr. Whitaker’s story, told here for the first time, presents a different picture. Shuffling into federal court in handcuffs and beige overalls last month, the 37-year-old prisoner looked like he could pass for an employee of a Silicon Valley start-up. …

Now let’s mosey along to part 2…to see how the sting…went down…

………hugmamma.  😉 

 

     

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new age billionaires…how so?

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m clueless as to how these young whippersnappers dream up these seemingly intangible internet schemes that make them overnight billionaires! How do they do it? Have they significantly huge brains, the machinations of which normal folks like us can’t fathom? Of course you know of whom I speak…Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg, and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page. But then there are the foot soldiers. You know the littler men who make inroads into lesser, but no less lucrative, territories. One that comes to mind is Bob Parsons, Ceo and founder of Godaddy.com.

Many of you have probably not heard of the man. Well I’d kind of heard of his “goose that laid the golden egg,” godaddy.com. Where I can’t remember, which is usually the case with me. I’ve so much minutiae spilling out of my mental vault. Perhaps it was on Aol.com. The jist of the story was that a couple was suing godaddy.com for the return of their website’s domain name. Having decided at one point to cease working at their business, which if I remember correctly was in home furnishings, their website’s name hung out in Limbo. It seems godaddy.com came along and swooped it up, adding it to their ever-growing inventory of domain names for sale. What’s the point you ask? What’s in a domain name?

It seems domain names are like the goose of golden egg fame. The traffic that has been generated during the course of the domain’s existence can be like money in the bank for someone enterprising enough to cash in on it. Whatever the source of my information, according to it, godaddy.com’s Bob Parsons was the entrepeneur with the brainiac idea. Voile! The man is rich, rich, rich. Bob Parsons® 16 Rules Poster

Why do I care about such things? Because I just made WordPress.com richer by buying into its “domain for sale” gimmick. To the tune of $17 a year, and another $8 to keep my personal information private, I now own hugmamma.com. In the world of internet space I’ve just bought my own little planet. I should say I’ve leased my own little planet, since I have to keep up the annual payments. No other internet-gallactic planet can have my domain name. Big deal, you say? You’re right. I’ve yet to see what the big deal is all about. 

As far as I can surmise the big deal is that the traffic I’ve generated, and will continue to generate, cannot be stolen by would-be robbers. Except that there’s a whole bunch of other ways one can configure hugmamma, although mine is the most common. My husband thinks I got it cheap. Cheap to me is free. Who sells the internet? It’s mind-boggling! Blows me away to think the unseen can be bought and sold like tangible, manufactured goods. Boy, am I a dinosaur from prehistoric times! But you know someone actually bought a domain name from godaddy.com for $60,000? Evidently there are those who attach themselves to certain names, like a favorite stuffed animal or something. If someone wants to buy hugmamma.com, come see me, I’ll sell it to you for half the price. 

…we’ll just have to see what that price is…hmmm…hugmamma. 😉   

justin bieber…huckabee rival?

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Adults are apt to dismiss the young members of society as not having anything of substance to contribute. But I think that’s definitely changing. No longer can we admonish them with “children should be seen and not heard,” as was the golden rule in my younger years. Not that those approaching middle-age were ready to relinquish power without a fight. It’s more that upstarts like Bill Gates and Paul Allen at the tender ages of 13 and 15, respectively, began turning our world on its ear when they sought to create what became a global power, Microsoft. Others followed in time, Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Facebook’s creator, Mark Zuckerberg. These of course are the more prominent among the brainiacs of their generations. I think it’s safe to say these young men who were probably considered “still wet behind the ears” by their elders, grabbed the world’s attention, never letting go.

I personally have witnessed the power of those younger than me. My 25-year-old daughter continually teaches me about life, its radical highs and lows, as well as its moments of calm and serenity. The tables have turned, where I taught her, she now teaches me. Although sometimes I wonder if she hasn’t been giving me lessons all along, ever since she was a babe in my womb.

As I’ve made my way through this, at times overwhelming, internet adventure, 20-year-olds have reached out to help me. Blogger Scriptor Obscura was the first to regularly “like” my posts and leave comments. More recently, author B.C. Young agreed to be interviewed about self-publishing, sharing insight into an area that’s still evolving. In turn he invited me to share a fictional piece of my own on his blog, introducing me to his readers. More than anything this young man gave this senior writer a “hand up.”

Thanks for giving me my first break, Ben. It’s heartwarming to know that there are published writers, like yourself, who will give a hand up to those of us still struggling to have our words read in printed form.

“mahalo”…thank you…millie aka hugmamma.

Yesterday when I volunteered at the office of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association, Trevor Barnes, the assistant director, shared encouraging words of support when I expressed doubt that I even belonged among such an elite company of published writers, as per the bios I viewed on PNWA’s website. Trevor assured me that there were thousands of members like me, just looking to write something that would someday be published and read. I left the office with hope. And I got that from someone in his 20s.

One Less Lonely Girl

Image via Wikipedia

So when I saw the following I felt inclined to share it. Why? Because quite simply I was shocked to learn that the young pop idol, Justin Bieber, had something going on under his blonde, mop of hair, than just hip-hop lyrics. I think you’ll be as astonished as I was.

“Go Ahead, America, Leave It to Bieber”
by Joe Queenan (Wall Street Journal, 2/26/11)

Justin Bieber got slammed good last week when he opened his yap about abortion in Rolling Stone. Some people objected to his views, others scorched him for the way he phrased them, still others questioned the very notion of a 16-year-old boy offering his opinion on any serious moral, political or legal question.

Susan Sarandon at the premiere of Speed Racer ...

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The apoplectic response to Mr. Bieber’s comments is not fair. As of Tuesday, when he will be exactly one year short of the age when he can legally vote, drink or kill Taliban, the diminutive Canadian has every right to express himself on any issue he feels passionately about. The idea that youth somehow disqualifies him from speaking out on issues is the very thing young people–now grumpy old Bieber-Bashing Baby Boomers–fought against in the 1960s. After all, Justin Bieber is at least as smart as Susan Sarandon.

But the worst thing about all the Rolling Stone kerfuffle is that it has drawn attention away from other opinions Mr. Bieber has offered on major issues of the day. And in his clear, articulate, reasoned analysis of these issues, Mr. Bieber has shown himself to be that rarest of creatures: the precocious youth whose opinions must be heeded.

It’s Mr. Bieber, for example, who was the first person to warn that spiraling commodity prices would lead to unrest in Bahrain and Yemen. Interviewed by the BBC in January, he said: “Once you see that disconnect between pork belly futures and 30-day wheat, look out! When food prices spike–and this goes all the way back to the days when Mark Antony had to import grain from Egypt–there is no way to put a cap on civil unrest back home. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, maybe even Iran. It’s the domino effect.”

Mr. Bieber’s comments did not go down well in the futures markets, where copper and tin immediately tanked. Who died and left this punk in charge? Why should anyone care what a celebrity of any age, gender or height cares about anything important? Don’t you have to be at least as old and gray as George Clooney before anyone starts taking you seriously?

Gaga on The Monster Ball Tour in Toronto

Image via Wikipedia

Generally speaking, this anticelebrity bias is justifiable. Sean Penn is an idiot, Madonna a dope, Christina Aguilera a nitwit. Lady Gaga never says anything that isn’t stupid, obvious or self-serving, and Martin Sheen should have spent less time protesting in the streets and more time in the home parenting. As for Bono, who definitely seems like a sincere, well-meaning sort, exactly how much wisdom can one impute to a man who wrote the music for the Spider-Man musical?

But in Mr. Bieber’s case, the animosity and condescension are not jusfified. Mr. Bieber, after all, was the first person–not the first celebrity, but the first personto warn that Ireland’s economy would implode because of a bloated real-estate market. More recently, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he was way ahead of the curve when he suggested that cash-strapped states like Illinois and California should simply threaten to default on their debt if it was the only way to get unions to come to the negotiating table.

“Trash the muni market and you’ll see unions fold like a cheap accordion,” he says, “Just look at the yield curve.”

Not everything Mr. Bieber says is astute or prescient. He was wrong when he told a Japanese TV reporter that 3-D TV would take off last Christmas, and he seriously underestimated the ability of Apple’s competitors to respond to the appeal of the iPad. His forecast of a 4.5% GDP growth rate for the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter was way off base. What’s more, he has a lamentable tendency to express his views on topics where he has no expertise whatsoever; whether the Knicks gave up too much to sign Carmelo Anthony, whether learning a second language can help stave off Alzheimer’s, why the next pope should come from Bolivia. But for every target he misses, he hits at least one bull’s eye. And when he speaks out on issues that pertain to the world of music, he is wise beyond his years.

Mike Huckabee's band at the Lincoln Day Dinner...

Image by IowaPolitics.com via Flickr

“If Huckabee doesn’t stop trotting out that stupid bass guitar,” Mr. Bieber told Rolling Stone, “he has no chance in hell of winning the Republican nomination. The American people are not going to elect a president who plays the same instrument as Sting and Flea. Not now. Not ever.”

i have to chuckle…but i also have to…wonder…if out of the mouths of babes?…hugmamma. 

(note: who the heck is “sting and flea?”)