Google’s Spending Habits Reveal Their Political Play

January 30, 2018 - 4 minutes read

As data collection increases, technology giants Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple have grown immensely more powerful. The more data, the more dimensions it has, and the more linking capabilities companies have, the greater their revenue increase becomes. To protect the laws surrounding data, along with immigration, tax reform, and antitrust, Google’s spending more than $18 million.

The hefty sum encompasses lobbying federal agencies, Congress, and the White House. Google’s oldest and most trustworthy revenue generator is online advertising, which it also lobbied for, according to the Senate Office of Public Records. It makes Google the largest spender of all companies lobbying in 2017.

A Troubling Trend

Google’s large spending echoes the overarching theme of “more data, more power,” but most consumers don’t have the means or knowledge of how to disable ad tracking. Most internet and digital advertising companies bank off of this, and the laws surrounding these data collection methods are in their infancy stages.

Why can’t you easily turn off the ad tracking for those jeans you were eyeing online but decided not to buy? Exactly. Regulators believe the tech giants are capable of abusing their market data.

2017 is the first year a tech firm has taken the top spot in expenditure since the Center for Responsive Politics started tracking in 1998. Google usurped the telecom, energy, and defense companies that typically take the top spot. Facebook, Apple, and Amazon all closely followed behind; in total, the four companies have spent $50 million on lobbying since 2016. Facebook’s spending increased by 32% in 2017 over 2016, and Apple’s increased 51% in that same time. Google’s increased by 17%.

Money Talks

It’s no coincidence that Google and the other San Francisco development giants are injecting these huge cash influxes to influence legislation at a time when social media and online advertising have fallen under scrutiny from the most recent presidential election. As the federal government moves to make more laws surrounding online advertising and digital marketing, Google and Facebook have pledged to oversee online political advertising more responsibly and actively. But in this case, spending speaks louder than words.

Alvaro Bedoya, who leads the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University, worries that the government will struggle to pass new, meaningful consumer protection laws. “Because this is the first time in American history that the giants of industry have as their raw material personal data, [tech companies] are going to do as much as possible to protect access to that raw material,” he says.

Data is quickly becoming the main currency of the world because of the power it offers, and not just in mobile app development. Until companies can be held accountable and verify that they’re responsibly handling consumer data in a transparent manner, it’s best to take a proactive approach and protect yourself. Whether you get a new device or app, always do some due diligence to learn about what data it could be taking from your interactions. It never hurts to learn this. After all, knowledge (or data) is power!

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