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An enormous thread on alleged Google Facebook collusion (twitter.com/patrickmcgee_)
737 points by choppaface 86 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 349 comments



> Because "we can," executive said in 2016. "Smaller pubs don't have alternative revenue sources."

And 90% of publishers and small websites suffer because of this.

These are more damning than anything that has been said about these companies, because it affects their real business, not the antisocial apps they give for free. Is it even called a monopoly when you control so much of both the Supply and the Demand? It's like a black box telling advertisers "give us your money and we will tell you we did what you think we did".


According to the thread, they're the biggest seller, the biggest buyer and they own the biggest exchange. I can't see anything would go wrong with that.


Sad thing is, this is well known for a decade and more, the new thing here is the confirmation of collusion with facebook


Regarding companies putting profits above all else, which companies are doing things better, and how we create better cultures, I thought I might have something valuable to add to the discussion:

I work at one of Elon's companies and, yes, he cares about profitability, but I really appreciate the way he frames it, which is to use profitability as a forcing function for getting things done and as a feedback signal about whether you are working on and doing the right things. If you aren't profitable you should ask yourself, "Why don't other people find value in what I'm producing?" Additionally, we view profitability as a mechanism for allowing us to keep working on the ambitious ideas that we care about.

In part because of the people who are attracted to his companies, and his particularly strong influence on company culture compared to most founders, I think his companies have a pretty healthy (thought not perfect) perspective on profitability in the grand scheme of things.


In my experience this is always the framing. The hard part is figuring out when you're being BS'd.

I agree that a strong founder personality impressing their personal philosophy on the company leads to very different outcomes. I think Google's slow loss of its founders' day to day impact over time is very relevant to this conversation.


The bits about the ad auction are all what I expected as a user...

Obviously they can adjust their fee up or down to further their interests. Obviously they have the right to set the 'floor' auction price, and can set it to maximize profits. Obviously they can take on business from Facebook, and limit how much they take on if they like.

It doesn't include stuff about their recent switch to first price auctions, which make many of these complaints moot. It's really hard to make a first price auction unfair.

Why was any of this a surprise?


They rejected bids with higher bid prices to prefer their own inventory. The auction was rigged.


If there was even a single instance of that, a bidder would know...

Every losing bidder gets information about the winning bid. Nobody is saying "I bid $1.00, yet the winning bid was $0.90".

You could almost argue that the auction time limits lead to this case "I would have bid a dollar, but you finished the auction before I could say that!". But the time limits are 100 milliseconds plus, which in computer terms is an age. If you can't get your bid in in that time, it's just badly written software that hasn't precomputed the bid ahead of time.


There are caveats. From Google's protobuf file itself [0]

    // If the bid won the auction, this is the price paid in your account
    // currency. If the bid participated in the auction but was out-bid, this
    // is the CPM that should have been exceeded in order to win. This is not
    // set if the bid was filtered prior to the auction, if the publisher or
    // winning bidder has opted out of price feedback or if your account has
    // opted out of sharing winning prices with other bidders. For first-price
    // auctions, minimum_bid_to_win is populated instead of this field.
    optional int64 cpm_micros = 4;
I don't know if Google's bidder will populate this field. Even if they do send this data, there's no way you can tell if it's faked or not.

They could also maybe get around this by setting up a PMP for Google's own inventory thereby allowing them to accept bids that are lower than Open Market bids.

[0] https://developers.google.com/authorized-buyers/rtb/download...


You only have access to non-Google bids, which makes it impossible to have enough information to know if the auction is unfair. Google is the final arbiter of what ad gets shown, Google does not disclose its own bid if it's the winner, and you have to trust Google that it did not improperly advantage itself in the auction (which the complaint reveals that it did in fact advantage itself).


> Google does not disclose its own bid if it's the winner

Citation needed.

See https://developers.google.com/authorized-buyers/rtb/download...

The "minimum_bid_to_win" field of the BidResponse message contains this info for all first price auctions.


This protobuf spec is in no way relevant to the situation outlined in the anti-competitive behavior complaint.

The protobuf spec is related to using the Authorized Buyers RTB protocol within AdX. That's an ecosystem that lives entirely within Google itself, so there's no reason Google would want to disadvantage anyone since people using this are already essentially paying Google for the privilege.

What the lawsuit is referring to is header-bidding, where an auction occurs client-side (or server-side using an O/O server endpoint) and the result is passed to GAM for competition via Dynamic Allocation.

Google is being accused of trying to kill header bidding (because data is shared and profits are earned outside of Google's ecosystem), not their own RTB products.


Best part for me:

<<In 2015, Google signed agreement with WhatsApp to give users option of backing up their messages.

Users were led to believe they were encrypted. They were not. @MikeIsaac

Google knew users were mislead. See quotes: >>


Wow, I was sure they were encrypted. I just checked and encryption is turned off by default. I just turned it on, thanks for the heads up.


The document says the “encrypted” files were encrypted using keys held by WhatsApp or Google and that Google Drive’s terms of service allowed Google to scan users’ WhatsApp conversations for advertising purposes.

https://twitter.com/bcrypt/status/1452312761342496795?s=21


Why is that the best part? Isn’t that 100% the fault of WhatsApp and has more or less nothing at all to do with google?


No 50% whatsapp fault and 50% Google.

As an user, all claim to defend users and privacy, and users think that they have some features because it is in their interest. But in fact, they only care about their business objectives and would usually screw you if that can be in there interest. But with a very nice sugar coating.

For example, this kind of things explain why there was no backup alternatives except google.


> Google's response - "secretly made its own exchange win, even when another exchange submitted a higher bid," complaint alleges.

Their competitors knew this was happening. It's pretty easy to see occurring when you run a system that competes in Google header bidding for a publisher you also control.


Google being on both the sell and buy sides and the “advantages” of using Google for both were things practitioners just sort of knew and had to live with, like “npm is a mess” and “A/B testing is often more storytelling than rigor“.

I suspect the reason it wasn’t a bigger bombshell is that ad exchanges are hard to understand beyond the surface level “it’s an exchange for ads”, and other ad exchanges were also dirty. Google wasn’t the only one doing questionable things being on both sell and buy sides of transactions:

https://www.businessinsider.com/guardian-takes-legal-action-...

One of the most astounding things I learned in my time in ad tech was just how wide the gulf is between how much the advertiser pays and how much the website owner gets. It’s one to two orders of magnitude difference, mostly made up in fees for all of the platforms and data and other value add in between.


> and other ad exchanges were also dirty

Bingo.

I'm glad to be out, tbh. I built some cool stuff, but Jesus.


I wonder how that code managed to stay secret so many years.

How did they keep all the mass of data, the tickets, the user stories and pitch decks from being spilled online and get publicly dressed down?

I guess that’s the one single major threat to effectively WHF: the need for maximum security secrecy and infrastructure control.


Well, look at me. I’m an immigrant. My wife’s useful skills would probably give her salary of about 5th of what we need, so she doesn’t work and takes care of the kid, house and engages in her hobbies, like making custom teddy bears.

If I were put on a project like that I can easily imagine being quiet about it as I put well being of my family waaaay above any ethics. I can imagine that a lot of people do.

So the only real way to solve it is robust regulation and good channels for whistleblowers.


> So the only real way to solve it is robust regulation and good channels for whistleblowers.

And probably some sort of minimal unconditional financial security denying corporations to practically take people hostage.


Decoupling health insurance contracts from employment is absolutely necessary, though not sufficient. Do it like the UK, do it like Germany, or do something else, but as long as the health insurance contract itself (not just the payment of some or all of it) is through one’s employer, a lot of otherwise financially stable people in the US are utterly at their employers’ mercy.


> HUDSON: This was the one thing that Alan Greenspan contributed to economic theory: the Traumatized Worker Syndrome. He said, the reason you’ve had this huge productivity gain without any wage increase is workers are afraid to go on strike, or even to complain about working conditions, because they’re just one paycheck away from homelessness.

https://michael-hudson.com/2016/03/traumatized-worker-syndro...


above any ethics? You'd kill someone to support your family? Surely not. So there's somewhere you draw the line, you just don't think what Google's doing is that bad.


Define "kill". Is coding drones that do military strikes considered killing?


>You'd kill someone to support your family? Surely not.

I mean, this is America we are talking about. There are thousands if not millions of people who have done the calculus and decided to build systems that kill people overseas everyday


> How did they keep all the mass of data, the tickets, the user stories and pitch decks from being spilled online and get publicly dressed down?

Legal agreements and extremely valuable employment contracts, most likely.

My understanding is that some (most?) of the developers out there today are in it for the money. If someone promised you enough income to retire by age 31, and all you had to do was keep your mouth shut for the interim, I think you may comply and even go out of your way a bit to protect your employer. This all explains it in my head. Its not that there is some vast, elaborate conspiracy, its that everyone involved is being heavily-incentivized to do the wrong thing.


everybody in adtech is in it for the money! Nobody loves ads.


I actually do enjoy ads. Especially relevant and targeted ones. I enjoy finding out about new and interesting products related to my hobbies (music production).


"Don't be evil"


"Don't get caught."


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair


Because the code itself is much simpler than you would think.


What about the rest; the presentations the executive summaries… all the paperwork that suits babble around… it takes some serious “terrorist organization” opsec to perform like this


They have to do that whether they are being evil or not just to prevent competitive intelligence and other damaging info from leaking. So the systems are there


Clarification: I’m not wondering how they managed to keep the human ethics in check, that’s pretty obvious: paying the price for corruption and wrapping it up in legal threats of economically violent retribution.

I’m referring to the technological aspect. The amount of air-gapping, leak prevention, no-more-than-need-to-know protocol, opsec is impressive if they managed so far so long.


The really interesting stuff is only accessible by a handful of employees. The rest is frankly pretty boring.


Google is known to develop stuff in an RPC-first kind of way. Makes me wonder if higher-ups are able to just write a quick script to do this, without lower level employees even knowing.


These companies need to be broken up, and regulated as utilities where they are not broken up. This particular collusion isn’t the only issue. The real issue is that collusion is a symptom of extreme market power that distorts society in many different ways. It prevents competition, hurts customers (for example undermining privacy laws), and undermines our basic values (for example most of societal speech takes place on their private platforms). Clarence Thomas and others were right about applying common carrier regulation to social media. But for things like ads collusion or illegal hiring agreements or whatever, the fix is simply to break them up due to their size. Companies that are worth hundreds of billions of dollars are simply too big.


Wow. We've just had a thread on how Facebook chooses profits over people (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28955579) and here's Google complaining that FB "at times" doesn't choose profit...

> Google was frustrated @Facebook was not aligning with it to reduce users’ privacy.

“We’ve had difficulty getting FB to align on our privacy goals and strategy, as they have at time[s] prioritized winning on reputation over its business interest in legislative debates."


> Wow. We've just had a thread on how Facebook chooses profits over people (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28955579) and here's Google complaining that FB "at times" doesn't choose profit...

These are not incompatible statements. Any corporation, once it gets large enough, inevitably veers toward "profits over people," if only in the more benign sense of "if it doesn't make money, it doesn't make sense." Yes, I know, "goodwill" is a thing that corporations strive to cultivate, but, even the concept of "goodwill" has been financialized in modern corporate finance.


Personally, I don’t care that FB puts profits over people. That’s what I expect. They are a public corporation. FB’s board has a legal obligation (fiduciary responsibility) to make money for shareholders. Capitalism may suck, but it’s the law.

Speaking of the law, Google’s abuses listed in this thread are what gall me. In Gulliver’s travels, the Lilliputians don’t strongly punish a common thief. You can just build a higher fence to thwart them. They severely punish “white collar” crimes. Outsmarting those criminals may prove impossible. We now have some of the greatest minds of our generation figuring out how to enrich Google even if it means breaking anti-trust/anti-collusion laws and even just basic breach of contract.

I get that Google is a huge company and not all bad, but its primary revenue model is so morally bankrupt, I question how anyone can justify working there.


Fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits is a myth. It’s something that businesses hide their unethical behavior behind, but there’s no law that requires it according to the US Supreme Court.

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/04/16/what-are-co...


Your link doesn’t really support your argument. Your link argues that pursuit of profit does not fulfill the fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. My contention was that a fiduciary responsibility exists. That contention is not contested by your article.


True, but there definitely is a fiduciary duty, and shareholder derivative lawsuits for breach of that duty are definitely a thing. They are usually substantiated by irresponsible decisions producing low returns. The analysis is complicated, but in the end, the more poorly the company you are managing performs due to your deliberate decisions, the more likely you are to elicit a shareholder derivative suit. Generally speaking, the best way to keep your shareholders happy is to make them money. In my view, this is as it should be. I’d rather executives in public companies not use my money to pursue their own personal moral crusades. They can use their own money to do that. As can I.


The shareholder lawsuits will go nowhere according to the business judgment rule, unless the board is engaged in illegal behavior. If Google chose not to collude with Facebook or lie to their customers about providing the best price, shareholders would have no cause to sue.

Now that this has come to light, they may be more likely to sue if it’s deemed that information about project Jedi was withheld from shareholder reports and that information was important to understanding Google’s returns in banner ad auctions.


> FB’s board has a legal obligation (fiduciary responsibility) to make money for shareholders. Capitalism may suck, but it’s the law.

This is often repeated but is (generally) incorrect. There's a lot of writing out there about how this is bs, e.g. [0].

People certainly think and act like this is the case, so the end result is often the same, but this is not good-natured corporate governors being helpless before the law, it's profit-motivated people being ruthless.

[0] https://evonomics.com/maximizing-shareholder-value-dumbest-i...


Your link doesn’t really support your argument. Your link argues that pursuit of profit does not fulfill the fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. My contention was that a fiduciary responsibility exists. That contention is not contested by your article.


> FB’s board has a legal obligation (fiduciary responsibility) to make money for shareholders. Capitalism may suck, but it’s the law.

What US law states that the board of any company has to make money for shareholders? I've tried finding it but haven't been able to. So what happens when a company fails? Does the board get prosecuted?

Facebooks - Board of Directors - Mark Zuckerberg - Sheryl Sandberg - Peggy Alford - Marc L. Andreessen - Andrew W. Houston - Nancy Killefer - Robert M. Kimmitt - Peter A. Thiel - Tracey T. Travis

Alphabet - Board of Directors - Larry Page - Sergey Brin - Sundar Pichai - John L. Hennessy - Frances Arnold - L. John Doerr - Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. - Ann Mather - Alan R. Mulally - K. Ram Shriram - Robin L. Washington


Note that for business, governing law is virtually always state law, both legislation and common (case) law.

The most relevant law will be in Delaware (overwhelmingly popular for incorporation for its "business-favourable" climate), New York, and California.

Semi-related tangent: in going through US Library of Congress classifications, under US case law, by an extreme margin the most detailed classifications of state law are for New York and California (I forget offhand which leads). I believe Pennsylvania and Florida are also among the larger.

To an extent this is a synthetic artefact (classification schemas are created by librarians), though it probably reflects underlying complexity within the respective domains.


Well google needs to not complain then when the government comes looking around for anti-competitive practices or when they get broken up. Of the FAANG companies they could all pretty easily be split up easily into 3+ companies to compete in the social/advertising spectrum.


The biggest findings in this thread are (for me) these two:

- gTrade and Bernanke program

- WhatsApp backups not encrypted on Drive


> - WhatsApp backups not encrypted on Drive

Hasn't this been clear since long time ago? For as long as I can remember, the message on the backup screen for Whatsapp on iOS has said that backups are not encrypted.


I don't remember it was the case on Android at least.


Here are two articles with screenshots that show both times that the statement existed there too:

- 2017 - https://www.recovery-android.com/back-up-restore-whatsapp-me...

- 2020 - https://www.androidcentral.com/how-restore-your-whatsapp-cha...


It's not been secret but hardly common knowledge either.


I'm not sure what more you can ask for than Whatsapp putting a descriptive text about encryption not being applied if use the export functionality, right next to the button to enable export functionality.


I didn't ask for anything. I just don't think most people know.


This is similar to the Incognito lawsuit. When you open an Incognito tab, there's clear and explicit text telling you exactly how it works and what it does/doesn't do, but now people are trying to sue because they can't read.

The export button explicitly says the backup is not encrypted by Whatsapp's E2E encryption. How is it Google's fault if users can't read basic warnings? Again, as GP asked, what more could they have done here?


Funny there is no way to understand what project Bernanke does from the complaint doc.

My guess is that it was included in the complaint doc for the name and picture of helicopter Ben, because if it ever goes to trial it will turn out to be on par with the "orwellian" point 34.


If the margins are so high for an ad exchange (~20%), I don't understand why nobody opens a new independent one. Sure, such a thing is hard to get off the ground, but if you have VC backing or contacts with a few classical media sites and industry associations, it seems definitely possible.

Also, I don't think the advantages of targeted advertising and ad auctions are as big as people think. Maybe people should start placing ads via the sites' thematical context instead of the users' browsing history.

Finally, I would also look into serving ads first-party, that is embedded in the page and from the same domain. A lot harder to block, more performant, and you might be able to get rid of the stupid cookie banners.


I looked into this a long time ago and here’s what I realized.

1. You need to be really well capitalized. AdOps engineers work for the most lucrative business model in these companies and you need large scale to convince publishers to integrate with you. While you are building this out you are burning money so you need to convince VCs to pour millions to fight the darlings of SVs.

2. The publishers don’t have any choice and are already struggling. Not many of them are going to take a chance integrating a new platform that might make them less money so you need to have sellers ready to go. Ultimately it’s in Googles best interest that publishers struggle because it prevents them from experimenting with other exchanges.

3. Sellers are largely unsophisticated. They might have a hunch that GOOG/FB might be bordering on useless but nobody has been fired for spending 10MM on Facebook ads. Trying to get a piece of that spend so you have something to give publishers leads to a chicken and egg problem.

Ultimately, GOOG has a massive moat that lets them protect that 20%


I believe The Trade Desk is the alternative ads exchange platform to Google and Facebook. But I agree, we need more.



Thank you! Why DO people insist on posting essays as 1,001 tweets!? The mind boggles.


It's the only popular publishing platform that permits true hypertext features such as nonlinear text, and comments on and transclusion of individual paragraphs of a post.


Ironically enough, Google Docs would allow that :)


1. It's where the audience is.

2. Sometimes ... tootstorms just happen.

3. It is ... remarkably like posting a public Zettelkasten. In particular, there are often responses to specific items on a thread and those themselves can prove revealing.

A huge issue with traditional "single entity" documents (books, essays, even longish HN comments as I'm wont to produce...) is that responses tend to be either to the thing-as-a-whole or some irrelevant point. One of the hardest things to get as an author is specific feedback to a given passage of writing, and for all its many, many faults, the tootstream format cracks open that shell.

That feedback may highlight well-written bits, poorly-written ones (where readers repeatedly misinterpret authors' intent), salient or poorly-supported facts and logic, etc.

My usual platform for this is Mastodon, and I've posted a number of longer tootstorms (using the Mastodon nomenclature rather than "tweets"), searchable via hashtag from my present and previous instance homes at

https://mastodon.cloud/@dredmorbius/tagged/tootstorm

I thought there were a few here as well though they're not appearing:

https://toot.cat/@dredmorbius/tagged/tootstorm


I think because Twitter is where their audience is. As annoying as it is to read on Twitter, posting it as multiple tweets also allows people to like/retweet individual and multiple parts of the essay which probably increases the essay’s overall reach/engagement.


Yep, people who are interested can immediately and directly engage with the author of the thread on any single point.

Medium had the right idea allowing people to highlight specific items in a post and comment on them, but I think people prefer a forum over long form articles.


I wonder how many such scandals before people in office accept the logical conclusion that the only way to deal with this is to use the Standard Oil method.


How exactly Google killed header bidding (routing of inventory to multiple exchanges)? Is it because publishers don't interact with exchange directly, but engage via sell side brokers, which google bought and changed they way the route orders?


Are there any publicly traded competitors to the ad exchanges Google and Facebook run?


Yes, but you can't effectively use them unless you run them through Google Ad Manager, which gives Google special privileges/rights for their own ad inventory versus the competitor. For example, Google gets to look at the ad impression before anyone else, Google is required to win all tie-breakers, etc.


You can't use another ad exchange without Google? Why?

Can you give an example?


> Why?

Because Google requires it. Google is the only major ad network that requires that you use their own ad serving product (GAM) in order to have full access to their inventory.

So your options are to use GAM and have Google inventory plus those of all other companies, or use any other ad server and have access to inventory of all companies except Google. The latter is essentially financial suicide since Google controls more than 50% of publisher demand.


It seems you are looking at it from the perspective of an advertiser?

Why would it be financial suicide to only advertise on non-google inventory? Isn't that like saying advertising only on certain media and not on other media (say only newspapers but not billboards) is suicide?

I am sure there are companies out there who never advertised on Google property but did not die?


No, I’m discussing from the point of view of the publisher.

It’s financial suicide to lose 50% or more of your revenue because you don’t want to use GAM to manage your ad inventory.


It seems most small publishers just put the Adsense code on their website. Is that equivalent with using GAM?


Just putting the Adsense code on a website is what a hobbyist who's making a few bucks/month would do, not someone who is running a business or making a living from their service.

It makes sense that the case is not focused on this group, the extremely low-end/hobbyist range of ads is not really the same ecosystem and is not remotely as important.


Really? I know people making a living by running one or multiple sites with adsense on it. What would you tell them they should do instead?


Two approaches:

Reseller approach:

Partner with a reseller that gives the publisher access to the reseller's own AdX and header bidding with a 15% or lower cut. Preferably a Google certified partner. A good reseller will work with the publisher to continually optimize/improve.

Independent approach:

Sign up for GAM, setup AdSense within GAM (via line items) so that other ad units can compete via dynamic allocation.

Setup header bidding (prebid.js) on their site. Contact all of the companies (Appnexus, Index Exchange, etc) and try to get partnerships. Requires technical competence, but they can hire someone to do this part if needed.

Header bidding will compete in real-time with AdSense and boost revenue. You can also supplement it with other non-display units (video, floating ad units, etc) from other companies specialized in those areas.

Once traffic is high enough, they should be invited to join AdX instead of AdSense.

Would strongly recommend beginning with the reseller approach, as there a lot of things you need to do properly to ensure you're not shooting yourself in the foot, and they can help you learn.

A good resource is the /r/adops subreddit.


Nice, thank you! I will talk to my "living on ad revenue" friends about it and see what they say.

I am surprised that all of this isn't automated and baked into Adsense already.


Collusion? Conspiracy theories? Etc.? All are completely irrelevant. Simply because even a proven absence of them creates a false sense of security. It doesn't make us any safer. It doesn't take nefarious off the table.

Entities with common means and ends don't have to collude or conspire. Their shared means and ends will force them to gravitate together. Starlings are a great example:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=V4f_1_r80RY

For starlings I believe it's call murmuration.

https://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-a-murmuration

There's also a more scientific name / area of study, tho' that name escapes me atm.



That is it. Cheers!


Is this what caused the big sell off in the sector Friday? If half of what is alleged is true, it will be enough to bring down big companies (but perhaps maybe not as big and powerful as Google).


I think that was more Snapchat’s earnings and realization that Apple’s privacy changes can actually cause significant problems for these companies.


I can understand Snapchat getting stuffed by Apple and having trouble against tiktok but Google and Facebook are either not big on apps or require the user to be logged in and thus have enough id on the user not to be effected by apple’s measures.


This is pretty damning stuff. Here's the question I have: there are a ton of quotes in here from employees. In what context were these statements made? In depositions? I would guess not. I'd guess they were made in emails, Google docs and presentations that were a result of discovery (or a whistleblower I guess).

If so, I really want to find these people and ask them "what were you thinking?" Any big company has required training on communicating with care. So who are these people who seem to be so careless or oblivious to how those statements might be viewed when exposed? Leadership? Product? Engineering? ICs? Managers?

I'd be interested to know more about the allegation that Google declared itself the winner of an auction even if there were higher bids. If that has any substance, that's... a problem. I really wonder how such a thing could be implemented by engineers without someone raising eyebrows.

Oh and once again can we just kill the meme of Twitter threads? I mean seriously.


When I started a new job, one thing in orientation was "the 'e' in 'e-mail' stands for 'evidence'."


That's a good way of thinking about it. When I was a kid I remember hearing "imagine reading everything you write down to grandma" or "read on the morning news". I try to keep that in mind to this day.


Isn’t that a huge red flag as an employee for that to be in orientation? It would make me want to put everything in writing in case they did sketchy shit.


Yeah I got that feeling as well, but it's not the main reason that is presented in the training.

The main issue is that your words will be taken out of context and used against the company. If you say "we are going to dominate the market" instead of "our product is going to be really well received" that can be used as evidence of anticompetitive behavior. Nevermind the fact that you're an IC and not a lawyer qualified to comment on if you are truly dominating the market.


Ostensibly true but in practice this is a way of lawyers to say - don't put illegal things we do in writing.


Accountability is half the point, actually. For example, if there's a coworker you know promises verbally then later says that never happend or they don't remember, get it in email. Likewise if you want to be sure you're on the record of "I don't agree with this idea."


I'm not the company I work for. If they're doing unethical stuff, fuck them.

Never understood, why others are so keen to protect employer given company will throw under the bus any of us in a blink of an eye.


Tell that to James Robert Liang [1].

This isn't about protecting the company. It's about protecting yourself. You're opening yourself to be a witness in a suit (nobody wants that), thrown to the wolves by the company (who will attempt to portray you as a rogue actor) or criminal prosecution.

Now if the company is doing something unethical and it's why you're leaving, then sure write that down as long as you're not admitting personal culpability of any sort.

Likewise, if you feel like you're being set up to take the fall for something, a paper trail can help you.

But otherwise, if you're in an ethical grey area and decide you want to continue to earn an income to, you know, live then there are such things as "inside thoughts".

[1]: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/volkswagen-engineer-sentenced...


Pardon my French, but you're either a coward or bootlicker. There won't be any criminal prosecution for raising legitimate issues internally & putting those in writing, no matter what company lawyers tell you.

And if the most privileged and job-secure people on the planet can't take the risk of undermining their FAANG overlords for the sake of humanity, who will?


History suggests otherwise. The legal protections exist because they've been repeatedly proved necessary.

https://whistleblowersblog.org/opinion/a-history-of-corporat...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Silkwood


The dropping of higher bids is the biggest revelation here. I would guess that higher bids would be dropped if they didn’t meet a max response time, maybe bids from Google were given a speed advantage to get under this max time.


Maybe inverting binary trees and real intelligence are not related?


There are always always enough people who are willing to do anything dark/illegal with a 500k+ salary, let alone gray


I remember when google was the shining light of “be nice company” that we all dreamed of working for, at odds with the evil that was M$crosoft.

And, from reading all the “why I left google” posts and hearing about them leaving China, the old google of 20 or even just 10 years ago was the good or even just a better google.

With how google went from “do no evil” to this, with how Facebook has always been profits over ethics, with how Amazon treats employees generally, etc:

Which employers are the “nice company making nice things and you’ll be able to sleep at night” tech companies nowadays?

Who should we safely not feel bad about wanting to work for?


The Google from 12 to 16 years ago was found guilty[1] in an antitrust suit of colluding with other industry leaders to keep tech employee compensation artificially low.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-Tech_Employee_Antitrust_L...


Yeah I don’t think people understand the extent to which public relations influences our beliefs. Google was able to maintain a polished image in well known areas while silently behaving poorly in others and we believed it for a long time. I remember about ten years ago meetings Eric Schmidt had with US military generals. That didn’t even register on mass media so most people probably never heard of it. I wonder how deep the connection between Google and the government really goes.


Not only PR.

Compared with what came before and what was competing with it in those days google search was terrific. Finding more of what you wanted faster. Clean interface. Ads off to the side clearly identified. People just felt good about using google product. That's a great place to start any PR. People's affection for polish of Apple Product compared with horrible machines most have been forced to use in pod farms etc worked the same way for Steve Jobs.

Assange has been claiming for a decade that Google is now "big and bad." Not sure if I believed him then. He was also claiming the US desperately wanted to put in him in jail while being dismissed by Hilary Clinton. He was right there. And that many people in the US govt and military industrial complex wanted to kill him and it was a lot more than just an idle thought. Right there too. His PR is shockingly bad.


US intel community assessed that Wikileaks was a thin front/wrapper for Russian intelligence operations intended to harm the US and allies. A kind of "launderer" at best for docs that Russian hackers or agents would steal or forge. Assange was the key guy behind Wikileaks. Therefore, Assange is... neither credible or honorable.


Actually they did not. They've tried that line but we saw they were saying the exact opposite just recently. They could not link wikileaks to russia so were throwing the idea around of assassinating Assange instead. While declaring other journalists non-journalists if they didn't just reproduce this kind of nonsense propaganda. Recall Assange had just released and commented on the Afghanistan papers showing what a debacle that war was, about which, 10 years later and 20 after it started we cannot really have any serious doubt.

It's insane! I would not have believed any of this a decade ago and yet here we are.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/kidnapping-assassination-and-a-lon...


>10 years later and 20 after it started we cannot really have any serious doubt.

It's exactly because I never had any serious doubt, that I identify anyone promoting a narrative about it being revealed by a hero as someone's propaganda.

There are lots of competing conspiracy theories. That might be because there are lots of competing conspiracies.

Nothing people say is true or reliable, but the act of saying it is a kind of truth that seeps through about the PR operation behind it.

All my life, people have been blaming the CIA for everything. Regardless of how much is true, that propaganda can't exist without a source. You know who likes to blame the CIA, and who likes to blame Russians and who likes to blame "Zionists" and so on. I mean, you can guess.

"The sky is blue in Moscow" might be true or might not be. But if someone says that to me, then it expresses some truth about them, that they want me to believe it is true, or they are using reverse psychology, or something. But it represents a truth that can be relied on no matter how dishonest the speaker.

"Actions speak louder than words" including when the actions are speaking words.


There's a massive difference between making a claim and backing it with overwhelming evidence. Wikileaks did the latter with regard the Afghan war. There was a massive smear of Assange anyway so even here people seriously say things like he's doing propaganda for russia with zero evidence backing that but with the clear implication that you don't need to take account of the overwhelming evidence presented. And he published un-filtered source so you aren't viewing through any lens! Still the smear worked! That success cost about 1.5 trillion dollars, countless lives and is astoundingly immoral.

But yeah, that's the next go to smear that you're identifying there. Can't make "Bernie or Tulsi works for putin" stick because it's false? Go with he's anti-semitic. It's nuts.

I think we've got to hold anti-semitism smears without evidence backing them in about the same regard as disparaging people for being Jewish. Both are actually promotion of anti-semitism. When anti-semitism is a go-to smear it loses meaning and the real thing, the vile thing, the thing that is actually violent and dangerous that must be opposed draws strength far more so than some hideous human goose stepping in the ugliest fancy dress, for example.

Maybe you should look at individual claims about the CIA and what evidence supports them before deciding if an individual claim is justified or garbage.

Pompeo has said the leakers of the yahoo story should be jailed. Not something you say if there isn't rather a lot of truth behind it. Isikoff isn't known for being friendly to russia in his reporting. He's recanted much of it now but was pushing the Trump is compromised by Putin line based on the ridiculous Steele dossier. May have been first cab off the rank there, I don't recall.

Something else that surprised the hell out of me recently was that the FBI never saw the Democrat party servers claimed to have been hacked by Russia. Only private contractors saw the evidence, contractors hired by the same crook-lawyer who fabricated the Trump has a private server connected to alpha bank insanity. Everyone has been repeating the democrats were hacked by the russkies and wikileaks published it with very, very scant evidence in support of it.

It'd be easy to weave conspiracy theories about it but waiting for more evidence to hold people to account is fine. And maybe I'm getting conspiracy minded in my old age because I'm not completely convinced that Epstein committed suicide either, I'd like more evidence for that before accepting it as fact as well. Has anyone actually asked Bill Gates about his story that he hung out with Epstein because Epstein had access to donors? Like "Who on this planet can you not get a meeting with given you're the richest guy in the world for the past 2? 3? decades? Seriously who can Epstein introduce you to who won't take your phone call Bill?" [1] Why has no interviewer asked him that? Why hasn't the media reporting on Bill's excuses for hanging with Epstein pointed out that this question is unanswered whenever they write about it? It just doesn't seem like quality journalism does it?

[1] There may be a good answer. Bill may have done nothing at all wrong. It's just hard to understand how it makes sense and needs further explanation at the minimum.


“steal or forge”

There is a huge difference between those two. Would be interesting to know how much was “forged.” At one point I thought they tried to vet the dumps pretty well to maintain credibility.


Even assuming it’s 100% legit documents. In an environment where all parties do bad things, but country A selectively exposes parts of country B’s dirty laundry in a way that would benefit country A and uses Wikileaks as the tool to achieve that - well it’s hard to see Wikileaks as this neutral party that does unequivocal good for the world. I’ll change my mind when Wikileaks publishes oh I don’t know, details on Putin’s palace maybe.


So a whistleblower from company A should wait until company B has a whistleblower, otherwise it will look bad?


No. But if an entity C keeps publishing whistleblower documents from company A but not B, it’s reasonable to wonder if C is in fact not a neutral actor.


As far as I am aware there is zero accusation that Wikileaks have not published absolutely everything that has been submitted to them regardless of who it helps or hinders.

You can't publish what nobody has leaked to you. They don't investigate, they don't hack phones, they don't "go looking" they sit and wait with their secure drop boxes for someone to send them documents. They then try to verify them and publish them.

There is also zero accusation that I have ever seen that they've published anything forged. Which is remarkable given how controversial they are and how many people are desperate to make something stick.

Is it reasonable that these things are rarely at the top of the list of facts in this discussion of wikileaks good or bad? Is it reasonable to ask why the "Why don't you leak on Putin" comes up so often when its such obvious garbage for a publisher? [1]

[1] If wikileaks had not published something that makes Putin or Hilary or Donald or whoever you think they're in league with look bad when it was clear that it was leaked to them that's a very serious charge and one we would all take notice of. I'm pretty sure I'd cross the road to avoid Assange as a person myself. I don't know if I'd consider him worse than George Bush Jnr, the late Colin Powell, Hilary, Donald, Blair. Do you really /like/ these people more than Assange after what they have done? It's not necessary to like Assange to take an interest in the story and the evidence. And fwiw I don't particularly /like/ him at all.


And you just believe everything the "US intel community" says?


Yeah if we're talking about "neither credible or honourable" then surely governments and their intelligence agencies fit that description


Yea I was just going to say, the only reason you think more fondly of Google's than Facebook's image is a clear example of one company having a far superior PR department than another.

It might be true at the very beginning when Google was simply a search engine that they truly were "doing no evil." It's also true at the very beginning of Facebook that they were truly trying to build a social network that made the world more open and connected by bringing grandparents closer to their grandkids thousands of miles apart.


> It's also true at the very beginning of Facebook that they were truly trying to build a social network that made the world more open and connected by bringing grandparents closer to their grandkids thousands of miles apart.

Is this really true about Facebook?


I did not go into details as to what Google misbehaviors were.

But I wonder what "behaving poorly" is. There is legal and illegal stuff.

Companies give jobs to people, not only Google. It is natural, yes, natural, logical, to want to pay less to people. It is also natural that people want to be paid more. A salary is never high enough for an employee. A salary is never low enough for an employer. I do not say this from an ethical point of view, I say how humans act.

Also, with all these regulations, unfortunately, government-company collusion is also there, not only among companies. I wonder if markets were more free than they are if the collusion among companies (given that governments cannot regulate as much) would be as effective. I just wonder, because I am not sure, but I am confident it would be better than what we usually see in the media, which much of it is the consequence of disproportionate power for regulating.

About behaving "poor" each person has her own ethics. Things that look ok to someone can look bad to others. And many look bad to most of us, especially when it is someone else who does it... which is curious. Companies are greedy, when it is not our company. Companies are bad, when it is not our company... our neighbor does not deserve what we deserve, because we are better.

So the only measure by which we should measure companies is by law (even I find some laws absurd, but that is another topic). If some laws and regulations give power to make excuses that favor corruption via favoring friends, then maybe the problem is the capacity to regulate.

I do not think an independent company would work for a government in "unethical" terms (as for many of our mostly accepted definition of unethical, like helping military research or giving surveillance tech to governments) if that government cannot give them something in exchange. We see the pattern? The problem is that exactly. Do not look further.


I promise you both companies have very well defined and strongly worded ethical policies against collusion. Plus, budgets for things like the OP would involve multiple layers of an organization with lots of required sign-off. So if true, this would be damning for all those involved.

As to your other point, I'm sure you're aware that governments and private companies are afforded different rules of engagement. We decided a century ago that allowing companies to collude ended up oppressing markets in negative ways and should not be tolerated. So not sure why you're using one to justify the other.


Collusion via regulations still exists today. As long as there are rulers it will exist.

Thinking the opposite is being very innocent, in my view. But all happens in non-obvious ways and in the background, you are going to see a tiny fraction of what happens.


From the very beginning Google’s public ethos was “don’t be evil”, not “don’t break the law”. They essentially asked for their behavior to be judged subjectively.


This whole explanation smells of "late capitalism". But even so, we have to judge companies ethically, because how else would new regulation be conceived of?


My point here (I got a rain of negatives, but I got used to, my opinions seem to be very particular) is that we need objetive law to judge.

But the fact of creating laws in large sectors of people's lives creates evil incentives and dependence on people who did not take part in creating wealth for others.

I just find it contradicting.


Wasn't that the beginning of the end of FAANG's reputation?

Having your company put billions into the bank every year because they "don't know what to do with it" while you're not even a millionaire is disheartening.

I mean, if they were still paying us all handsomely like stock brokers then I bet popular opinion would be on their side.


If you work for Google as a SWE for a decade and aren't well over a million in net assets, you're doing something wrong.


a decade...how many ppl work at google for so long?


Note that longevity statistics are also affected by growth.

A high-growth company will, by definition, be a short-tenure company. Ironically, it's at shrinking companies that relative tenures often increase, especially as those who cannot (or feel they cannot) compete elsewhere remain.

For a company increasing headcount by 35%/yr, half of all employees will have been hired within the past two years, even with no attrition.

Statistics under conditions of rapid change are ... counterintuitive. And you'd probably want measures that better indicate length against hire date, or at departure date, or similar factors. In some ways this is similar to the challenge of identifying disease mortality during early phases of emergence as not all cases will have reached conclusion and identification of all infections or instances is likely to be incomplete.

Not that I can think of any phenomena where this might be exhibited in the past few years....


A surprising number - sure, google has turnover like everyone else, but in general I am always surprised at how many people have 5+ years of tenure. I work with a number of people where google is the only place they have ever worked, which is downright odd to me.


They take very good care of their staff.


We'll soon all be millionaires, nothing to worry about.


> while you're not even a millionare


This is wrong, many employees rich with stock options and other compensation, plus large salaries


Funny how the salaries suddenly exploded after this collusion scheme was brought to light.


That's not the majority. It mainly applies to a privileged sector of tech from what I've seen.


>I mean, if they were still paying us all handsomely like stock brokers then I bet popular opinion would be on their side.

Aren't FAANG salaries still absurd?


Faang salaries are pretty good when you are starting out, but they level of pretty quickly.

After say twenty years, my friends on Wall Street are mysteriously richer than I am. Of course the ones who didn’t survive the early treadmill aren’t included, but I guess that’s the trade off. Engineering is fairly stable and well paying, but you don’t get million dollar payouts unless you are a founder.


If you worked at FAANG and survived the treadmill for 20 years, you should be a Principal Engineer/Engineering Director at least. L8 compensation starts at a million dollars per year.


I’m not really a big fan of total compensation numbers when it comes heavily weighted into stock.

After all, if I wanted to be paid for stock performance I would’ve been a stockbroker (and like I pointed out up there, gotten paid way more after 20 year survivorship).

Also, I didn’t think it needed to be said but apart from Apple all the FAANG companies are really young, Google is only 23 years old. Back in 2001, they had less than 500 employees. I’m not one of the golden era. If I were, you’d already know my name and I of course would be a multimillionaire.


https://twitter.com/anothercohen/status/1343722582206377984

Multimillionaires are not people who joined Google 20 years ago. That's a different league altogether.

Multimillionaires are just normal people you've never heard of who work 9-5 and drink beer on the weekends with their friends and have a normal house in South Bay.

They joined Snowflake, Square, Airbnb, Lyft, Netflix, or any other of the hundreds of SV companies like those in the last decade, even the last few years.

They are the average homebuyers for 1500-2000 sq foot ranch houses in Bay Area right now.


My mid-career rank-and-file friends at FAANG have W2 income of $700k-1m a year. These are not high-powered individuals within their org, not even close.


20 years working at FAANG your equity should be outrageous compared to other industry SWE.


Yep senior engineer is a terminal level


That isn’t true.


They’re weren’t “found guilty.” They settled both the criminal and civil cases.


Also they were giving employees haircuts. Having been in the military and watched enough documentaries on the subject… any group that gives you a haircut is probably a cult.


This is false: they have vendors come onsite to give haircuts, but employees still pay for it. Had to point this out, since you jump from one false statement to a completely absurd conclusion.


The exact same was true in the military, re: vendors. The haircuts weren't free, at least as an officer.

Sure I was being hyperbolic, but the point is legitimate. They used benefits to get people willingly to sign up for a lifestyle, then used hierarchy to efficiently accomplish a bunch of insidious tasks.

You have an entire generation of students majoring in computer science and "grinding leetcode" to get a high paying job and never once stop to think about the consequences. The job is just like another homework set and the employees want those good grades (a PIP... oh no!). And like the military, you're a "professional" which means you aren't allowed to talk politics. (I know the Damore's of the world will complain that Google is run by "SJWs"... but that's only because that line of corpo-liberal talk is good for attracting people who don't think too hard about the actual mission.) I mean... they even had PIPs in the military (though had a different name)!


I wonder if the behavior of the largest tech companies is a cause or an effect of their size.

Is unethical behavior pushing companies to the top of the food chain?

Or is it that other companies feel more ethical simply because they don't have as many chances to engage in unethical behavior?

If it's the latter, all the push to split the companies is for nothing and we should just consider "ethics at scale" to be an unsolved problem I guess.


I suspect its less size then being at or near the top.

If you're up and coming, the best strategy is to just make a better product. You know whose at the top and you can adapt your product to where they are weak.

If you're at the top, i suspect the optimal strategy is to try and cut your competition off at the knees before its a threat.

I think we see this across many things. Just look at all the messed up things states do when they're super powers vs middle power states.


It's cartel behavior, they are trying to control every facet of the environments they live in. Hence why there are no competitors and all the upcoming platforms get acquired and absorbed.


Criminal business is the most profitable business and "unethical" just means "white collar crime". If the law allowed drug trafficking and kidnappings, the biggest corp in the US would be a drug cartel and the only reason they are outlawed is because even people at the top agree that such cartels are bad. Things are different for white collar crime: most people believe that its OK to do shady things if nobody's obviously hurt. This is why senators brazengly trade stocks influenced by the laws they pass. They don't believe its a crime. So unsurprisingly, the biggest corps in the US exploit this weakness at scale. It may take centuries before the collective agreement will equate such business practices with drug cartels.


> If the law allowed drug trafficking and kidnappings, the biggest corp [anywhere] would be ...

History proves you right.

The entire British empire, a fabulously wealthy system, was founded on slave trade (think: kidnapping, trafficking) and when that became too risky to maintain either the trade or profit margins, they moved over to global drug trade. The opium wars.


this has a few diagrams https://historyindoors.co.uk/britains-dark-past-the-atrociti...

some are telling


> the biggest corp in the US would be a drug cartel

This is besides the point you’re making, but I disagree with this. Disregarding the ones who make drugs for medical use, we already have recreational drug companies operating legally, namely those selling alcohol and tobacco (and coffee I guess). They are not the biggest corporations in the US (although some are still huge and powerful, of course).

The reason it’s currently so insanely profitable dealing in some of the other drugs is their prohibition, which makes prices skyrocket (and of course, when you’re already on the wrong side of the law, you might as well cut corners and utilize harmful practices to the extreme, even further increasing the profits).


It’s partly the Peter Principle, and another issue is maybe Google buying “management talent” from other companies. Just a guess though. Perhaps at that scale you have to be cut throat to be noticed and rise in the ranks (as it displays authority, which some people are especially fawned by)


Humans don't scale: we get big egos, we exploit size advantages far in excess of ethics, and we believe our own PR. Humans do not scale. We need to philosophically admit that with greater influence only fictional heroes can remain ethically honest. Self deception typically ruins a wealthy person's honesty; it is natural human nature. Until we recognize this innate fact of human nature, we will continually create large disasters, over and over again.


It's about shareholder value added. A public company or a VC-backed private company can focus on making creative nice widgets and services for only a limited time before growth inevitably stalls. After that (unless the management can and wants to screw over their owners) they will need to look elsewhere for more profits.


It's about capitalism, which rots the spirit of everything it touches.

Money is the most dangerous behaviour-altering drug.

It shouldn't be a surprise that a system which rewards sociopathy and discourages kindness and empathy keeps generating sociopathic behaviours.


Capitalism has always been about greed, and I say that as a profound advocate of it. Its very convenient to blame capitalism now for stuff we don't like when I'd argue we knew all along about greed being a core part of capitalism. Convenient in that it somehow absolves government out of it, and hides how we as the supposed democratic participants have been utterly powerless to direct the state towards reigning in these supposedly greedy/evil capitalist companies.


Greed is good.


I mean, the Soviet Nomenklatura had a reputation for similar behavior. Pre-capitalist societies also had plenty of corruption, graft, corruption, and destructive avarice.


I don't quite get why capitalism would reward sociopathy more than any other system in history


Your ethics are my opportunity.


To a Capitalist, the only possible deal is a profitable one. However, to be profitable, the arangement between participants has to be unfair. It is only through an unfair exchange of goods and services is a profit produced. So it imperative the other parties believe they are getting a fair deal, otherwise they would not participate. So, it is unmentioned while required that the Capitalist control the information of the participants such that they will believe they are getting a fair deal, while the Capitalist is in fact always getting the unfair advantage, or they would not participate. This is the nature of the corruption that is Capitalism.


I pay an electrician a slight premium for knowledge and experience that won’t burn my house down. Sure, I could look it up on YouTube but the probability that I do something wrong probably outweighs the premium I would pay for a qualified electrician.

How is this unfair?


Communism advocates for the workers owning their own means of production. An electrician working as a sole trader is an example of this. It is perfectly consistent with anti-capitalist thought to hire someone to perform work.


It’s completely fair and it’s also not quite what people who critique capitalism are talking about. Imagine you’re hiring a company that has electricians on payroll, then by definition the electrician you hired will get less than the labor he performed, and the company will pocket the difference as profit - or it won’t stay in business long. Electricians have the option of going alone, many other industries not so much.


Another profession where freelance is a common option is coding. So if going alone should always better, is the implication that all the employed electricians and coders are irrational or want to be exploited?


There are clearly advantages when working for someone else. Is the negotiation between the employee and the employer always fair when an industry has a few established incumbents? That depends and there’s a large spectrum of possibilities.


Unfair in the sense that the buyer pays more than the cost of goods sold, but trade often increases utility for both parties anyway. People happily pay $1,000/year for homeowners insurance even though the expected losses and expenses are only $970 or whatever, because they don’t want to be on the hook for a new home if theirs burns down, and they’re generally better off for doing so. And they may buy it from for-profit insurers, even though those for-profit insurers are in direct competition with mutuals (basically co-ops) and there’s full price transparency, because despite the capitalist making an expected profit of $30 or whatever the stock insurer provides a better price or service.

There’s absolutely no requirement that a capitalist (either the same one that stands to profit or a different one) control the flow of information in order to profit, lots of (probably most) capital funds the production of highly competitive and price-transparent goods, and all public stock companies disclose their expenses publicly. Even Google and Facebook provide clear prices to their customers, the issue with surveillance companies in particular is that their users aren’t the customers, but that’s totally orthogonal to the conflict you’re describing.


I am talking about the relationship between the employer and the employee. That is the unfair relationship which Capitalism is dependent and is imperative they control the information of their participants.


I'm not sure that unequal relationship between employer and employee is a feature of capitalism per se - even in a market socialist system in which labor receives all that it produces, any individual worker depends on their employer more heavily than their employer depends on them, so you still have an imbalance of power.

I also don't think it's really relevant here, since Google and Facebook employees are about the least coerced labor there is, considering that virtually all of them could another job earning an order of magnitude more than the minimal living wage in their area at the drop of a hat.


> I'm not sure that unequal relationship between employer and employee is a feature of capitalism per se

It is.

It is also a feature, to a greater or lesser extent, of many systems that are downstream descendants of capitalism and haven’t replaced the elements that produce that feature.

It is also a feature of the upstream immediate predecessor of capitalism (feudalism, in which control of the means of production is unified with land ownership and typically executive, and often judicial and legislative, power over those on it) in an even starker form.

> even in a market socialist system

“even”? Market socialism is a very close relative and (conceptually) descendant of capitalism, not some distant and opposed system.

> in which labor receives all that it produces, any individual worker depends on their employer more heavily than their employer depends on them, so you still have an imbalance of power.

In market socialism, the employer is an agent of the employees, who (in many versions) each individually hold guaranteed rights with respect to it much the same as citizens of a liberal democratic regime do against the State. Both the universal elimination of the employer fundamentally serving an interest outside of its employees and also the common (but not universal, “market socialism” is a broad category with lots of variations) guarantees of individual rights to employees exist specifically to mitigate the adverse effects of the employer/employee power balance that it retains from capitalism.


I think it's just that there's more scrutiny and the cases we hear about are more in the news. Smaller companies, and especially individuals who run businesses, do plenty of dodgy crap that nobody hears about and it never makes the news.


Perhaps when they are large enough to have significant power, they attract more employees with looser morals who see them as places where they can profit.


It might be both, some sort of feedback loop.

My take on this is that in a small company, the individual with his morals and values can still have an impact on the behaviour of a company. Above a certain size, when the company is public, the individual has less impact on the company, and there is an emergent behaviour that is only driven by the incentive to "enhance shareholder value", and all moral values that the company could follow, and that come from individuals in the company, disappears.

A company's social role is to provide jobs and goods for the society to work well. But this is not aligned with the survival incentive of the company, to "enhance shareholder value", which becomes it's only role.


I don't know if it's been studied or written but I'd bet solid money that every group / company starts nice, trying to differentiate from old rusty and corrupt only to become what they despised because that's just survival instinct and "efficiency" (short term, lazy).

Same for people, new ones come fresh with ideals only to become sleazy when their spot is secured. It's a balance between knowledge of the old versus naiveness of the new.


The universal emergent behavior of capitalism. It may not be by design, but is as certain as gravity. Capitalism is wholly incompatible with morality, unless you definite morality itself to be capitalism.


I don't think capitalism is root here, it's an amplifier but humans have the same problem. Maybe any complex ~intelligent system even ?


> I don't know if it's been studied or written

Yes, it has been written. And you almost certain will have heard the condensed version.

You either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain.


come on, i need longer than this :)

there must be finer / wiser analysis about these antagonism.

I have a tendency to be a naive hero wannabee but I recognize when I become dark or complacent. Most probably people managed to do better and write about this in a social context.


Work where you want and don’t feel bad because of HN opinions. HN hates everything eventually, except RSS.


Interesting and a little funny to read the question this way.

A certain peculiarity of our time I think is a constant ambiguation (or confusion) between moral conscience and social impressions, social consequences even. social media gives us the illusion sometimes that they are one in the same, leading to confusions like this.


That comment gave me the biggest smile @eclipxe.


It stands for Hater News. Good info here but the bias is negative.

Oh, and don’t forget Wireguard. Put Wireguard and RSS in the same headline and get the highest upvotes ever.

Of course HN will probably hate Wireguard in a year.


All that changed is a breakdown in perception management. Google definitely had positive and idealistic beginnings, but through growth eventually innate properties of the species will express and become difficult to centrally control. This is a feature Google has in common with any other large organization, be it IBM, Amazon or the Catholic church.

Your solution is finding a good employer who you know and vet personally, and avoiding working entirely for large companies. Managing human rot at scale is an unsolved problem, and few seem to survive exposure to extraordinary cash flows without some aspect or other of their humanity being impacted.


> avoiding working entirely for large companies. Managing human rot at scale is an unsolved problem

Isn’t it, then, solved? The scalable way is liberalism = the ability to change employers and swap companies when they rot. It comes at the loss of having to dismantle mature companies frequently, but it is one way to solve rot. Like you change window frames when they rot.


> Which employers are the “nice company making nice things and you’ll be able to sleep at night” tech companies nowadays?

The smaller ones.


I would argue that

* There are plenty of evil small companies as well.

* Small companies can turn evil more quickly than big ones can.

* The evil things big companies do is more likely to be a matter of public record already than the evils of a small company.

* Big companies sometimes have the scale to make a bigger impact at the "nice" things they do than small companies.

That's not to say that there aren't some impactful, ethical small companies out there. I'm just saying that the choice is not as clear cut as it's made out to be.

Sincerely, your BigCo Corporate Drone


And consequently the ones where employees make a smaller salary.


I work for one of the big companies that you would think (from the vocal minority) everyone hates. Only one of their business units is "not well liked", another is ambivalent, and another creates health care products for students and doctors. They try hard to provide opportunities for minority groups in the company, they organize charity events for local groups doing things like fighting hunger or childhood cancer, and they try hard to be one of the best employers wherever they have offices. Their leadership promote the idea of always trying to do the right thing and have an open door policy, and have changed company decisions because of concerns gathered via petition. I'm very frustrated at the poor organization and execution of this company, but it does genuinely try to live good values, and all the people I've ever talked to here (including leadership) genuinely care about other people. And I know for a fact that their products have pushed forward advances in science, technology, medicine, even giving away product for people fighting the pandemic.

I have the feeling that all large companies, regardless of how ethical their mission, can make you feel bad. But just because you feel bad doesn't mean the majority of outcomes of the company are bad. I mean, shit, our country as a whole produces some pretty bad outcomes, but not necessarily the majority. At some point we need to be more rational than emotional and do as much good as we can while still collecting a paycheck. But of course we should be willing to leave and work for good if we can no longer justify the bad.

I don't think there is any safe math for that. What if staying provides a better opportunity to create necessary change? At what point do we choose between the easy and the right, and how do we even find that line?


> I remember when google was the shining light of “be nice company” that we all dreamed of working for

Yeah. I remember their "don't be evil" bullshit. It was all just marketing. You can perpetrate all kinds of dishonest acts when you have a reputation for honesty.


Of FAANG I've still got a soft spot for Netflix. Even if they're selling my data there's less potential for harm given that they're not a glorified advertising company.


> given that they're not a glorified advertising company

They're still an advertising company, just on a level people are less aware of. And they might not 'advertise' the usual products.


No they're not. Customers pay Netflix subscriptions.


There is certainly product placement. But I’d agree Netflix doesn’t feel as egregious as GOOG or FB.


> There is certainly product placement. But I’d agree Netflix doesn’t feel as egregious as GOOG or FB.

Keyword being "feel". Google and FB "felt" nice for a long time. Now, after old media smearing blitz, they don't "feel" as nice anymore.

Key takeaway: "feeling" about a corporation has very little to do with their practices and everything to do with the PR budget and loudness of screaming about them. They're all sociopathic by design.


>And they might not 'advertise' the usual products.

Based on my recent viewing history (mostly old Star Trek, first season of Blacklist and the Inspiration Four documentary) I'm struggling to see what those might be.


Well they advertise their own shows to keep you subscribed, and they also have product placement. I remember Lagavulin scotch showing up in the TV show Lost in Space for example, an incredibly out of place product placement.


It's almost like there is nothing special about Microsoft. The thing Google and Microsoft have in common is they are large organisations of humans.

So maybe the answer is to work for yourself or a small organisation.


Specifically they are large hierarchical organizations designed to extract wealth from value created by employees, within a context of constant competition with other such organizations. The specific incentives matter a lot when examining these effects and it's important to not just chalk it all up to human nature.


It's amazing that when you consider most tech companies based their entire perks strategy off the back of free food, beers, playgrounds, sleeping pods etc all in the name of keeping workings in the build at all times a la Facebook and Google.

A little like the casinos tricks where you will never see a clock or the time inside one. There's a slight tilt on all pavements in Las Vegas that slowly push you towards the building, all without you knowing that it's happening.

Brainwashing at it's finest.


People always being this up and I think they're right to be skeptical, but the Google office I worked in (SF) was practically dead before 10 AM and after 7 PM. I never saw much evidence that any sizable group was working extra long hours. Some people hung around for dinner at 6:30 but most left before or right after grabbing food. I didn't spend enough time in Mountain View to form an informed opinion but there was definitely a big group leaving between 5 and 6:30.


People made this up because everyone needed a reason to put down the Google engineers who were suddenly getting better salaries and perks than the rest of the industry at the time. There was never any truth to the whole "employees stay at work all the time". Google has consistently had fantastic work life balance, as do most other similar large companies. It's the mid-tier ones that are sweatshops.


Of course, it helps that Google is, if these documents are accurate, literally stealing from basically everyone else (what company doesn't use Google adsense / AdWords)


> There's a slight tilt on all pavements in Las Vegas that slowly push you towards the building,

Wouldn’t that cause rain water to flow into the casinos?


I don't know if what that person wrote is true, but drains exist and it's not like Vegas gets a lot of rain, it's literally in a desert, floods aren't really a big concern.


There's an old book that I came across which basically discussed the architecture of Las Vegas and the small nuisance, such as titled sidewalks, that were crafted to maximize foot traffic.

(it may have been this book https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/learning-las-vegas-revised-ed...)


Drains are typically between the pavement and the road to drain water from both of them no? Hence roads have a slight convex curve to them and pavements slope towards the road.


Floods are a huge concern in Vegas.


See mike Monteiro’s Broken by Design for a fascinating expose of the workings of SV tech giants and the complete lack of ethics driving them.


Company policies like “don’t be evil” probably need to be directed by founders.

You can’t expect others in a company to put their morals over profits because at the end of the day no one gets fired for making money, but you can if your morals get in the way of profit. The incentives always pushes on the side of profit.

As a company grows the founders who originally directed the company’s ethics either step down or have less influence in the day to day decision making at every level of the company.

I think this is why we see companies like Tesla (and startups more generally) making so many “out there” decisions in terms of design and how they run their business. No one’s going to risk their job on pitching the cyber truck at Ford or spending $0 on advertisement. These things really need to be pushed by a founder who isn’t worried about being fired for doing something that seems crazy on paper.

Generally I think the world would be better off with less super massive companies who no longer have a founder with morals and a vision to guide the company away from a purely profit motivated future.


> Generally I think the world would be better off with less super massive companies who no longer have a founder with morals and a vision to guide the company away from a purely profit motivated future.

I think that's the crux of what Google got caught doing here. You don't need an Ivy League law degree to understand that what is laid out here is a slam-dunk case on collusion/anticompetitive grounds. I hope they have to face some kind of accountability for it. I hope these attorneys in Texas can deliver that for all of us at a level above "slap on the wrist".


Being a xoogler used to be something to put in your profile bio, and basically an instant hire if in your CV.

Now it almost carries a stigma.


I think this is over-imaginative. It’s still an instant hire almost anywhere. People still talk about ex-googlers like they’re celebrities when they join your company. They can write a book and the first thing the publisher will say on the back is “Since working at Google…”. I’m not saying this won’t ever change, but it will take a while.


Man, I don't know, if you need some binary trees inverted on a whiteboard, they are still the go-to folks.


Can we stop with this meme? I've seen it now twice in this thread and across the boarder Google threads today.

The hiring process is this way for the entire industry. Multiple startups have failed trying to move it away from its current incarnation of technical phone screen -> technical on-site, where the majority of technical questions asked are data structures, algorithms, and system design based.

Implying that the people at Google are only good at whiteboard interviews, and not much else, in terms of both intelligence and technical ability is laughable. Google's influence on software engineering is broad and deep. Their papers moved the industry, their open source projects power the industry, their internal tools influence shifts in the industry.

There's something wrong with you when you let their signal / data gathering for their hiring process impair your ability to see what they contribute clearly, and what obviously works for them in terms of hiring able engineers.

Using this issue, which is clearly not related to engineering ability (it's a systemic management issue as far as I can tell), as a data point to demonstrate that their interview process is flawed, and that the engineers that made it through it aren't able says more about your own emotional state.


Binary trees during the hiring process for software engineers is not a part of the entire industry. I'd be surprised if it was even the majority. But it is prevalent, and posts pop up here regularly disparaging it.

Places lean into Google's way of doing things by default without demonstrating that it leads to positive outcomes _for their business_. Google themselves do it due to no small part to compensate for the pitfalls of getting as big as they have. Pointing out that what they do is ubiquitous and inherently optimal is conflating scale with success.


> Binary trees during the hiring process for software engineers is not a part of the entire industry. I'd be surprised if it was even the majority. But it is prevalent, and posts pop up here regularly disparaging it.

Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Apple, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Snap, RobinHood, Walmart, Twilio, Uber, DoorDash, ... (we can continue down the list of US / western technology companies here for quite some time), all ask technical questions following the standard data structures, algorithms and system design format. They don't specifically ask for binary trees, but Google doesn't specifically ask that question either. There is no standard for the entire industry, but this method is common, to pretend otherwise is disingenuous .

> Places lean into Google's way of doing things by default without demonstrating that it leads to positive outcomes _for their business_. Google themselves do it due to no small part to compensate for the pitfalls of getting as big as they have. Pointing out that what they do is ubiquitous and inherently optimal is conflating scale with success.

There are multiple assumptions here on your part. One is that this is something that occurs due to scale. Please prove it. The on-site process outlined takes engineering time, and is costly. It's multiple hours long, brings in multiple engineers, and requires lengthy discussions afterwards. Surely there's something that scales better if that were the motivation here?

The second assumption is places blindly follow Google's lead, with no further analysis on their own if it' beneficial to their business. This is mindbogglingly presumptuous considering the million / billion / trillion dollar companies with highly capable engineering / HR leaders on that list. You obviously know better than them with the data they've collected?

The above is outside my original point: This thread is not a question of engineering ability. It's a systemic management failure. Latching on to anything negative re: Google / Big Tech to vent your frustrated at the hiring process, and how see! it lets in those who aren't intelligent, capable, etc. is a reflection of your own emotional state.


These sort of silly interview questions seems to be a US thing. Never been asked to whiteboard anything in interviews, I'm in Scotland. Also never been asked anything ds&a related.


On the contrary I think it's a very good meme. This kind of hiring process should be shunned and shamed.

I have never come across this in Europe and I hope I never will, and I certainly don't partake in this circus when I interview people.


Inverting a binary tree isn't particularly hard.


Where does it carry a stigma to have worked for google? Lots of interesting tech and lots of open source projects come from inside google.


Since google is as a publicly traded company, they are under enormous pressure to produce steady growth figures, just to please the stock market. Sure that survival has priority over playing it nice.


I mean yes and no. Blue chips can also just pay out their gigantic profits as dividends to shareholders - the growth pressure is more from VCs


There is no safety in Corporate America.

Exploiting the weaknesses of the largest group possible has been the name of the game for such a long time, that for many well meaning corporate robots it has become automatic behaviour.

They defend, justify and most importantly have no roadmap to how corporate america can reduce exploitating knowledge gaps, info assymetry, biases, weaknesses at scale.


> Which employers are the “nice company making nice things and you’ll be able to sleep at night” tech companies nowadays?

Stripe, maybe?


To be fair, I've heard that their customer service is pretty abysmal.

Hmm...maybe there's a corollary between "goodness" and customer service? The worse the customer service, the "gooder" the company?


I've heard good things about Valve


for now


Anything with no shareholders.. Maybe that business model needs a revisit by the law. As in, if you hold share, you also hold liability (beyond loss of value). As in, you are open to a lawsuit if a company you invested in engages in unethical behavior and your votes did go towards that behavior.

Strangle the socio-pathic plant at its root forever.


The smaller the company you work for, the less likely there is to be nasty shit going on you're not aware of...


I have an unofficial policy of only working for small companies. I broke that rule once, and I was consistently miserable. Completing features consistently took 3x longer than they should have, and the team was too big to be able to make the necessary changes to fix the accumulating problems that caused it.

Additionally, people I hadn't met during the interviews but were in my direct chain of command were obnoxiously political. I am pretty much done with working at places where I dont have a direct line to the owners, and meet the owners before I accept the job.


I don't know about a big company, but my answer would be "the companies building decentralized and privacy-friendly tech". The ones pushing toward solutions to the problems now associated with 'big tech'.


None of them, I am quite old to have learned in a capitalist society it is always about the money.

Company mottos, cultural values, we are family, and all the marketing garbage that they sell for new hires to feel good is just that, plain marketing.

When things get though, the "values" hardly matter to get deals or fire people.


And now you know the true reason for age discrimination. It takes time, no matter how intelligent, to see through such dogma.


Yeah and communist society is about who has the best connections to the people in the party who decide who gets what. And socialist societies are about not making too much money because you'll lose the subsidies.


Apparently I touched a nerve....


Communism is not the only alternative. It still implies an economy and endless human work to sustain it. Capitalism is automating everything and if this continues we'll either end up in a post scarcity society like Star Trek or some dystopian hell where corporations create artificial economies just to maintain their power and wealth.


Strawman... The alternative to purely profit driven society is not a communist society. It's social democratic where values of freedom rights and wellfare actually matters and are not just axes to grind on.

The US internal anti socialist propoganda is so strong that it makes people believe that this middle ground doesn't exist.


it's similar with governments actually: All the talk about human rights, social justice etc. are usually way less important to the government than the GDP and hence capitalism/profits. BUT, this is not only good for the top x% but good for everyone usually. With profitable businesses you can pay everyone and everyone is getting richer, thus everyone wins. At least unless the top x% keep the riches to themselves, that's when the government should intervene. If they don't, it's up to the voters. So the system has quite a few fail safes. (although I agree it's not enough nowadays, especially regarding those oligopolies and climate change.)


Answering my own question,

What about the timescales and starbursts and small tech startups that we like to see crop up on HN?

My list above is tainted by my own interest in data; what is there in other spaces?

Impressions and anecdotes?


Grafana labs seems like a company worth supporting, great products, agpl code, good community involvement. I help in their slack sometimes, I like their business model.


I think any tech company that is growing, and has not achieved profitability by a clear mechanism that you're ok with is a risk.


> Which employers are the “nice company making nice things and you’ll be able to sleep at night” tech companies nowadays?

Atlassian.


Ugh have you ever USED Jira?


I got a Google Home a couple of years ago, cuz all my friends had one, but never got around to set it up. When it came out it was a magical box by a cool company that was like star trek had turned real.

The other day I unpacked the thing cuz I needed a Bluetooth speaker, and was swearing at the thing the whole time cuz I couldn't set it up as a speaker without downloading the app, hooking the device to WiFi and seemingly giving Google access to more of my data (you can turn off the mic, but it keeps complaining about it at full volume and u can't turn that off).

It's funny how the personal feelings associated with Google has changed. The device is the same, but the perspective, the emotion towards the company has changed so much.


Unionize anywhere you work. That's the way not to feel bad.


As much as I like unions, I don't think that they prevent companies from doing bad things to the public, just to their employees.


It does give more power for employees to protest bad moves.

As shown in the recent leaks people have stepped in and tried to stop the shit that's happening.


Yep...in a very short amount of time they went from "dont be evil" to "hide your evil".


“See no evil”?


Epic Games seems like one of the good guys for the most part at least.


The moment I saw "Don't be evil" as their motto/slogan back in the 90's. I rolled my eyes and said out loud "What a load of shit, I bet they are evil incarnate."


As my (devout but quietly Baptist) boss at my childhood town’s local ISP told me, “if you ever run into a businessman who is eager to tell you what a strong [Christian] believer he is, or has a [Jesus] fish on his signs or business cards, watch your wallet!”

(Things in [square braces] as added context for people who didn’t grow up as Evangelicals in the South)


William S Burroughs: "When doing business with a religious son of a bitch, get it in writing. He's word isn't worth shit, not with the good lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal."


The ones that do not pay FAANG(M) salaries


A startup, perhaps?


Go for a non-capitalist org. The very idea of profits over anything else is what drove Google, Facebook, Twitter and friends to where they are.


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