Maybe I am just an old dinosaur. OK, I AM an old dinosaur in that I don’t consume hours and hours of social media every day like many people. As a matter of fact, the only social media I use is LinkedIn (for business) and two business websites (tideswaterservices.net and valcap.info). Since my work is typically face-to-face or email based, it hasn’t been an issue so far. There are plenty of business leaders who seek my help and I am very busy trying to improve their businesses.
This includes everything from developing new products, to expanding sales, to buying a competitor or selling the business, even guiding them through a franchising process. The knowledge I have is, thank goodness, in great demand. That may change, but one thing is for certain – if I get deeply involved in the social media world, the social media companies will be able build a very good profile of my life.
They already know quite a bit about my life, my businesses, my travels, my purchases, favorite television shows, my politics, my family, you name it, and it is probably sitting in a database somewhere in the famous “cloud” just waiting to be used to craft a perfect commercial suited to my tastes.
Every single keystroke on our cell phone, laptop, desktop, and tablet is captured through various “backdoors” they have discovered or ordered to be inserted into the software we use. We are told they do it to somehow “protect” us…or something. But that is a post for another day.
George Orwell Would Be Proud
Many of these companies take things a bit further. They have taken it so far, some people would say, to the point that we are living in an Orwellian world. At least it appears that way. I am not blaming them for capturing what is there. Imagine if you had a large company that produced a wildly popular product. And your product was so fully ingrained into society the government started to take notice. That is usually not a good thing as the government does not like competition. Not at all.
So what would you do if you were one of the big boys, a tech company with billions of dollars sitting around in cash? You might think it a wise thing to spend some of that cash trying to influence what the government does...it’s “thinking” as it were. Maybe you would like to affect how the government thinks about you. So you agree to cooperate, quietly, with Uncle Sam, and allow them to capture everything that comes across your servers. You might even want to take it a step further and provide research to the government to convince them what you do is in the best interests of society. The Journal article lays bare everything that is happening and it might seem a tad scary to some. In essence, the companies are “helping” a number of researchers to create and publish articles that appear to influence the public at large and specifically, the various layers and decision makers of the U.S. government.
Directly from the article: “Over the past decade, Google has helped finance hundreds of research papers to defend against regulatory challenges of its market dominance, paying $5,000 to $400,000 for the work, The Wall Street Journal found.” What could possibly go wrong with this situation? Funding research is almost always a great idea. Real, valid, research has many uses to society and can be a valuable tool to both policy leaders and business leaders.
The problem is, this cozy relationship isn’t always acknowledged or recognized. Again, quoting directly from the article, “Some researchers share their papers before publication and let Google give suggestions, according to thousands of pages of emails obtained by the Journal in public-records requests of more than a dozen university professors. The professors don’t always reveal Google’s backing in their papers, and few disclosed the financial ties in later articles on the same or similar topics, the Journal found.”
Isn’t that lovely? You might be reading some journal and come across an article about how free expression on the internet is a good thing…or not a good thing, depending on how these companies feel. And you may never know the money behind the article. Here’s a devastating quote from one of the professors in the article, “University of Illinois law professor Paul Heald pitched an idea on copyrights he thought would be useful to Google, and he received $18,830 in funding. The paper, published in 2012, didn’t mention Google. ‘Oh, wow. No, I didn’t. That’s really bad,’ he said in an interview. ‘That’s purely oversight.’ ” Just an oversight, a trifling thing, and you needn’t worry about my friend. Move along, nothing to see here.
It’s bad enough that individuals might not see the corrupt connection, but it gets worse. Much worse. Again, from the Wall Street article, “Google promotes the research papers to government officials, and sometimes pays travel expenses for professors to meet with congressional aides and administration officials, according to the former lobbyist. The research has been used, for instance, to deflect antitrust accusations against Google by the Federal Trade Commission in 2012, according to a letter Google attorneys sent to the FTC chairman and viewed by the Journal.”
Now can you see why I’m not a big fan of any of these companies? They, more or less, bribe academia into publishing junk research to bolster their private interests. Then tell the officials who make decisions affecting you and me how the research backs up their software offerings and how wonderful they are.
There are many scandals, some quite recent, involving clear conflicts of interest in medical research. Now it is widely required for many medical schools, scientific researchers and journals to require disclosure of corporate funding and to prohibit corporate sponsors from meddling with findings.
That doesn’t make it right. It makes it sad that they feel they have to stoop this low and buy phony research to keep their businesses going. That about says it all, and that is why I don’t use social media if I can avoid it.
As a business consultant I have one goal. That is to help small to medium size businesses create such high levels of economic value that together we redefine their respective industries. If you have business issues keeping you up at night, or just cannot seem to get everything on track, perhaps I can help. Give me a call.
Thank you for reading.
Lee West - President, C.E.O.
Tidewater Capital Services.
My name is Lee West and I am a business consultant. I help people develop their businesses into industry leaders so they can achieve their dreams. I also write a stock investment newsletter at http://valcap.info and run a real estate investment business. Thank you for reading.