Rick Falkvinge blogged recently about a distasteful experience he had at a seminar that purported to educate about Internet privacy and online identities. Falkvinge is the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, which works to reform laws about copyright, patents and privacy.
Falkvinge reports that the seminar he attended that was put on by the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, a Microsoft-funded group. He recounts what ahppened once the meeting started:
“The next ten minutes were nothing like I had ever experienced. It was the most shameless bashing of a single company with hints and allegations that I had ever seen. In practically every sentence of the keynote, which was exclusively about how bad Google was as a company, words were snuck into the overall flow that were designed to plant ungrounded ideas in the audience’s mind.
‘…in Google’s latest privacy scandal…’
‘…Google made the headlines again…’
‘… allegations that Google has downranked relevant search results…’ (as if Microsoft gets to determine what is relevant?)
It went on and on. This was not a seminar on privacy at all. This was
Microsoft-funded Google-smearing, plain and simple…”
Falkvinge walked out of the seminar, turning down their free lunch. Since he was the only member of European Parliament present at the seminar, this caused a noticeable stir. A lobbyist chased him into the hallway. Falkvinge let him know that…
“I considered it audacious that Microsoft, a convicted monopolist, paid big money using a covert name to carpet bomb allegations of monopolistic behavior against a competitor in this manner – that the seminar had been thoroughly falsely advertised, and that I would not have my name associated with any part of it… The seminar shouldn’t have been about Google in the first place if it was paid for by Microsoft and was advertised as a general discussion on big data, profiling, identity, and privacy. If Microsoft wants to discuss Google, at least have the honesty and transparency of doing so under its own name and under an upfront seminar description.”
Microsoft has not answered Falkvinge’s direct charge that this was a covert attack on Google via a surrogate organization that purported to be legitimately educating legislators.