Over the last ten years, Google (er, um, Alphabet) has paid thousands of dollars to people in the academic community working on research that directly involves the company’s business, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Tuesday. Dollar amounts ranged from $5,000 to $400,000, and Google’s financial contributions to the research were often not disclosed in the finished products, the Journal also reported. A former Google employee said the company had assembled a list of research papers, complete with “working titles, abstracts and budgets,” Google wanted to see produced and then used that list to find academics willing to work with them on those projects. Around 100 such papers have been funded by Google since 2009.
Don’t be evil Google, Don’t be evil.
The Campaign for Accountability’s 35-page report was published yesterday, and it makes many of the same claims as the Journal article — the Journal cites it as a source.
But the Campaign for Accountability is a kind of sketchy firm itself: they have repeatedly refused to disclose their funding sources, as Google’s Leslie Miller pointed out in a post addressing this study. When I contacted them earlier today to ask for information on their donors, Daniel Stevens, their executive director, simply sent me a copy of their response to Miller, accusing her of deflecting. I haven’t heard back from Stevens with anything more substantial or, indeed, less ironic.
Leslie Miller’s response does not outright deny the accusations. The wordings are in such a way that they neither confirm nor deny the accusations.
Nevertheless, we’re proud to maintain strong relations with academics, universities and research institutes, in our own name, so we wanted to take a few moments to respond to the report.
We run many research programs that provide funding and resources to the external research community. This helps public and private institutions pursue research on important topics in computer science, technology, and a wide range of public policy and legal issues. Our support for the principles underlying an open internet is shared by many academics and institutions who have a long history of undertaking research on these topics—across important areas like copyright, patents, and free expression. We provide support to help them undertake further research, and to raise awareness of their ideas.
Also the professor mentioned in the NyMag article forgot the mention the sponsor of his study even though the study’s results benefit Google. Some oversight indeed.
Liam Tung from ZDNet:
“The irony of discussing disclosures and transparency with the Campaign for Accountability is that this group consistently refuses to name its corporate funders. And those backers won’t ‘fess up either,” wrote Miller.
“The one funder the world does know about is Oracle, which is running a well-documented lobbying campaign against us. In its own name and through proxies, Oracle has funded many hundreds of articles, research papers, symposia and reports.