Jun 032014
 

faces_headerGoogle has a tough week of legal developments on privacy in Europe and a rare disclosure of its workforce diversity.

Google, the world’s prolific search engine, as well as most search engines, like Yahoo which also has a large search engine presence in Europe, must now balance privacy and freedom of information in posting content, so as to comply with a groundbreaking European Union (EU) privacy ruling on “the right to be forgotten“.

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In a quick response, Google moved overnight to put up an online form, according to Reuters and CNBC, that will allow European citizens to request that links to obsolete information be taken down. Google leadership is making the first response to “the right to be forgotten” ruling by Europe’s top court.

The ruling on May 13 upheld a 1995 European law on data protection and ordered Google to remove links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of a Spanish man’s home, reports Reuters.

“Inadequate, Irrelevant or No Longer Relevant” Test

“Rights to be forgotten” not only poses new territory for Google and other internet technology firms, but also provides a hard-fought victory for the privacy rights of individuals. Search engine firms now must interpret the EU court’s broad criteria for internet search engine composition of personal data and information that satisfy a new test of “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.” Most of all, search engine firms must establish clearer policies and criteria for distinguishing public figures from private individuals.

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So far, European online consumers are applauding. When Google placed its online form of “your right to be forgotten” in the early hours of Friday, Google received 12,000 requests across Europe, sometimes averaging 20 per minute, by late in the day, the company said.

Clearly, internet consumers value their individual privacy, including their right to be forgotten over time. We all know the internet is written in ink. But, now the EU ruling opens up the door for that ink can be erasable in due time, especially so if you are not a public figure. The EU courts essential “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” test properly balances the public’s “right to know” against the individual’s “right to be forgotten.” This is good news for internet consumers.

In addition, the EU ruling marks the beginning of the reorganization of the internet as an emerging source of better structured online news and information among the hyper-competitive and escalated industrial organization of broadcast media, social media, and influence media.

“The court’s ruling requires Google to make difficult judgement about an individual’s right to be forgotten and the public’s right to know,” a Google spokesman said.

Digital Rights Advocates Want More Steps

Digital rights advocates call for more work on establishing a common approach to properly guide search engine firms. Experts across EU’s 28 data protection authorities will meet at a two-day conference this week to outline such common approaches for compliance with the “right to be forgotten” ruling.

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“Companies should not be tasked with balancing fundamental rights or making decisions on the appropriateness, lawfulness, or relevance of information they did not publish,” argues Raegan MacDonald to Reuters. MacDonald is an European policy manager at Access, a digital rights organization.

EU court permits Google to apply a public interest test in deciding whether to remove the search results. Public figures seeking to have “incriminating information removed will probably not be able to benefit,” according to lawyers. The “right to be forgotten” does not mean that questionable online search data and information will be deleted completely. The ruling stipulates now only the hyperlink appearing in online search results will be deleted.

Can the “right to be forgotten” ruling and the court’s “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” test be appropriately administered broadly across the several continents in which Google is strategically expanding, as well as other rival search engine firms now and going forward?

Is the EU privacy ruling a preview of what is soon to come to the American continents, as well as Asia, Africa, Australian and Oceanic continents?

I ask you now tell us what you think about the EU court’s innovative “right to be forgotten” ruling and the court’s “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” test for high technology search engines industry. Is this test adequate?

Let’s turn now to the second focus of this article – Diversity inside Google.

Why hasn’t the age of demography shift made it to Google yet?

Income, ownership, corporate suite and board composition, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics training, and equal employment opportunity compliance are the primary causes, argue civil right advocates on CNBC.

High technology companies have now hit the capital markets through highly publicized Investor Public Offerings (IPOs). What comes with this is more broader disclosure of public high technology firm’s workforce composition and diversity enhancement initiatives inside an age of demography shift and heightened engagement among shareholders and stakeholders of these billion dollar technology firms, like Google, Intel, Cisco, Apple and Facebook.

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This week marked a rare disclosure of Google — its workforce composition in their January 2014 Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) report. As their chart above reveals, Google’s workforce demography findings were shockingly exclusive for a firm dedicated to community and equality in sharing of online information broadly across the world’s several continents of the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Oceanics.

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Google disclosed basically how very white and male its workforce is — just 2 percent of its Googlers are black, 3 percent are Hispanic, and 30 percent are women.

The search giant said last week on Wednesday that the transparency about its workforce — the first disclosure of its kind in the largely white, male tech sector — is an important step toward change.

“All of our efforts, including going public with these numbers, are designed to help us recruit and develop the world’s most talented and diverse people,” said Google’s statement.

CNN Money reports the nation’s overall population is about 63% white, 17% Hispanic, 13% African American and 5% Asian, according the Census Bureau. And the Labor Department reports that women make up 49% of those with jobs.

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According to a company filing, Google (GOOGL) had 47,756 full-time employees at the end of 2013: 18,593 in research and development, 15,348 in sales and marketing, 6,563 in general and administrative, and 7,252 in operations.

Government reports on other major tech companies obtained by CNN Money last year show similar lack of diversity among the workforces of five other other major tech firms: Cisco (CSCO), Intel (INTC), Dell, eBay (EBAY) and Ingram Micro (IM).

Civil rights activist, Jesse Jackson, had already launched a longstanding movement on Wall Street dating back in the Clinton era of the 1990s, regarding income disparity, corporate suite composition and equal opportunity, corporate board diversity, shareholder and investor activism, stakeholder outreach and engagement, and national workforce development in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (especially among underrepresented minorities and women), dating back as far as his public partnership with the Greenspan Federal Reserve Board.

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Jackson’s recent focused on minority hiring at U.S. technology firms is a growing trend of shareholder and stakeholder activism emerging inside the corporate suite. Jackson has begun appearing at shareholder meetings of both Google and Facebook (FB).

“Silicon Valley has a long way to go,” he said at the Google meeting. “If Google can build cars that can drive themselves, it can certainly build a pipeline to bring African-Americans and Latinos … into this changing technology world.”

Jackson requested that Google and other tech companies release their diversity data. At the Google meeting, its Chief Legal Officer David Drummond announced it would do so by this month, saying the company had decided it had been wrong to withhold the data from the public.

faces_img_08The question remains what concrete efforts can high technology firms, like Google, Facebook, Cisco, Intel, Dell, eBay, and Ingram Micro, really do to reverse this already established trend of fewer women and minorities among their workforce.

CNBC reports today Silicon Valley real estate for high technology firms costs $83 dollars per square foot. The ‘Big 3’ technology firms in terms of total square footage owned and invested are: Cisco at 10 million, Google at 8.7 million, and Apple at 5.9 million. Clearly, land is a sound investment, along with some very smart people, for these high-powered technological marvels. We just need more minorities and women walking around thinking about innovative ideas on the world’s most valuable Silicon Valley landscape of these billion dollar firms.

Right?

It is just good business to invest in diversity (alongside privacy) in this age of demography shift and heightened engagement among shareholders and stakeholders.

I ask you now tell us what you think should be done about diversity enhancement and workforce development in the high technology industry now and going forward.

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