Google, being the gigantic company that it is, has become the target
of legal action and regulatory concern. Just this week, we learned that Italy found Google execs guilty in the case of a controversial video. There's the Google Books lawsuit and in the past Google faced scrutiny for an ad deal with Yahoo! (which they pre-emptively canceled) and its relations with Apple (Eric Schmidt later quit the board).
There are a couple of new legal woes on the Google front. First, a class action lawsuit has been brought with regards to Buzz,
Google's new social media effort. As you may remember, Gmail users were
none too thrilled when Buzz automatically showed up in their email
program and automatically updated their network. Google has reversed
course on the automation, but it wasn't in time to stop the suit.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has received antitrust complaints
about Google from three companies: UK price comparison site Foundem,
French legal search engine ejustice.fr, and – irony of ironies –
Microsoft's Ciao by Bing. Oh, and Foundem is partly funded by
Microsoft, as well.
Google says the
complaints from Foundem and ejustice.fr are basically that Google
demotes their ranking because they're vertical search engines and
competitors to Google. If that's really the the case, that would be
like saying Target doesn't give preference to a third party toilet
paper company because they want to promote their own toilet paper.
Target certainly has the right to promote their own toilet paper over
Last but not least, late breaking today is the EU concern about Google regarding Street View photos.
For privacy reasons, Google will blur portions of their Street View
photos. But they keep a coy of the unblurred photo. The Article 29 Data
Protection Working Party of the European Commission has informed Google
that keeping unblurred photos for more than a year is not ok.
These legal and regulatory issues won't be going away anytime soon.
In some areas, the problem is just the lack of a legitimate competitor.
In other areas, Google is testing the boundaries of data collection.
I'm sure it's quite tempting for a company of Google's size to push the
envelope but the market and regulatory agencies will act as de facto
checks and balances as long as they do.