Nearly $40 Million Later, Google Ends “Cookiegate” Scandal

google-building-featured The Wall Street Journal reported earlier today Google will pay $17 million "to settle allegations brought by 37 states and the District of Columbia that it placed unauthorized tracking 'cookies' on Web browsers in 2011 and 2012." That $17 million, combined with the $22.5 million Google paid as part of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settlement over the same claims, brings to nearly $40 million the amount the company has forked over to resolve "Cookiegate." In February 2012 the Wall Street Journal initially reported that Google and a couple of other ad networks, including Gannett’s Poin [...]


Google’s Broken Promises & Who’s Running The Search Engine?

google-promises-featured For two years in a row now, Google has gone back on major promises it made about search. The about-faces are easy fodder for anyone who wants to poke fun at Google for not keeping to its word. However, the bigger picture is that as Google has entered its fifteenth year, it faces new challenges on how to deliver search products that are radically different from when it started. In the past, Google might have explained such shifts in an attempt to maintain user trust. Now, Google either assumes it has so much user trust that explanations aren't necessary. Or, the lack of accountability might [...]


Backlash Over Google+ Integration Into YouTube Comments Continues To Grow

youtube-generation-featured After Google launched a new platform for YouTube comments "powered" by Google+ in September, a YouTube Product Forum has been bombarded with backlash from users wanting Google+ out of their YouTube comment threads. Scrolling through the last few days' worth of topics listed in the YouTube Product Forum shows most are complaints about the integration of Google+ into YouTube. More than 900 topics were added in the last 24 hours, possibly prompted by a Reddit post published yesterday, pointing readers directly to the product forum link. According to an announcement by Google in September, c [...]


Google Quietly Testing Offline Store Visits Tracking

smartphone-map-checkin Last month Google announced a program called "Estimated Total Conversions." That program is intended to report or provide visibility into cross-device and offline conversions by tracking the activities of signed-in Chrome users and extrapolating that data to the broader Google user population. The offline component of conversion tracking wasn't supposed to begin until 2014. However, according to a report in Digiday, Google is currently experimenting with tracking offline store visits, using smartphone location, and trying to connect that back to mobile ad exposures: Google is beta-testing [...]


Is Microsoft’s Scroogled Campaign Working? Not If Gaining Consumers Is The Goal

Scroogled Microsoft has been attacking Google's products and services with its "Scroogled" campaign for almost a year now. Is it working? Ad Age has an interesting story with experts saying yes, in terms of ad effectiveness. But if the ads are judged as effective by actually causing people to switch, I'd say the answer is a big "No." Ad Experts & Microsoft Claim Success Microsoft's Google-Bashing TV Campaign Is Actually Working is Ad Age's story, with a headline that seems to leave no doubt that the campaigns, which began with an attack on Google Shopping last November, are effective. The campaign [...]


US Sen. Markey Calls For FTC Investigation Over Google’s “Shared Endorsements”

google-privacy-200 Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) has asked the Federal Trade Commission to take a closer look at Google's "Shared Endorsements" ads. On Thursday when the New York Times story discussing the program was published it initially appeared that Google was introducing a new "Sponsored Stories"-like ad unit. I was confused at first (before talking to Google), as were others. However as we later clarified Shared Endorsements is not a new ad unit. The company was merely expanding the range of social and user-generated content types that could be included in search and display ads. I was quite critical o [...]


The Questions Google Refuses To Answer About Search Privacy

google-logo-glow-featured Last month, Google made one of the biggest changes in search privacy ever, by routing all searches through its Google Secure Search service. Why did it make the change? Why didn't it close some loopholes that leave some search data vulnerable? Google -- which is demanding more transparency from the US government over privacy issues -- is preferring not to be transparent about its own moves. What's The TL;DR? The too long; didn't read is that more people should read stuff that they deem too long. The world would be a better place. But OK: Google claims it has improved search privacy but [...]


Google Confronts Unwelcome “Wiretapping” Class Actions

google-legal-law As reported in the New York Times, Google is confronting two "wiretapping" class actions that have been allowed to move forward in the courts. One involves automated scanning of Gmail for ad insertion and the other surrounds Google Street View collection of email and other personal data. When Gmail first introduced ads there was a temporary furor, which has all but disappeared other than the case at hand. Street View data collection or "WiSpy" as some have called it has been a much larger, ongoing headache for Google. Recently Google lost an appeal involving its motion to dismiss the Street [...]


France To Fine Google On Privacy, Low UK Taxes Draw Ire

google-eu-200px Google's European woes continue. The outcome of the antitrust settlement negotiations is still uncertain and it's not clear that Google will "get off" without more concessions. Now, European privacy complaints against Google have come to a head, with France all but promising to fine the company. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that France's privacy regulator, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), told media on Friday that Google had blown a deadline to change the way it handles user data. According to the report a quasi-judicial process will now begin tha [...]


Microsoft’s Ballmer: Google Is A “Monopoly”

google-legal-law Microsoft, the company stung a decade ago in the US by being branded a monopoly and then in Europe by having to pay and pay again for its past tactics, is arguing that regulators need to subject its foe Google to the same treatment. At a recent meeting of financial analysts Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer characterized Google as a search "monopoly," implying the company needed to be restrained by regulation. "They have this incredible, amazing, dare I say monopoly that we are the only person left on the planet trying to compete with," Ballmer is quoted saying. (Danny Sullivan offers an extensive [...]


Microsoft’s Latest Scroogled Target: Google’s “Gspam” Ads That Look Like Email

gspam Microsoft has taken another shot at Google today with the latest push in its ongoing "Scroogled" campaign. This one? Another attack on Gmail. Or, as Microsoft is calling it today, "Gspam." That's the term they're using for those ads that look like emails in Gmail (which, last I recall hearing, was still a limited Google test). From today's update on Scroogled.com: Consumers should be able to trust their email provider to protect them from spam, but Google is doing just the opposite. Rather than protect you from spam, Google is reading your private email conversations and using what they fi [...]


Europe Calls For More Concessions From Google, Survey Says “Rival Links” Not Enough

google-eu-200px European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia held a news conference this morning during which he said Google will need to offer further concessions to avoid antitrust fines. According to the NY Times, Almunia said that Google needs to "improve" its current proposal: "I concluded that the proposals that Google sent to us months ago are not enough to overcome our concerns." Almunia has reportedly asked Google's Eric Schmidt "to present better proposals, or improved proposals.” As I've previously indicated, Almunia's position is strange, given my understanding that he was di [...]


Would Europe “Ban” Google Universal Search Results?

Google Europe legal As Google's critics and rivals in Europe become increasingly vocal and aggressive in their campaign against the company's proposed antitrust settlement, the European Commission (EC) has some egg on its face. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia negotiated the current settlement with Google over a period of months. The specific provisions, including the controversial "rival links" concept, were entirely known to him and colleagues when the proposal was released for "market testing" third-party reaction and comment. It was also entirely predictable that FairSearch.org and other anti [...]


Europe: Google Wins “Censorship” Battle, Slammed On Antitrust Proposals

Google Europe legal Google's struggles in Europe continue. However the company apparently has won something of a reprieve in its battle against the emerging "the right to be forgotten," which Google largely regards as censorship. But on the antitrust front, Google faces stepped up criticism of its settlement proposals from critics and opponents. On Monday, an advisory (non-binding) opinion from Niilo Jaeaeskinen of the EU Court of Justice found that Google cannot (or should not) be compelled to de-index material that was originally legally posted on third-party publisher sites. According to an article appe [...]


To Avoid Copyright Liability, Google News Goes Opt-In In Germany

google-legal-law Earlier this year, a new, more restrictive copyright law was passed in Germany that gave publishers near total control over the use of their content (there's no "fair use" doctrine in Germany). It was championed by large magazine publishers and newspapers that believed they were being "disintermediated" by search engines and others that were commercially exploiting their content. Google was a prime target of their complaints and the new law. German publishers had hoped to establish a licensing marketplace for their content. Indeed, when the law passed the European Publishers Council iss [...]


Google Has 35 Days To Delete UK “SpyView” Data Or Face “Criminal Action”

google-street-view-car The UK data protection authority Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has served notice that Google must destroy personal information obtained from its Street View WiFi "payload" data collection within 35 days. While Google has a right to appeal the decision, a refusal to comply (absent an appeal) is considered a "criminal office" and could result in prosecution. The ICO letter (.pdf and below) is dated June 11, so the deadline would be mid-July. This ultimatum is the culmination of a UK investigation that began in 2010 following the "WiSpy" revelations that launched investigations [...]


Google Given Privacy Ultimatum By French: Fix It Or Face Fines

google-privacy-200 The French have given Google what amounts to a privacy ultimatum. The company now has three months to make changes or "fixes" to its privacy policy that satisfy French and broader European data protection laws. The immediate consequences for failure to do so could be fines of several million euros according to Bloomberg. Many nations in Europe have lined up behind the French who are taking the lead in trying to get Google to offer more transparency to users about what data are being collected and how those data are being used. European privacy rules are much more stringent than those in the U [...]


Europeans Take New Look At Google’s Android Licensing Practices

google-europe-featured The Financial Times is reporting that Google is now "facing an investigation by European authorities into allegations that it supported the leading Android smartphone platform and its mobile services by means of cut-price licensing and exclusivity deals." There isn't a formal investigation on this question yet. Rather, the European Commission is submitting a questionnaire to device makers and mobile carriers for their input. Google's rivals are undoubtedly behind these complaints to keep pressure on the European Commission, which is on the cusp of settling its antitrust (search-related) in [...]


UK Government Report: Google’s Tax Position “Deeply Unconvincing”

google-legal-law The Guardian reported yesterday that a UK Parliamentary Committee found, essentially, Google had improperly avoided paying taxes in the UK by routing sales through Ireland where corporate tax rates are considerably lower. It's unclear precisely what the immediate legal fallout will be; however the UK report recommends a more formal inquiry. Committee chair MP Margaret Hodge said that Google had "brazenly" sought to avoid taxes in the UK by channeling sales through its Irish subsidiary. However, the UK report determined, based on its investigation and information from "whistleblowers," tha [...]


Scope of Alleged Spying On Americans’ Internet Activity Massive, “Beyond Orwellian”

privacy-security-online-computer It turns out that for the past roughly 6 years, the US government has been "collecting" or "mining" US citizens' personal data and communications from telcos and Internet companies -- effectively "spying" on US citizens. Those data, it has been alleged, come in large part from direct access to the servers of most of the Internet's biggest brands: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL and others. (Dropbox was apparently cited in leaked documents as “coming soon.”) These bombshell disclosures follow yesterday's discovery that the US government was collecting Verizon telephon [...]


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