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 [...]


Appeals Court Blocks Google Effort To Exit “SpyView” Case

google-legal-law The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling denying Google's motion to dismiss a class action brought after the 2010 Street View private "payload data" capture revelations. The plaintiff class asserted that Google violated the federal Wiretap Act when it intercepted private email and other communications. The Wiretap Act makes it illegal for anyone to “intentionally intercept . . . any wire, oral, or electronic communication.” It's also illegal to "use or disclose information that is obtained through such an illegal wiretap." Google argued that unencrypted pri [...]


Google Puts A Price On Privacy — Again

google-privacy-200 Almost two years ago, Google began withholding search "referrer" data from publishers, in the name of protecting user privacy. However, it left a loophole open for passing this data to its advertisers. Some viewed that as an attempt by Google to boost its ad sales. This impression was reinforced by the latest change Google made last month, which maintains the loophole and provides a new incentive for publishers to make use of its ad system. What's Search Term Referrer Data? Referrer data allows publishers to understand the exact terms used by people who search at Google and then click throug [...]


Privacy Groups Ask Court To Reject Google Settlement, Claim It Won’t Fix Privacy Issues

computer-internet-legal-law-featured Last month, Google agreed to pay $8.5 million to a settlement fund over a lawsuit claiming the site had given private information included in user search queries to third parties without gaining consent from users or notifying them that the information was being shared. The court approval for the settlement was scheduled for today, but five US privacy groups have requested that the settlement not be accepted. PCWorld reports that the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, Patient Privacy and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse wrote a joint letter a [...]


South Korea Drops Antitrust Investigation Against Google

google-legal-law In early 2011, South Korean search and portal providers NHN Corp. and Daum Communications filed antitrust complaints with the South Korean equivalent of the US Fair Trade Commission against Google. Both companies claimed that Google had blocked them from putting their search apps on Android phones in South Korea. Today, it was reported (via NextWeb) that Google has been cleared in the investigation. NHN’s complaint originally alleged that “Google has banned South Korean phone manufacturers from including Web search applications made by other companies under its marketing contracts . [...]


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 [...]


Major Ad Networks Sign Anti-Piracy Best Practices Aimed To Starve Piracy Sites Of Ad Revenues

copyright-piracy-cd In a move to combat online piracy and copyright infringement, leading ad networks have agreed to a set of best practices set to cut-off ad revenues from sites hosting pirated media or promoting the sale of counterfeit drugs. The participating ad networks include Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, 24/7 Media, Adtegrity, AOL, Condé Nast and SpotXchange. Pressure has been mounting on Google, in particular, and the online ad network industry in general to combat online counterfeiting and copyright infringement. Brandon Bailey of SiliconBeat reports many critics are still not satisfied with the [...]


UK’s ICO Watchdog Tells Google To Update Privacy Policy By September 20th Or Else

ico The NextWeb reports Google is on the hot seat again over its simplified privacy policy that went into effect March 1, 2012. The Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK has set a deadline of September 20, 2013 for Google to amend the policy to make it easier for consumers to understand how Google will use their data. The ICO's statement was released yesterday, and the ICO president said: We have today written to Google to confirm our findings relating to the update of the company’s privacy policy. In our letter we confirm that its updated privacy policy raises serious questions a [...]


Google Book Scanning Class Action Likely To Disappear

google books It's probably safe to say that Google's entire business is built on the legal foundation of Fair Use. Fair Use is a copyright exception that allows certain parties to reproduce a copyrighted work without paying royalties to the owner. And, Fair Use may represent a complete defense for Google in its long-running court battle with the Authors Guild over its book scanning project. In a major procedural defeat for the Authors Guild, the US Second Circuit of Appeals today voided the class action status of the litigation. The appellate court said that lower court Judge Denny Chin (himself now a m [...]


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 [...]


Google’s $1 Billion Waze Acquisition To See Antitrust Review

waze-featured It will probably just be a formality; however, Google confirmed this weekend that its proposed acquisition of social mapping platform Waze will undergo US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) antitrust scrutiny. Waze's revenues are minimal; but, the acquisition price is surely what got the FTC's attention. In addition, Waze becomes one fewer potential mapping challenger in the marketplace. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC "is expected to focus on whether Waze would have become a head-to-head competitor with Google, whose Google Maps software is the dominant digital mapping and naviga [...]


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 [...]


Google, Facebook In Transparency Battle Over PRISM Disclosures

online privacy Last night, what might be called a "transparency battle" erupted between Google and Facebook following Facebook's disclosure of government-related user-data requests: For the six months ending December 31, 2012, the total number of user-data requests Facebook received from any and all government entities in the U.S. (including local, state, and federal, and including criminal and national security-related requests) – was between 9,000 and 10,000. These requests run the gamut – from things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, to a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, to a p [...]


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 [...]


Google, Facebook & Microsoft Ask US Gov’t For Permission To Report FISA Data Requests

google-legal-law Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all asked the US government for permission to include data requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), requests that are currently so secret that they're not even allowed to acknowledge if they've received any. During the whirlwind of news about the PRISM/NSA scandal, news has circulated that all three companies are providing large amounts of data to the US National Security Agency (NSA) because of FISA. Google Asks To Talk About FISA In today's letter to the US Attorney General's office and FBI, Google's top legal officer, [...]


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