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, [...]


Imaginary Letter: Google CEO Larry Page Writes Congress, Asks “What’s Up With PRISM?”

google-congress-featured Over the years, Google has received several letters from the US Congress worried that it is somehow invading people's privacy. Now Congress, along with the Obama Administration and the US judicial system, is accused of invading the privacy of people who use Google's services. I thought the turnabout would be fair play, a letter from Google back to Congress. The letter below isn't real, but the points and unanswered questions are. I've written in the style of the latest letter Google received from Congress, last month about Google Glass. As Google professes it is not part of any data g [...]


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 [...]


Google In Secret Legal Battle With Feds Over Consumer Data

In 2006, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo all complied with Bush Administration Justice Department (DOJ) subpoenas to turn over search records -- without a fight. The subpoenas were issued pursuant to the Child Online Protection Act of 1998, which the Supreme Court had previously ruled to be unconstitutional. The requests were made anyway, and Google was the only major search engine to resist. Whether the Bush Administration anti-child porn search subpoenas were a pretext for other types of inquiries we'll never know. But now, history is repeating itself. This time it's the Obama Administration see [...]


EU-Google “Rival Links” Antitrust Settlement Provision Creates New Controversy

Google Europe legal The US Federal Trade Commission declined to address the alleged "search bias" (vertical search) claim against Google in its settlement with the company earlier this year. It's a highly problematic issue from a legal standpoint but it's the one Google's critics and rivals care most about. In short they would like to blunt or stop Google's ability to place its own content (e.g., Maps, Travel, Shopping) at or near the top of search results (Universal Search). Google's display of structured content at the top of search results is diverting or siphoning off "their" traffic, they argue. Europe [...]


More Antritrust Pain For Google: FTC To Probe Display Ads Biz

google-legal-law According to Bloomberg, Google is facing yet another antitrust headache at the hands of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The agency is fresh off a settlement earlier this year with Mountain View over its search market dominance. This time, the FTC will reportedly be probing the display side of Google's online advertising business. The Bloomberg report says that "The FTC is looking at whether Google is using its tools to force companies to bypass competing products and use other Google properties, including a marketplace for buying and selling Internet display ads, and features that [...]


Apple Targets Samsung Galaxy S4 & “Google Now” With Amended Patent Claims

google-legal-law In the ongoing "war of the worlds" patent litigation between Apple and Samsung/Google, the Cupertino company has said it will amend its patent infringement claims to include the Galaxy S4. That's according to Foss Patents, which also reports that Apple asserts Google Now infringes two patents associated with Siri. Overall, there are five patents being asserted in the amended Apple pleadings (below). The Siri-related patents are U.S. Patent No. 8,086,604 and U.S. Patent No. 6,847,959, which pertain to a "universal interface for retrieval of information in a computer system." Apple is [...]


Two New Shoes Drop On Google: UK Tax Whistleblower And Canadian Antitrust Action

google-legal-law Within a roughly 48-hour period, Google got two big helpings of bad news. According to the Canadian newspaper Financial Post, the country's Competition Bureau is preparing to launch a formal antitrust investigation into Google's Canadian business operations. The scope and precise focus of the Canadian investigation have not been revealed. Google has a nearly 90 percent search market share in Canada according to StatCounter. Bing and Yahoo combine for less than 10 percent of the market. The other shoe comes from across the Atlantic where a former UK Google employee, Barney Jones, now has [...]


Google On Glass Privacy Issues & Congress: “Social Cues” Will Help, Plus It Takes Trust Seriously

google-glass-open-1366203189 Google Glass isn't even available for consumers and some in US Congress are already formally raising privacy questions. Google's reaction? Privacy has been "top of mind" as it has developed Glass, and it takes trust seriously. It also feels that "social cues" may help with some concerns. Google was asked about the Congressional letter during a "fireside chat" session about Google Glass at its Google I/O conference today. Google Glass director Steve Lee responded as paraphrased below: From the beginning, the social implications of wearing Glass have been at the top of our mind as we [...]


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