Report: Google Now Master Of Lobbying, Backroom Dealing

google-legal-law-featured An article in the Washington Post asserts that Google has now become a master lobbyist and behind-the-scenes manipulator in Washington. It details the company's increase in campaign contributions and outreach efforts to influence legislators. The message of the lengthy article is that Google is now buying influence and policy outcomes that favor the company. Source: Washington Post There are numerous concrete examples cited for the idea that Google has manipulated policy outcomes or bought influence through contributions to individuals, third party groups or academic institutions. [...]


The War On Links

shutterstock_104739881-fear-of-links In case you didn't notice, we are waging a war over links. Some would say that SEOs are at war with search engines, but I disagree. Search engines and SEOs have a symbiotic relationship; and without meaning to, we've killed the value of the link. The link, once a simple connector from one site to another, has become the subject of intense scrutiny by SEOs, Google, and even the US Copyright Office.  Do you remember what it was like to really "surf" the Internet? The way you could bounce from site to site simply by following blogrolls and webrings? The rush of energy and excitement that [...]


EU Antitrust Chief Says Google Settlement Essentially Done

google-eu-featured Amid criticism from politicians and Google's critics, EU antitrust chief Joaquín Almunia has essentially said that the current version of Google's antitrust settlement proposal is a done deal. While he didn't rule out changes definitively he seems to think complainants' criticisms have been addressed. The current proposal requires Google to give up considerable screen real estate and branding to vertical rivals. Google's opponents want another "market test" (time for criticism and study of the proposal's potential impact). They also don't want to pay Google for placement in contex [...]


EU Settlement Nearly Done, Google Antitrust Drama Shifts To India

Google legal Although the Google antitrust settlement in Europe isn't final it appears we're in the final minutes of the final act. There still may be a surprise or two in store but we mostly know how this story is going to end. Now it appears the Google antitrust drama is shifting to India, where an antitrust investigation against the company is ongoing. According to a report in the Times of India, that country's competition authority, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), has the power to impose a fine of up 10 percent annual revenues, averaged over a three year period. That could mean up t [...]


Google Publishes Full Text Of EU Antitrust Agreement

google-eu-featured This afternoon on its European Blog, Google's General Counsel Kent Walker exposed the full text of the company's third-proposed and tentatively accepted antitrust settlement agreement with European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. Almunia previously declined to make the full agreement available. The document, dated January 31, 2014, is quite long (embedded below) and contains extensive examples of how search results will look in Europe under the new agreement. There are the four areas that will see change or modifications, as summarized by Walker in his post: Changes to our A [...]


Will 11th Hour Objections Derail The Google-EU Antitrust Settlement?

Google Europe When the European Commission recently announced yet another antitrust settlement with Google the matter appeared to be coming to an end. This was the third proposed settlement from Google but indications from EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia suggested that it was essentially final and only formalities remained to approve it. Unlike the two previous settlement proposals, this one is reportedly not going to be subjected to a "market test" (formal review by rivals and critics) -- although the European Commission will be accepting comments, apparently. Google's critics immediate [...]


Wow! See How Much Screen Real Estate Google Is Giving Rivals In Its EU Antitrust Settlement

Google's finally reached a proposed agreement with the European Union over antitrust charges. Judging from screenshots the EU has released, it will give Google rivals unprecedented positioning in Google's results, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. Consider how the EU is saying that shopping results will appear, as part of the agreement. The before: And the after, based on screenshots that the EU has released: In the after, you can see an "Alternatives" section that gives shopping search engines co-equal space alongside Google's own advertisers who buy product listing ads (which [...]


It’s Done: Google Settles Search Antitrust Case In Europe

Google EU Roughly a year after Google settled an antitrust investigation with the US Federal Trade Commission, Bloomberg is reporting that Google and the European Commission have reached a final settlement that would end the regulator's antitrust search investigation against the company. According to the report, "Google will escape fines or any finding by regulators that it may have discriminated against competing search sites." Google similarly escaped any significant fines or penalties in the US investigation. The heart of the controversy as it has evolved -- and the core of the settlement -- is [...]


Report: Google Close (Again) To EU Antitrust Settlement

Google EU The third time may be the charm. According to Reuters Google is (once again) "close to settling a three-year antitrust probe by European regulators after it offered 'much better' concessions" to the European Commission (EC). However Google has been here before. Two previous antitrust settlements were strenuously opposed and thus defeated by Google critics and competitors. As part of that lobbying campaign several sponsored studies were issued, which uniformly found the core of Google's settlement proposals -- prominently showing links to rivals' results -- would have little or no impact on [...]


EU Wants More Search Concessions, Google Defies French Authority

Google Europe Round and round she goes. The European Commission is seeking a final round of "concessions" from Google in an 11th hour effort to settle potential antitrust claims against the company. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia made public statements asserting that Google needs to deliver additional, revised proposals within weeks to avoid a formal antitrust proceeding. What we have now is a kind of high stakes game of chicken. For well over a year there has been a very public back and forth between Google, the European Commission and Google's rivals, who object to the various proposals [...]


EU: Google Antitrust Concessions “Unacceptable” As Second Study Condemns “Rival Links”

google-eu-featured European Union competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia announced Friday in a Spanish radio interview that Google's second round of concessions in its current antitrust settlement proposal were "unacceptable." The main obstacle to settlement is still Google's treatment of competitors and its "own content" in "vertical search" results. Almunia was directly involved in negotiating the original settlement proposal with Google, which offered to put links to competitors' sites in a privileged position in search results. He seemed initially (and perhaps naively) surprised when it was almost imme [...]


Canada’s Competition Bureau Escalates Google Antitrust Investigation

Google legal Canada’s Competition Bureau (CCB) has indicated that it will proceed with a formal antitrust investigation against Google. The CCB had been engaged in a preliminary inquiry. A new CCB court filing requests a range of documents that will potentially show, according to the CCB, Google's alleged abuse of market power and anti-competitive behavior in Canada. The claims in the investigation are similar to those raised by the now concluded FTC investigation and the current European Commission investigation. The Financial Post in Canada first reported the action by the CCB. The filing assert [...]


Sponsored Study Argues Google’s “Rival Links” Don’t Drive Enough CTRs To Rivals

Google EU flag Google's original antitrust settlement proposal, negotiated with the European Commission, was attacked by Google competitors and critics as being a token concession to competition. Anti-Google lobbying group FairSearch.org sponsored a consumer study that argued Google's presentation of three “rival links” to competitors in search results did little to drive traffic to competitors' websites. In September Google presented a second settlement proposal that made new or additional concessions. The second proposal was immediately attacked as well. Now a second FairSearch-sponsored research [...]


Consumer Watchdog Says Google Shopping Costs Consumers, Complains To FTC

perfume-google-shopping-product-listing-ads Consumer Watchdog has lodged a new complaint about Google's "search monopoly" with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), this time saying Google Shopping results don't pass the sniff test. The group calls the way the search engine displays its Product Listing ads "deceptive and unfair", adding that Google Shopping's paid listings are price gouging consumers. In addition to competing shopping engines being shut out of top listings, consumers are "actually being harmed because the featured results from Google Shopping more often than not return higher prices than can be found elsewhere,” w [...]


Google To Get EU “Watchdog” As Part Of Antitrust Settlement

google-eu-featured The New York Times is reporting that as part of the anticipated antitrust settlement in Europe Google is likely to be subject to a "watchdog" overseer. This role is explained in a "96-page [job] description" according to the paper: Among the details of the job: The title is monitoring trustee. And although the salary remains unknown, the taker will be paid by Google. In addition, the chosen candidate cannot have any other links to Google during the five-year term or for three more years after the job comes to an end. Google could hold the person liable for disclosing confidential information. [...]


Dear Google Rivals: Do These New Proposals Solve Your Antitrust Concerns? Love, The EU

google-eu-featured Three years into its investigation of Google over antitrust issues relating to search, the European Union took another step closer toward a likely resolution, asking Google rivals and other third-parties to review a settlement proposal. Notably, the general public wasn't invited to participate. The news comes via several reports today. The European Union's Competition agency posted nothing on its website, though the move follows on what it promised to do earlier this month. The Wall Street Journal and Reuters say that 125 companies have been asked to comment on the latest proposal, in [...]


New Concessions From Google Seek To Avoid EU Antitrust Penalties

google-eu-featured According to Reuters the European Commission (EC) says Google has submitted a new settlement proposal with "further concessions" in its bid to end the antitrust inquiry against the company. If the parties fail to reach agreement the EC has the ability to fine Google a percentage of its global revenues. That penalty could be as high as $5 billion potentially. No details of the new proposal were provided by Reuters or the EC. The updated proposal will likely be revealed in short order. The EC concluded its original antitrust investigation of Google with a report detailing "four areas of [...]


Google Adds Waze Traffic To Maps App, Search To Waze

Google Waze Traffic The first "synergies" from Google's Waze acquisition are being rolled out to both Google Maps and Waze users. Google announced this morning in a blog post that real-time Waze traffic updates will appear in the Google Maps app (for iOS, Android): Users of Google Maps for Mobile will now benefit from real time incident reports from Waze users. This means when Wazers report accidents, construction, road closures and more on Waze, the updates will also appear on the Google Maps app for Android and iOS in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Switzerla [...]


EU Says More Google “Concessions” Needed Before Antitrust Settlement

google-eu-featured The vigorous lobbying efforts of Google critics FairSearch.org and Foundem's SearchNeutrality.org seem to be paying off. Earlier today EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told members of the European Parliament that additional "concessions" would probably be required of Google to settle the antitrust investigation against the company and avoid litigation and potential financial penalties. According to Reuters, Almunia said the following: After [all the settlement proposal feedback is received] we will analyze the responses we have received, we will ask Google, probably, I cannot an [...]


Google Wins Vertical Search Antitrust Case In Germany

google-legal-cash-featured In a German case that could have broader antitrust implications in Europe, Google defeated a petition for an injunction brought by a German online weather trade group, Verband Deutscher Wetterdienstleister. The case is interesting because it involves a private antitrust action against Google and directly addresses the "search bias" argument made by Google critics. The case and petition for injunction against Google were brought on behalf of third party publishers by the weather association. I obtained an English translation of the German court's opinion. The translation is a bit awkward [...]


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