It’s Official: Google Settles “WiSpy” Case For $7 Million

google-wifi-streetview As reported last week, Google has formally settled the so-called "WiSpy" case with 30 US state Attorneys General for $7 million. The agreement also contains some other non-monetary provisions that are, frankly, more meaningful. The investigation began in 2010 concerning unauthorized collection of private emails and other "payload" data by Google Street View vehicles. The US Federal Communications Commission concluded its own investigation of the affair with no finding of liability against Google. As mentioned, the $7 million settlement is insignificant for Google. However, the press rel [...]

“Better Than Google” Claims: Why Doesn’t Anyone Believe Them?

YP search satisfaction comparison Microsoft continues to run online its Pepsi-Challenge style ads "Bing It On," in which a majority of users prefer Bing in a "blind comparison test" with Google. Despite the commercials and despite Microsoft reporting that after extensive testing users preferred Bing 2:1, people generally express skepticism. People simply don't buy the campaign. Another recent study conducted by Butler University found that Q&A engine ChaCha bested Google in terms of the quality of answers provided (across nearly 4,000 queries). And last week, YP released the results of an extensive study of local sea [...]

Report: Google To Settle “WiSpy” Investigation With Attorneys General For Measly $7 Million

Google Street View Pegman Icon According to AllThingsD, Google is about to settle the so-called "WiSpy" investigation with 30 US state Attorneys Generals. Google will admit no wrongdoing and pay $7 million according to the report. The article says the settlement will be announced next week. In early 2012, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) concluded its own WiSpy investigation with no finding of liability against Google, but fined the company $25,000 for not cooperating with its investigation -- a claim that Google aggressively disputed. The WiSpy scandal was global in scope. If you've forgotten, it i [...]

Google Avoids Link Tax But Ambiguous New “Ancillary Copyright” Law Sets Up Legal Battle To Come

Google Germany In August of last year, a number of German lawmakers were pressing proposed "ancillary copyright" legislation that would have required Google and others that indexed or aggregated news to pay for links or excerpts from those news items. The proposed law was championed by German magazine and newspaper publishers who, like their counterparts in the US, are seeing declining readership and ad sales. The law did pass in the German parliament, but Bloomberg reports that a compromise reached earlier this week stayed in. That compromise will allow Google (and others) "to display 'single word [...]

Privacy Vs Censorship: Google, Spanish Government Face Off In European Courts

google-eu-featured In a test case that could have significant implications for Google throughout Europe the company faced off against the Spanish data protection authority in the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. One could frame the case as "privacy vs. censorship." From the Spanish government's point of view its data protection authority is simply vindicating the recently articulated right (of individuals) "to be forgotten" -- to have content or data about them removed from the search index upon request. From Google's perspective, if the court agrees with Spain, the outcome would be tanta [...]

Europeans Taking Sweet Time In Resolving Antitrust Case With Google

google-eu-featured Google's antitrust case in the US concluded in January, much to the dismay of companies that had been agitating for tough action by the FTC. It was seen as a near total victory for Google. Rivals quickly turned their attention to Europe in the hope that, unencumbered by some of the legal issues that inhibited US regulators, it would be willing to impose "meaningful" restraints on Google. There were some signals from EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia that Europe was going to take a firm stand on the vertical search or "search bias" issue. Google's alleged "search bias" towar [...]

Google Settles With France: No ‘Link Tax,’ But €60 Million Media Fund

google-france-french-featured Google has avoided getting hit with a "link tax" in France by agreeing to create a €60 million "Digital Publishing Innovation Fund" to essentially help French media adapt to the online age. The settlement, announced today in France by President Francois Hollande and Google's Eric Schmidt -- and announced on Google's blog -- ends several months of debate over France's plan to charge Google for linking to French news content. When the French law was first proposed, Google threatened to just stop linking to French newspaper websites, saying that the country's publishers would miss out on [...]

Google Submits Formal European Antitrust Settlement Proposal

google-eu-featured Yesterday, right under the deadline, Google delivered its proposal to the European Commission (EC) in an effort to settle potential antitrust claims against the company and head off a formal enforcement action. The proposal was required to concretely address four "areas of concern" identified by the EC. Briefly, those involve "search bias" and "diversion of traffic," improper use of third party content and reviews by Google, third party publisher exclusivity agreements and portability of ad campaigns to other search platforms. Google essentially addressed three of the four areas in its sett [...]

As Google Evolves To Satisfy User Demands, Others Are Necessarily Marginalized

Google mobile app logo While it might not get off quite as easily in Europe, Google definitely "dodged a bullet" at the FTC, which recently concluded its antitrust investigation and didn't ask the company to make any changes in the way it presents search results. That was a major disappointment to Google competitors, critics and other third party publishers, which have become alarmed by what they see as a virtual land grab by Mountain View. The now-familiar lament goes: once Google was simply a way to organize and discover information, to get people from A to B. However, over the past several years Google has bec [...]

From Praise To Outrage: Reactions To Google’s Antitrust Settlement

Google & FTC The post-mortem analysis of Google's antitrust settlement happened very quickly yesterday and this morning with some journalists and analysts concluding that factors other than the law were responsible behind the scenes. For example, Politico asserts it was largely "a calculated and expensive charm offensive" (lobbying) that drove the outcome yesterday. An even more absurd analysis argues that Google is essential to US foreign policy and thus the FTC let the company off the hook. While Google lobbying may have had an impact, in reality the the facts and the law weren't on the FTC's sid [...]

Report: FTC To Say Google Did Not Violate Antitrust Laws

The New York Post is reporting that relatively soon, possibly as early as next week, the FTC is scheduled to announce a settlement of its antitrust investigation and potential claims against Google. The Post says that settlement will substantially let Google off the hook: Federal regulators are expected to close a year-long probe of Google’s search business without finding any antitrust violations, The Post has learned. The Federal Trade Commission is expected to announce before the end of the year that Google’s search engine did not cause any consumer harm or favor its own businesses, [...]

US, European Antitrust Regulators To Confer On Google Case

google-legal-cash-featured According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the top two US and European antitrust regulators will meet in Europe next week to compare notes and discuss potential outcomes. Both are negotiating with Google to settle antitrust claims that would avoid formal legal action. The FTC's Chairman Jon Leibowitz will meet with the EU's Joaquin Almunia. The claims against Google on both sides of the Atlantic are similar, though not identical. In addition, European and American antitrust laws are different though they express the same overarching principles. The WSJ reported that any concessions made [...]

Curtain Rises On Act 3 Of Google Antitrust Drama As Larry Page Meets With FTC

Google CEO Larry Page met with representatives of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday, according to a Bloomberg report, as the company engages in antitrust-settlement talks to avert potential litigation. The article also says that formal settlement discussions have been going on for about a week. The Bloomberg piece also reports that the FTC "has told Google it won’t accept a resolution short of a consent decree." However Google doesn't want this outcome apparently because of the ongoing enforcement authority it would grant the agency. Neither Google nor the FTC truly want [...]

Google Wins Street View Reprieve In Germany But Confronts New Pro-Newspaper Copyright Restrictions

Google Germany Google dodged a bullet in Germany this week as prosecutors in Hamburg decided, after a lengthy investigation, not to pursue criminal charges against the company over Street View WiFi data collection. Essentially prosecutors found that Google lacked the requisite "criminal intent" to justify prosecution. Google faces another, arguably more daunting legal challenge in Germany however. It's now confronting a proposed "ancillary" copyright rule that could go into effect early next year and effectively eliminate Google's ability to index German news sites without licensing their content. France [...]

Report: FTC Likely To Abandon “Vertical Search” Antitrust Claims Against Google

google-ftc-featured There are now enough indications to suggest that any antitrust settlement between the FTC and Google -- and the FTC would much prefer to settle than test its case  in court -- won't involve "vertical search." An earlier Reuters report, probably resulting from an internal FTC leak, suggested that vertical search wasn't the core of the agency's case against Google. Today Bloomberg is reporting that the FTC is "wavering" on whether to pursue a formal action against Google. In particular the agency's own people (anonymous sources) suggest they can't make the "vertical search bias" claim stick [...]

Report: FTC Ready To Give Google Antitrust “Ultimatum”

google-legal-cash-featured According to a piece in the Wall Street Journal today and a parallel Bloomberg report Google faces an increasingly likely antitrust complaint unless the company steps up and offers some concessions (or additional concessions) in settlement discussions with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to Bloomberg, US FTC Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz is "pressing" Google to settle potential antitrust claims "in the next few days or face a formal complaint." This is according to "people familiar with the situation." The phrase "people familiar with the situation" suggests FTC employees who [...]

Google’s Eric Schmidt Seeks Rapprochement With French Over Proposed Newspaper-Linking Tax

Google France Earlier this month Google, which past French president Jacques Chirac once called an agent of "Anglo-Saxon cultural Imperialism," threatened to stop linking to French news websites after French publishers and the French government floated a proposal to require the search engine to license their content. Current French President Francois Hollande's government is essentially seeking to tax Google to help support or subsidize the country's ailing newspaper industry. Google has vigorously opposed the notion of paying to index and link to news sites as a threat to the company's "very existence [...]

Have Keywords Stopped Being A Proxy To The Customer?

keywords-fog-featured It’s said that keywords are a proxy for a customer, right? So let’s talk about the customer. Schema this, canonical that, and black and white zoo animals… if you don’t have a search expert on payroll, you’re already behind the Joneses. I get emails like the one below all the time, this one being from the talented owner of Castleview 3D Architectural Renderings: “I need your help.  I realy don't get the whole keywords/SEO/web marketing thing -- but I know enough to know that I shouldn't and don't want to tackle it myself. I'm a small business (small = just me) and maybe I can't [...]

Report: Majority Of FTC Commissioners Want Antitrust Action Against Google, But Vertical Search Might Not Be Issue

Google & FTC Reuters is reporting that majority of those on the US Federal Trade Commission believe an antitrust case should be brought against Google. But if action comes, it doesn't seem likely to involve Google being found to "favor" its own "vertical" search engines like local or shopping over competing ones. Apparently four of the five FTC commissioners are now convinced that "Google illegally used its dominance of the search market to hurt its rivals." Another commissioner is not similarly convinced. The identities of the commissioners in favor of the action against Mountain View were not reveale [...]

Report: Google Seeks To Avoid EU’s Antitrust Wrath By “Labeling” Its Own Services

google-eu-featured The Financial Times (FT) is reporting that the thrust of Google's antitrust settlement proposal to European Competition Czar Joaquín Almunia primarily involves "labeling" its own services to distinguish them from other organic search results. According to the FT, citing "people familiar with the search giant's submission": Under the proposal, Google would put its brand on any of its own maps, stock quotes, airline flight details or other pieces of information returned with search results. It is an attempt to resolve regulators’ fears that Google is unfairly squeezing out other specialis [...]

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