Michele Bate Google in the firing line again
Jinfo Blog

Saturday, 27th February 2010

By Michele Bate


It seems at the moment like Google can’t move without provoking criticism and censure, especially where privacy is concerned. Last week we reported on the furore caused by the launch of Google Buzz. (See http://web.vivavip.com/forum/LiveWire/read.php?i=28000&start=0) Now European Union regulators have demanded that Google warns people before sending out its Street View cameras. It has also been told to decrease the time it keeps uncensored photographs from a year to six months. My attitude towards Street View, like a lot of other researchers I suspect, is ambivalent. I have found it invaluable in the past for due diligence and investigative research, for example confirming my suspicions that a company did not in fact have a swanky office in London, but was using a mail box service that operated from the address specified as its headquarters. On the other hand, I can perfectly understand why individuals do not want their privacy invaded and why EU data protection agencies have stepped in. Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, was quoted in The Telegraph as saying that Europe had "high standards for data protection" and that she expected that "all companies play according to the rules of the game". (See http://digbig.com/5bbdks) Meanwhile in Italy, three Google executives have been convicted of privacy violations for failing to act quickly enough to remove from Google Video footage showing bullies mocking and hitting an autistic boy. Google intends to appeal, on the grounds of freedom of speech on the Internet. If that wasn’t enough to keep the Google legal team busy, the European Commission has received antitrust complaints from three companies, identified by Search Engine Watch as the UK price comparison site Foundem, French legal search engine ejustice.fr and Microsoft's Ciao by Bing. (See http://digbig.com/5bbdkt) According to Google, eJustice.fr and Foundem, which has ties to Microsoft, disagree with the low ranking that Google’s search algorithm assigns their websites, causing them to be low down in users’ search results. Microsoft is reportedly unhappy about the terms of a contract Ciao signed with Google’s AdSense division, according to Wired. (See http://digbig.com/5bbdkw) Microsoft has also been taking a swipe at Google on the TV news in the UK, in advance of the impending requirement for Windows users to be offered a choice of browser, which we reported on last month. (http://web.vivavip.com/forum/LiveWire/read.php?i=27664&start=60) A Microsoft spokesperson drew attention to the amount of data collected by Google from users of its Chrome browser. Microsoft’s top lawyer has also said that Google should face scrutiny of its huge market share in selling advertisements linked to results from its search engine. (See http://digbig.com/5bbdkx) Clearly providing legal advice to Google is one area of employment that must be booming.

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