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Danny Goodwin

Google vs. the World: A Week of Conflicts, Disputes, and Lawsuits

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This was a fight-filled week for Google. From squabbles with the travel industry, to suing the U.S. government, and various privacy disputes overseas, here's a recap of some noteworthy conflicts involving Google this week.

Google vs. U.S. Government

Google sued the U.S. Department of the Interior, alleging that Microsoft was given priority over Google Apps on a cloud-computing contract, Techdirt reported:

Specifically, the DOI stated upfront in the RFQ [Request for Quotation] that the solution had to be part of the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite. Google is making the argument that this is "unduly restrictive of competition" ...

Google vs. U.S. Travel Industry

Google and a group of online sales travel sites that oppose Google's ITA acquisition traded jabs via video this week.

FairSearch.org released "Google Buys ITA - A Travel Story" with their side of the story, in layman's terms explaining why the future of online travel is in danger. Their video focuses on how much (and why) Google will profit from this deal, how much Google knows about everyone, and includes a couple of CEO Eric Schmidt's creepier quotes.

Google's counter? A blog post that features a video of a Forrester analyst Henry Harteveldt saying "Google has made a legitimate and fair claim to buy ITA Software, and I think there's a little bit of sour grapes on the part of some of the companies that are not the companies buying ITA."

Of course, Harteveldt also noted that the companies "have some legitimate concerns."

Google vs. EU

The European Union is pushing for stronger privacy rules, to give users more control over how Google (as well as other search engines and social networking sites) uses personal information, Reuters reported. New privacy rules could come as early next year.

"Benefits of ... technology to individuals, businesses and public authorities must go hand-in-hand with the necessary respect for personal data," the European Commission said.

Google vs. U.K.

Last week, Google was accused of a "gross invasion of privacy" and threatened with big fines. However, just as in the U.S. and Canada cases, they won't face any serious punishment and must delete the data it collected off wireless networks, paidContent reported.

Google vs. Germany (Again)

When images of Oberstaufen, Germany, went live on Google Maps Street View this week, iPad and iPhone users saw more than they were supposed to. Some properties that were supposed to be censored appear unblurred, PCWorld reported. Google has agreed to black out the images.

"We will wait and see if Google will solve the problem with the blurring," said Johannes Caspar, head of the Data Protection Agency for Hamburg. "If this is not done, we think Google can't go online with Street View."

Google vs. Television Broadcasters

Rishi Chandra, Google TV's lead product manager, said broadcasters seeking payment for allowing their online videos to be viewed on Google TV are misunderstand their product. He likened it to broadcasters demanding fees from Microsoft for video to work on its Internet Explorer browser.

ABC, NBC, and CBS have blocked online episodes from working on Google TV products.

"The way we would pay for content is through a similar mechanism that we pay for content through YouTube," Chandra told the AP. "This is the difference between Google TV and YouTube. YouTube is a service. Google TV itself is literally just a platform."

Google vs. Rosetta Stone

Language software company Rosetta Stone, which sued Google in 2007 over trademark infringement and lost in August, is taking their case to appeals court, paidContent reported:

In its appeal, Rosetta Stone argues that the Virginia federal district court that found in Google's favor got it wrong on numerous counts. The company says that the lower court should have been swayed by its evidence that searchers were confused by AdWords, and alleges that some of the advertisers paying for sponsored links keyed to its trademarks sold counterfeit Rosetta Stone products. Google has yet to file its response brief, which is due Nov. 26.

Several companies may file briefs supporting Rosetta, including including Viacom (which is also gearing up to battle YouTube), Ford Motor Company, Carfax, Blue Destiny Records, The Media Institute, ConvaTec, Guru Denim, Monster Cable, PetMed Express and 1-800 Contacts. PaidContent said this indicates they have objections to AdWords' trademark policy, which allows rivals of trademark owners to buy their keywords and then use those words to advertise against them.

YouTube vs. Turkey

After being banned in Turkey since 2008, service was restored briefly to the country this week, only to be banned yet again.

At issue originally were four YouTube videos, which were ruled "insulting" to the republic's founder Mustafa Kernal Atatürk, so access to the site was blocked. Late last week, the videos were taken off the site, under the guise of copyright infringement.

However, earlier this week Google reviewed the clips and determined their removal was bogus, saying, "When we looked into this, we found the videos were not, in fact, copyright infringing, so we have put them back up, though they continue to be restricted within Turkey. We hope very much that our users in Turkey can continue to enjoy YouTube."

A ban was reinstated yesterday. But not for those videos. Instead, it's due to a video that shows Turkey's main former opposition leader, Deniz Baykal, meeting a female staffer in a hotel room for a romantic tryst.

Google vs. Jihad

At the urging of U.S. and U.K. officials, YouTube this week removed "some" videos featuring videos of Yemen cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the New York Times reported. The exact number was unclear.

YouTube removed videos that violated the site's guidelines prohibiting "dangerous or illegal activities such as bomb-making, hate speech, and incitement to commit violent acts," or which came from accounts "registered by a member of a designated foreign terrorist organization," or used to promote such a group's interests.

Also of Note...

Plus, as we noted earlier today, Google is in a dispute with Facebook over social graph data, and there was also that $8.5 million Google Buzz settlement Gmail users were informed about earlier this week.


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