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More Google Legal Woes: Buzz Lawsuit and EU Regulation

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Smells like Microsoft spirit.

Google, being the gigantic company that it is, has become the target of legal action and regulatory concern. Just this week, we learned that Italy found Google execs guilty in the case of a controversial video. There's the Google Books lawsuit and in the past Google faced scrutiny for an ad deal with Yahoo! (which they pre-emptively canceled) and its relations with Apple (Eric Schmidt later quit the board).

There are a couple of new legal woes on the Google front. First, a class action lawsuit has been brought with regards to Buzz, Google's new social media effort. As you may remember, Gmail users were none too thrilled when Buzz automatically showed up in their email program and automatically updated their network. Google has reversed course on the automation, but it wasn't in time to stop the suit.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has received antitrust complaints about Google from three companies: UK price comparison site Foundem, French legal search engine ejustice.fr, and - irony of ironies - Microsoft's Ciao by Bing. Oh, and Foundem is partly funded by Microsoft, as well.

Google says the complaints from Foundem and ejustice.fr are basically that Google demotes their ranking because they're vertical search engines and competitors to Google. If that's really the the case, that would be like saying Target doesn't give preference to a third party toilet paper company because they want to promote their own toilet paper. Target certainly has the right to promote their own toilet paper over another company's.

Last but not least, late breaking today is the EU concern about Google regarding Street View photos. For privacy reasons, Google will blur portions of their Street View photos. But they keep a coy of the unblurred photo. The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party of the European Commission has informed Google that keeping unblurred photos for more than a year is not ok.

These legal and regulatory issues won't be going away anytime soon. In some areas, the problem is just the lack of a legitimate competitor. In other areas, Google is testing the boundaries of data collection. I'm sure it's quite tempting for a company of Google's size to push the envelope but the market and regulatory agencies will act as de facto checks and balances as long as they do.


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