Search Engines And Legal Issues

As search engines have grown as an industry, a number of lawsuits and legal issues have arisen in relation to them. The articles below have been organized by type of dispute. You can jump straight to a particular section using the links below. Two types of dispute categories, involving meta tags and multimedia content, are described on separate pages. Links for those categories, in italics, will take you to their pages. I've also been involved in some of these cases. A disclosure statement is at the bottom of the page.

General - Advertising & Listings - Crawling & Linking - Domain Names
Government Regulation - Labor - Meta Tags
Meta Search - Multimedia Search - Pagejacking - Patents
Privacy & User Information - Trademarks

General

Feds slap cuffs on Google stock scammer
The Register, March 12, 2004
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/36229.html

Google hasn't announced IPO plans, but that didn't stop someone from allegedly selling "friends and family" stock options in Google. The man claimed to have such options to sell and made over $500,000 before being arrested by the FBI.

Google Abuses Search Leadership
FTPOnline, Dec. 15, 2003
http://www.ftponline.com/weblogger/forum.aspx?ID=1&DATE=12/15/2003

This open letter to the US Federal Trade Commission about alleged restraint of trade by Google actually has little to do with any type of search "monopoly." Instead, it mainly focuses on Google's oft-criticized (and deservedly so) changes imposed on those carrying its contextual ads. Publishers are forced to agree to new terms in order to get paid for ads run before the terms were altered. It also complains that the pop-up blocker in the Google Toolbar potentially restrains advertising, though the letter fails to explicitly suggest Google has done this to sell its own search and contextual-based ad products.

Why Google should stop being so 'evil'
The Guardian, Oct. 20, 2003
http://media.guardian.co.uk/newmedia/comment/0,7496,1066536,00.html

More on the recent move by Google to amend its AdSense terms and conditions. Apparently, those who were tossed out of the program couldn't log in to check on the money they were owed unless they agreed to new terms preventing them from criticizing the program, a dumb policy for Google to try and impose.

Google shafts blogger, adds gagging clause to Adsense
The Register, Oct. 2, 2003
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/33180.html

Disturbing report about Google dumping one of its AdSense content providers, leaving the person with no ability to dispute allegations of fraudulent clicks. Also highlights a new clause preventing those in the program from discussing it.

Web crawler--anti-piracy super hero
Reuters, June 13, 2003
http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1105_2-1016937.html

The Web Crawler is an automated tool designed to sniff out software theft on the internet. Not mentioned in the story is the irony of a tool designed to fight copyright theft perhaps infringing on the trademark of meta search engine WebCrawler.com.

In House Counsel: Google growth
The National Law Journal, June 2, 2003
http://www.nlj.com/business/profiles/060203profile.shtml

Interview with David Drummond, Google's general counsel who leads a team of 15 lawyers at the company -- compared to only 2 lawyers when Drummond signed on just over a year ago. He comments on the China filtering case and negotiating a settlement with the Church Of Scientology but wouldn't comment on active cases such as the dispute with SearchKing.

Search Engines and Legal Issues
SearchDay, October 23, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd1023-se-legal1.html

What do Playboy and pagejacking, tarot readings and taxes all have in common? They were the subjects of ground-breaking court cases that set legal precedents for acceptable practices on the web.

Search Engines and Legal Issues, Continued
SearchDay, October 24, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd1024-se-legal2.html

Is copying a web page 'fair use'? How many of your competitors' keywords or trademarks can you legally use on a web page? Recent court cases provided answers.

Search Engine Standards, Please!
SearchDay, October 8, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd1008-standards.html

Search engines should set standards and adhere to them, say webmasters, advertisers and a senior attorney for the Federal Trade Commission. Uniform standards would serve both web site owners and searchers.

Search Engine Optimization and the Law
SearchDay, Oct. 3, 2001
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/01/sd1003-ses-legal.html

Legal experts urge webmasters to think carefully before using tactics such as competitors' words in meta tags or buying trademarked keywords on search engines.

Advertising & Listings

Hands Off! That Fact Is Mine
Wired, March 3, 2004
http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,62500,00.html

A proposed US law to protect databases has critics claiming it will give companies ownership over facts, which currently have no copyright protections.

Feds Arrest Alleged Google Extortionist
InternetNews.com, March 22, 2004
http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3329281

We've long done sessions at Search Engine Strategies involving how to monitor your PPC campaigns for fraudulent clicks. Despite safeguards in place by search engines, things still get through. But here's an extreme case of a man accused of trying to extort $100,000 from Google. He allegedly threatened to "destroy" Google with software that would run up fraudulent clicks on Google's contextual ads during a meeting with a company. Another good account of the story here from the San Jose Mercury News. For some past Search Engine Watch articles on the topic of auditing your click charges, see Ask the Search Engine: Coping with Fraudulent Pay-Per-Click Traffic and Perfecting Paid Search Engine Listings.

Accountant 'Googles' Himself, Sues for Libel
AP, March 19, 2004
http://www.nbc4.tv/news/2937016/detail.html

An accountant unhappy with the information Google returned on a search for his name has filed a libel suit against the firm. He wants a court to ban PageRank, saying it "reformats information obtained from accurate sources." PageRank (a popularity score Google uses for each page and only one of many different ranking factors) has nothing to do with it. Instead, it seems that Google listed a page or pages about this person that he claims libel him. The issue really isn't PageRank but rather should a search engine be liable for the veracity of material it lists? Jennifer Laycock takes a closer look at the story here: http://websearch.about.com/cs/google/a/googlesue.htm. In this, she finds PageRank is being confused with how Google creates descriptions or "snippets" for the pages it lists. (permalink)

Trademark Infringement Disputes Among Search Providers Heat Up
MediaPost, March 8, 2004
http://www.mediapost.com/dtls_dsp_news.cfm?newsId=241025

Review of the "Leggo My Trademark" panel at the recent Search Engine Strategies conference, where the panel examines issues such as the American Blind lawsuit against Google and other trademark related problems.

Google faces trademark suit over keyword ads
News.com, Jan. 28, 2004
http://news.com.com/2100-1024_3-5149780.html

Google and several of its partners are being sued over ads linked to words that are also trademarks. BusinessWeek also has some good background involving the same companies, but before the countersuit was filed:

Search Engines and Trademark Issues
SearchDay, Dec. 22, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/articles/article.php/3289391

The use of trademarked phrases in search engine marketing is controversial, with owners of protected marks at risk of misuse from both competitors and affiliates.

Google wants ruling on search trademark law
News.com, Dec. 4, 2003
http://news.com.com/2100-1024_3-5113673.html

Google has asked a US District Court to rule that it has the right to have advertising linked to terms that are also trademarks.

Google Faces Fight Over Ads & Trademarks In France
The Search Engine Report, Nov. 5, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/3104481

Days after Google was fined by a French court for selling ads linked to the terms claimed as trademarks, news emerged that Louis Vuitton launched its own trademark-related action against Google. A look at some of the complicated issues involved.

Lycos drops Overture amid dispute
CBS MarketWatch, Nov. 4, 2003
http://www.marketwatch.com/news/yhoo/story.asp?guid={DC717AA3-518A-4ABA-96C0-46E94C4E232A}

Terra Lycos files a lawsuit against Overture in a contract dispute and also drops Overture paid listings from its search pages at Lycos.com and HotBot.com.

Google France fined for trademark violation
News.com, Oct. 16 2003
http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104_2-5092320.html

Google's been fined by a French court for selling ads linked the terms "travel market" and "airflight market" which are apparently claimed as trademarks by two French travel agencies. Google is appealing the case. See also: Google Ordered to Pay Fine in French Trademark Case.

Implications for the ability to sell keywords? Hard to say. Excite lost a case in Germany in 2000 for linking keywords to banner ads, yet there was later a settlement and search engines certainly continue to sell terms there today. In the US, the Body Solutions case over keyword-linked paid listings filed last year remains in progress.

Overall, maybe this will be the case that clears up the issue in France. Elsewhere, the legalities remain untested.

Overture goes to court in T-Online battle
NetImperative, Sept. 1, 2003
http://www.netimperative.com/cmn/viewdoc.jsp?cat=news&docid=BEP1_News_0000056798

Enter a new chapter of search engines and legal issues. Overture has apparently obtained an injunction forcing major German ISP T-Online to carry its results. T-Online dumped Overture's results last month, switching over to Google. Yahoo's impending purchase of Overture caused the switch. T-Online sees Yahoo as a bigger competitor than Google. Overture claims breach of contract; T-Online claims a change-of-control clause lets it break the contract a year earlier than planned. T-Online results remain Google powered, when I last checked. According to this article, it may be because T-Online has yet to actually be served with the injunction.

Trademarks cast shadow on paid search
News.com, Aug. 19, 2003
http://news.com.com/2100-1024_3-5065901.html

Trademark issues with search engines are growing, as merchant ponder how to deal with affiliates and others who purchase terms that may also be their trademarks. Ultimately, it's likely to come down to a court decision over what's acceptable.

eBay Bans Google Keywords
AuctionBytes, Aug. 7, 2003
http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y03/m08/i07/s02

To my knowledge, this was the breaking story on the eBay request for Google to ban the use of its name as a term that ads can be linked to. Has a few more good details, such as apparently an attempt to ban bids on "auction web sites" and "bay," plus the fact that trademark terms can be linked to ads in eBay's own paid listings program.

Google wins over SearchKing in PageRank case
Pandia, June 2, 2003
http://www.pandia.com/sw-2003/21-searchking.html

SearchKing's case against Google involving its PageRank rating is dismissed in Google's favor.

Harvard study wrestles with Gator
News.com, May 22, 2003
http://news.com.com/2117-1032-1008954.html

Describes new research and web pages from Harvard's Ben Edelman that explain how Gator targets web sites with contextual ads. Lots of interesting comments from Gator, as well, on how everything's not revealed.

Harvard Criticizes Google's Adult Content Filter
SearchDay, April 16, 2003
http://www.searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2191611

Google's SafeSearch porn filter was found to exclude non-porn sites such as the American Library Association, in a recent test conducted by the Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Call for OFT inquiry into search listing price rise
New Media Age, April 3, 2003
http://www.newmediazero.com/nma/story.asp?id=241089

Overture UK upped its minimum bid in February, then fierce rival Espotting did the same. Bring in the regulatory Office Of Fair Trading, says one advertiser of Overture (and probably Espotting, but the story doesn't say). Sorry, says the OFT so far, we don't see a problem.

SearchKing update: preliminary injunction denied
LawMeme, Jan. 24, 2003
http://research.yale.edu/lawmeme/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=863

Google wins in getting SearchKing's preliminary injunction request denied. The judge finds that Google essentially has the right to issue opinions about web sites. A good breakdown of key issues in the ruling.

Taxes.com wins right to criticize rival
News.com, March 31, 2003
http://news.com.com/2100-1032-994837.html

Taxes.com wins back the right to criticize its rival J.K Harris. A court previously had granted a preliminary injunction saying that Taxes.com's use of the J.K Harris name constituted trademark infringement, as it was seen as causing Taxes.com to rank well for "J.K. Harris" in search engines. Taxes.com had used the name frequently, a key issue as why the injunction was originally granted. However, a higher court didn't find the references "gratuitous" but instead necessary to make statements about J.K. Harris.

Google Asks Court to Dismiss SearchKing Lawsuit
SearchDay, Jan. 13, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2161601

Google has responded to SearchKing's lawsuit alleging that Google improperly reduced SearchKing's PageRank scores, and has filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Google Sued Over PageRank Decrease
The Search Engine Report, Nov. 4, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2165111

Google finds itself now being sued by a site owner who saw a decrease in the "PageRank" score reported to those who use the Google Toolbar. He claims Google penalized him unfairly, because he was running a network designed to broker links between sites with high PageRank. Others might feel Google, if the allegations of penalties are true, acted in self-defense. A look at the case, issues it raises and the overall "linking lunacy" that it epitomizes

LookSmart Hit With Potential Class Action Lawsuit Over Submission Program
The Search Engine Report, June 3, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2164821

A proposed class action lawsuit claiming breach of contract, fraudulent business practices and misleading advertising has been filed against LookSmart over a recent change in how the company sells some of its commercial web site listings.

Lawsuit Over Paid Placements To Define Search Engines
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 4, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2164531

Must something that calls itself a "search engine" provide trademark holders with some degree of visibility, regardless of payment, if they also carry ads for searches involving those trademarks? That will be determined in a $440 million legal action filed last week by the maker of the Body Solutions weight-loss program against AltaVista, FindWhat, Kanoodle and Overture. Also discusses the Nissan paid listings case, at the end.

Google: No Pop-Ups
SearchDay, Jan. 30, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2159161

Google takes a strong stand on those pesky pop-up windows.

Consumer Group Asks FTC To Investigate Search Ads
SearchEngineWatch.com, July 17, 2001
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2163951

Is it deceptive advertising to include paid listings in your search results and not clearly label them as ads? A group backed by consumer advocate Ralph Nader believes so, and it's asking the US Federal Trade Commission to take action against seven major search companies.

Spam Scam Targets GoTo Listings
Wired, July 6, 2001
http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,44901,00.html

What if you had a listing on GoTo and everyone clicked on it, just to run up your bill? A look at the things the company does to prevent fraud.

Playboy Ruling Recognizes Limits to Online Rights of Trademark Holders
New York Times, Sept. 15, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/15/technology/15CYBERLAW.html

Covers the ruling against Playboy in the case involving banner ads on Excite and Netscape.

Estee Launder Settles Part of Keyword Ad Suit
The Search Engine Report, Sept. 4, 2000
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2162991#estee

Estee Lauder settles its lawsuits against iBeauty, which placed keyword-linked banner ads on Excite. Cases against Excite continue.

Excite, iBeauty Lose Key Name Use Lawsuit
Newsbytes, March 13, 2000
--no longer online--

Estee Lauder has won in its fight to prevent Excite from selling banner ads linked to its trademarks, at least in Germany. Cases remain pending in France and the United States, and the Germany ruling is open to appeal.

Playboy Loses In Excite Banner Dispute
The Search Engine Report, August 2, 1999
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2167361

Playboy loses in the lawsuit against Excite, described below.

Psst Want to Buy a Keyword?
Industry Standard, March 8, 1999
--no longer online--

One of the better articles on the issues revolving around the Playboy and Estee Lauder lawsuits against Excite, over banner advertisements involving their trademarks. It includes a survey of the different policies search engines have, at least for those who were willing to answer the question. This shouldn't be a mystery to a curious public and potential advertisers. Each search engine should have or should establish a policy on this issue.

Excite, Netscape Sued Over Banner Ads
The Search Engine Report, March 3, 1999
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2167011

Covers lawsuits that Estee Lauder and Playboy have filed against Excite for selling banner ads linked to their trademarks, without their permission.

GTE Files Federal Suit Over Yahoo-Related Listing
The Search Engine Report, Nov. 5, 1997
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2165671

GTE filed a US lawsuit in Oct. 1997 claiming the US regional phone companies, along with Netscape and Yahoo, conspired to monopolize the Internet yellow pages market and prevent companies with competing products from reaching Internet consumers.

Netscape, Yahoo Under Fire Over Guide Listings
The Search Engine Report, Sept. 3, 1997
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2165601

Switchboard and GTE are suing Yahoo and Netscape over how their competitors have exclusive deals or preferential treatment in the Netscape Guide By Yahoo.

Web mall blasts Yahoo over listing
News.com, May 24, 1997
http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,11030,00.html

Yahoo didn't list a Chicago-based virtual mall where its owner wanted, making him complain that the private company acts as a public enterprise and thus could unfairly restrict free trade by its policies. It wasn't a court battle, but it could be a warning of things to come.

Crawling And Linking
(see also Meta Search)

The US White House & Blocking Search Engines
SearchDay, Nov. 6, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3105111

At the end of last month, controversy erupted over the US White House preventing portions of its web site from being indexed by search engines. Was the White House doing this as a means to rewrite history unnoticed, or was it an innocent mistake? Looks at blocking pages from search engines and why some "partially indexed" pages at Google may still have descriptions.

Deep links are legal in Germany. Official
The Register, July 20, 2003
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/31838.html

A German court rules it was legal for search engine Paperboy to provide deep links to web sites.

Linker vs. Lawyer: The Deep Link Controversy Continues
SearchDay, July 16, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0716-linkcon.html

Paul Alan Levy, an attorney for the Public Citizen Litigation Group, squares off with Eric Ward, one of the web's most respected authorities on the current legal controversy over links and linking.

Linking Legalities: What You Need to Know
SearchDay, July 10, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0710-linkalert.html

Powerful interests are threatening anyone creating "deep links" to their web sites. Should you be worried? Eric Ward, a leading authority on web links, cuts through the bluster to pinpoint the important issues.

Google cache raises copyright concerns
News.com, July 9, 2003
http://news.com.com/2100-1038_3-1024234.html

Google's cached pages is a great feature, but is it legal under copyright laws? Google says yes but others aren't so certain. Eventually, a court case may decide (none have been filed, but this is predicted to happen). Nice details here about the caching feature. Google says most people actually don't make use of this. Also interesting to read that the New York Times may be getting some express help from Google to "fix" the problem of its content being cached. Of course, once the content is pulled into a registration area, the cached version of the original article ought to disappear within a week to a month -- so it's more of an irritating factor for the NYT than a crisis. Note that Google is no longer the only major search engine to offer caching. Yahoo does, as well. Yes, Google powers this caching at Yahoo currently. However, I'd expect this will remain as a feature when Inktomi results take over. Finally, Google says that using the no cache tag doesn't affect rankings. That's true. But Google has also said that sites using the tag may open themselves up to more scrutiny for potential spam violations. In short, use it, and you make yourself suspicious.

Deep Linking Lunacy
SearchDay, July 9, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0709-deeplink.html

A Danish court has ruled that "deep linking" is illegal, and pundits say this decision spells doom for the Net. Should you be worried? Hardly.

AltaVista, Google Remove Controversial Links
IDG, April 18, 2002
http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,94843,00.asp

Threatened with a lawsuit from the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn, AltaVista and Google said they would remove links to a web site explaining how to sabotage railway systems. A resolution with Yahoo is apparently still pending.

Google Embroiled In Scientology Debate
The Search Engine Report, April 2, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/02/04-dmca.html

Google found itself accused of censorship, after it removed some pages from an anti-Scientology web site in response to a legal request made by the Church of Scientology. This article examines how the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act was involved and its implications for web searching.

Link Law Revisited: Internet Linking Law at Five Years
Berkeley Technology Law Journal, Fall 2001
http://www.law.berkeley.edu/journals/btlj/articles/16_3/sableman/sableman.pdf

Overview of various linking legal cases, but this paper also goes into meta tag and other search engine-related issues, as well.

Forget Smart Tags; TopText Is Doing What You Feared
Search Engine Watch.com, Aug. 22, 2001

Bad press got Microsoft to recently abandon plans for "Smart Tags" that turned words on web pages into hyperlinks that it or others could control. However, another company's system to do this, called TopText, is live, growing in popularity, and has some site owners up in arms.

Microsoft Smart Tags Abandoned
The Search Engine Report, July 2, 2001

Microsoft has given up on its plan to add "Smart Tags" to web pages viewed by those using Internet Explorer and Windows XP, following bad publicity over the system.

No Bots Allowed!
Interactive Week, April 12, 2001
http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/news/0,4164,2707542,00.html

I've written before (see articles below) that the robots.txt file might be crucial in legal cases involving search engines interacting with web sites. This article takes another look at some of the issues involved, with some comments from the original author of the robots.txt standard.

Bidder's Edge pushes Web site over cliff
News.com, Feb. 15, 2001
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1007-200-4834126.html

The auction meta search service sought that fought against eBay and lost is now closing.

Tough Times for Data Robots
New York Times, Jan. 12, 2001
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/12/technology/12CYBERLAW.html

Crawlers face another legal roadblock, due to a injunction last month preventing Verio from running a robot to gather potential customer leads from Register.com's publicly-accessible WHOIS database.

Ruling vs. Bidder's Edge hurts Net, group says
Bloomberg, July 18, 2000
http://www.digitalmass.com/news/daily/07/18/bidders_edge.html

Auction meta search site Bidder's Edge gets 28 law professors to file a friend-of-the-court brief on its behalf, saying that the temporary ban against spidering eBay threatens search engines and linking in general.

Is Linking Illegal?
New York Times, June 16, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/00/06/cyber/cyberlaw/16law.html

Looks at a new case where linking to illegal material itself might be ruled illegal.

Bidder's Edge Walks Legal Line
boston.internet.com, June 9, 2000
http://boston.internet.com/news/article/0,1928,2001_391831,00.html

Explains how Bidder's Edge is getting around the ban on spidering eBay.

Judge Says a Spider Is Trespassing on EBay
New York Times, May 26, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/00/05/cyber/cyberlaw/26law.html

A judge has decided that spidering of eBay by Bidder's Edge constitutes trespassing (see article below). Bidder's Edge plans to appeal the decision.

Auction Search Case Awaits Ruling
The Search Engine Report, May 3, 2000

Discusses the case where auction site eBay wants to keep out auction search engine Bidder's Edge. Has lots of links to related cases involving indexing and deep linking.

News Robot Leads To Linking, Indexing Dispute
The Search Engine Report, Jan. 9, 1998

News search engine News Index crawled The Sunday Times web site, and the paper complained. The situation was resolved peacefully, but the article highlights the possible importance of the robots.txt file where a case might go to court.

MSoft, Ticketmaster Bury Hatchet
Wired News, Feb 16, 1999
http://www.wired.com/news/news/business/story/17943.html

Microsoft and Ticketmaster settled their dispute over internal linking out-of-court. A trial might have involved arguments over the robots.txt file, as explained in the article below.

Ticketmaster, Microsoft and Search Engines

The Search Engine Report, June 6, 1997

Details about Ticketmaster's lack of a robots.txt file, and the implications this might have on its dispute over internal linking with Microsoft.

Linking And Crawling Issues
http://www.ivanhoffman.com/linking.html

This article covers some of the legal aspects of linking and crawling that may have an impact on both web site developers and search engines. Written by attorney Ivan Hoffman who specializes in online content and intellectual property issues

Domain Names

Trademark Holders Don't Automatically Win Similar Domain Names, Federal Judge Rules
The Legal Intelligencer, Aug. 31, 2001

Just because you hold a trademark doesn't mean you are entitled to take a domain name that makes use of the mark away from someone else, a US judge rules. This is especially the case, when there is little likelihood of confusion between web sites. Also, note that at the very end, the ability for people to easily find a trademark holder's site via search engines plays an important role. It was deemed as mitigating any initial confusion if users end up at the "wrong" site by entering the domain name

Parody sites sucked into cybersquatting squabbles
News.com, Aug. 24, 2000
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-2604599.html

Long, interesting article on how protest and parody sites are losing out in wars over domains that contain the names of their targets. Want to be safe? Don't use the company name in your domain name, regardless of whether that seems fair. But even that might not stop them for suing you.

Yahoo Casts Wide Net To Protect Domain Name
Newsbytes, April 27, 2000
http://www.newsbytes.com/pubNews/00/148155.html

Yahoo seeks control over 37 domain names it considers through the new ICANN domain resolution policy -- setting a new record for number of disputes recorded at once.

Northern Light Wins Domain Suit
Northern Light, April 11 2000
http://www.northernlight.com/docs/press_company_pr00_0411.html

Northern Light obtained a restraining order forcing the NorthernLights.com web site (notice the S) to be removed. In its place is a text link to the NorthernLight.com search engine. The US District Court in Massachusetts determined that Northern Light would succeed at trial with its cybersquatting claim and issued the order in mid-April.

AOL beats Netizen in domain spat
News.com, June 25, 1999
http://news.com/News/Item/0,4,38419,00.html

Describes the effort AOL went through to gain control of the aolsearch.com domain.

Netscapesucks.com ordered to cease and desist
News.com, Dec. 1, 1998
http://news.com/News/Item/0,4,29396,00.html

Netscape counter-threatens the person who established the netscapesucks.com site, claiming trademark infringement. See Nov. 9, 1998 article below.

Keywords Threaten Domain Name System
TechWeb, Nov. 9, 1998
http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/domnam/TWB19981109S0015

The owner of whitehouse.com is upset with Smart Browsing and keyword addressing systems that may stop him from cashing in on those actually trying to reach whitehouse.org. So, he's considering a lawsuit.

Government Regulation

Ruling clouds plans for search functions
San Jose Mercury News, March 25, 2004
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/business/technology/8271973.htm

The European Union has told Microsoft it has to unbundle its media player. Does that mean plans to perhaps have a super-search tool built into the operating system won't fly, either? A look at the possible repercussions.

Search may be Microsoft's next target, court told
News.com, Jan. 16, 2004
http://news.com.com/2100-1016-5142763.html

Massachusetts makes claims that Microsoft may be using its operating system dominance to hinder search companies from competing with it, according to filings in an anti-trust action. However, the filing gives no specifics. It's also going to be an interesting argument to defend, given that Microsoft is very much in third place in terms of traffic, behind Google and Yahoo. Indeed, despite Microsoft's operating system dominance, both other companies have thrived.

The Internet Under Surveillance
SearchDay, July 10, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2226331

One of the key architects of the Internet is calling for users to exercise 'due diligence' to assure that governments do not censor information for political purposes.

Google Filtering Of French & German Web Sites Revealed
The Search Engine Report, Nov. 4, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/02/11-filtering.html

A Harvard Law School study brought to light that fact Google does not include certain web sites in the French and German versions of its search engines, in particular neo-Nazi or white supremacy sites that have content that might be deemed illegal to publish in France and Germany. It should be noted that similar filtering may be happening at other search engines, but the study only encompassed a look at Google.

China's Great Wall Against Google And AltaVista
The Search Engine Report, Sept. 16, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/02/10-china.html

In August and September 2002, people in China were unable to reach Google and AltaVista, due apparently to blocking by the Chinese authorities.

FAST Complies with FTC Search Engine Advisory
SearchDay, July 24, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0724-fast-ftc.html

Responding to recent FTC recommendations, FAST has added additional information about how it crawls web pages and displays search results, including information about paid placement and paid inclusion content.

FTC Recommends Disclosure To Search Engines
SearchEngineWatch.com, July 2, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/02/07-ftc.html

The US Federal Trade Commission has made a landmark recommendation to the search engine industry that it should improve disclosure of paid content within search results. The action came in response to a deceptive advertising complaint made last year by watchdog group Commercial Alert. A detailed look behind the cause of the complaint and the FTC's recommendations.

Consumer Group Asks FTC To Investigate Search Ads
SearchEngineWatch.com, July 17, 2001
>http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/01/07-ftc.html

Is it deceptive advertising to include paid listings in your search results and not clearly label them as ads? A group backed by consumer advocate Ralph Nader believes so, and it's asking the US Federal Trade Commission to take action against seven major search companies.

FTC Steps In To Stop Spamming
The Search Engine Report, Oct. 3, 1999

The US Federal Trade Commission extends its authority to include regulating misleading search results, taking action against two companies accused of tricking consumers.

Search Engines Get Behind Self-Regulation, Sort Of
The Search Engine Report, Aug. 5, 1997

Several search engines announced they were going to work together to promote self-regulation of the Internet, in support of a White House proposal for self-regulation of the web.

Labor

Infoseek executive arrested on solicitation charges
Bloomberg, Sept. 18, 1999
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-121248.html

A top Infoseek exec is charged with trying to solicit sex with a minor via the Internet.

On the Internet, there is such thing as free labor
News.com, Sept. 7, 1999
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-346818.html

A look at labor issues involved with using volunteers to build directories.

AOL not alone in volunteer controversy
News.com, May 27, 1999
http://news.com/News/Item/0,4,37144,00.html

A good look at how the use of volunteers at places like the Open Directory, GeoCities and Tripod might result in lawsuits, such as the one AOL currently faces.

Meta Tags

Meta Tag Lawsuits
The link above will take you to a page within Search Engine Watch that summarizes major lawsuits and court cases involving meta tags.

Meta Search

Movement In Meta Search
The Search Engine Report, May 3, 2000

Touches very briefly on the fact that major meta search sites tend to get agreements for the sites they query, since the legality of meta search is unclear.

Courting Retailers
Internet World, Jan. 15, 2000
http://www.internetworld.com/print/current/business/20000115-courting.html

eBay may not especially like meta search services, but plenty of other retailers see advantages in participating.

A Search Site for Search Sites Is Accused of Trespassing
New York Times, Sept. 24, 1999
http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/09/cyber/cyberlaw/24law.html

A meta search service for online shoppers taps into another meta search service for shoppers, and a lawsuit results.

The Webinator: Judgment Day
Wired, Oct. 30, 1998
http://www.wired.com/news/news/technology/story/15928.html

Are meta search engines legal? This article doesn't really answer the question, but as long as they don't pose a significant threat, the major search engines seem happy to ignore them. FYI, Go2Net/MetaCrawler has agreements with the major search engines to tap into their results.

Multimedia Search

Multimedia Search Complaints
The link above will take you to a page within Search Engine Watch that summarizes complaints involving multimedia and MP3 search engines.

Pagejacking

Pagejacking, a term first coined by the US Federal Trade Commission, is making a copy of someone else's web page and submitting it as your own to a search engine, in hopes of attaining a high ranking. It is closely tied to the concept of doorway pages, and pagejacking attempts may also involve page cloaking. Background about both doorway pages and page cloaking can be found in the What Are Doorway Pages? article. The articles below related to legal cases involving pagejacking.

Cyber Law Journal: Invisible Publishing Sparks a Lawsuit
New York Times, June 29, 2001
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/29/technology/29CYBERLAW.html

We've had metajacking and pagejacking, and now here's a new one -- a case involving allegations of copyjacking. Copyjacking? A new term I've made up for taking HTML body copy from someone else's page and posting it to your own in hopes of attaining higher search engine rankings. It involves the EasyScopes.com horoscope site alleging that InternetHoroscopes, a Women.com site, used text from EasyScopes to boost its rankings. By the way, the "tricks" used by EasyScope as mentioned at the end of the article aren't aimed at search engines but instead at potential copyjackers, the company says. They include spelling errors to make it easier for EasyScopes to track down unauthorized use of its material.

Pagejacking Complaint Involves High-Profile Sites
SearchEngineWatch.com, May 12, 2000

Discusses a complaint filed with the FTC involving the alleged theft of web pages from high profile sites such as Disney, CNET and the Discovery Channel. The complaint claims that the content was pagejacked to generate traffic via search engines for other high profile sites such as eToys and Barnes & Noble.

FTC Steps In To Stop Spamming
The Search Engine Report, Oct. 3, 1999

The US Federal Trade Commission extends its authority to include regulating misleading search results, taking action against two companies accused of tricking consumers.

A Bridge Page Too Far?
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 3, 1998

This isn't about a legal case. Instead, this article is included because it was the first to raise the issue of page cloaking with the general public and poll for official reactions from search engines.

Patents

Google hit with 'geo-location' lawsuit
News.com, March 30, 2004
http://news.com.com/2100-1032-5181810.html

Digital Envoy, which provides Google with the ability to target ads by searcher location, is suing Google for allegedly violating its licensing agreement. Google apparently has been using geotargeting on sites in its advertising network, while the licensing agreement only allows for use on Google's own sites.

Digital Envoy claims this use has greatly increased Google's revenue, while its $8,000 per month licensing fee hasn't reflected this. The company didn't feel a $12,000 per month offer by Google for expanded use reflected a fair value for its services.

Google recently expanded its geotargeting capabilities, but the case includes geotargeting that happened even before this.

Southfield company files patent suit against Google over Toolbar
Crain's Detroit Business, Feb. 26, 2004
http://www.crainsdetroit.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?newsId=3743

NetJumper says the Google Toolbar violates patents that it holds.

Patents raise stakes in search wars
News.com, Feb. 25, 2004
http://news.com.com/2100-1024-5165272.html

Looks at the various patents that search companies possess and how they might be ultimately deployed to gain a competitive advantage. Provides an update that the dispute over a patent on paid listings filed against Google by Overture is now moving into discovery -- and now involves Yahoo, as Overture's owner. A similar case filed against FindWhat goes to trial in August.

A Selection of Recently Awarded Search Related Patents & Recently Published Search Related Patent Applications
ResourceShelf, February 2004
http://www.resourceshelf.com/archives/2004_02_01_resourceshelfextra_archive.html/#107565428617083131

Gary Price's monthly round-up of new search patents, featuring a new one listing Sergey Brin as inventor.

The "Florida Update" ... Exposed ? (Google Patent Problem)
JimWorld, Dec. 22, 2003
http://www.jimworld.com/apps/webmaster.forums/action::thread/thread::1072129713/forum::google/

This was a gem coming out over the holidays. Turns out, Stanford University owns the patent on PageRank, a part of the Google ranking system. Google apparently says it has full rights to use the patented work, so potentially, it's not a problem. But author John Cokos theorizes that the recent Google ranking changes were due to its need to wean itself off of PageRank for a complication-free IPO.

More likely, the changes are due to the fact that no major search engine can continue to depend on link analysis as much in the past, as search engine marketers have gotten smarter about linkage. So the latest changes at Google are more a return to the "arms race" in the past between marketers and search engines, and one you can expect will continue for any search engine that relies on automated gathering to power its search results.

By the way, Google most definitely was talking about "organic" issues at the recent Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago. The company was on a number of panels that dealt solely with organic issues, and its representatives certainly did not sit there and say nothing.

A Selection of Recently Awarded Search Related Patents and Recently Published Search Applications
ResourceShelf.com, Nov. 19, 2003
http://www.resourceshelf.com/archives/2003_11_16_resourceshelfextra_archive.html/#106928394894858369

Gary Price's regular round-up of recent search-related patents.

Bidway.com Challenges AOL and Google over Search Patent
AuctionBytes.com, Oct. 28, 2003
http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y03/m10/i28/s01

Online auction service Bidway claims that AOL and Google are violating a patent it holds about using ZIP codes to deliver personalized results. Google doesn't actually use ZIP codes for the localization it has rolled out (see http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3099591. As for AOL, the localization it's doing doesn't involve Google's new service, to my knowledge. Somehow, I don't think this suit will be going far. By the way, I'm told from a reader that InfoSpace has a US patent (6,295,528) covering the use of DMA-targeting to provide localized results. Google most definitely does that.

Overture to a patent war?
News.com, July 18, 2003
http://news.com.com/2100-1024_3-1027084.html

Overture has a variety of patents relating to web search, with lawsuits about paid listings already having been filed against Google and FindWhat. One reason Yahoo wanted Overture was for those patents, certainly to protect itself against suits and perhaps to go after others. But Google also has search patents, as does Microsoft and others.

Updated List of Recent Microsoft Search Related Patents/Patent Apps and Technical Writing
ResourceShelf, July 15. 2003
http://www.resourceshelf.com/archives/2003_07_13_resourceshelfextra_archive.html/#105828687588742031

Rundown on recent Microsoft search patents and research papers.

Recently Awarded "Search Related" U.S. Patents and Recently Published Patent Applications
ResourceShelf.com, June 8, 2003
http://www.resourceshelf.com/archives/2003_06_08_resourceshelfextra_archive.html/#200399800

The headline says it all -- a recap of new patents granted that relate to search.

24/7 Real Media Wields Patent Cudgel
InternetNews.com, July 1, 2003
http://www.internetnews.com/IAR/article.php/2230051

Overture has a lawsuit going against Google and FindWhat, saying they violate its patents on paid listings. Now 24/7 says it has a patent that covers paid listings companies and that it intends to gain licensing deals or perhaps take its case to court.

Overture sued over Fast acquisition
News.com, May 8, 2003
http://news.com.com/2110-1024-1000543.html

MRT Micro is suing Overture, claiming it owns some of the search technology that Overture acquired as part of its AllTheWeb purchase.

Google lands Web search patent
News.com, Feb. 26, 2003
http://news.com.com/2100-1024-986204.html

Google gets its first patent, covering the company's method of ranking search results.

"Just Issued" Info Retrieval Related Patents and "Just Filed" Patent Apps
The ResourceShelf, Feb. 17, 2003
http://www.resourceshelf.com/archives/2003_02_01_resourceshelf_archive.html/#90332145

Roundup of a variety of new patents or patents-pending relating to search.

Google Seeks to Invalidate Rival Overture's Web Search Patents
Bloomberg, June 19, 2002

Overture has a patent relating to bid-for-placement services and has filed a suit against Google, claiming that company's paid listing program violates the patent. In response, Google is now asking that the patent be invalidated, saying that Overture operated its system for a year before filing a patent claim. That might invalidate the patent, though Overture says it is on firm ground.

Overture Files Patent Lawsuit Against Google
The Search Engine Report, May 6, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/02/05-lawsuit.html

Overture filed a lawsuit against Google last month, claiming that Google has infringed on its patents that apply to bid-for-placement search ranking and for account management tools.

Search Engine Wants Overture Patents Invalidated
DMNews.com, Jan. 29, 2002
http://www.dmnews.com/cgi-bin/artprevbot.cgi?article_id=18734

FindWhat is challenging a patent Overture has bidding for placement.

FindWhat.com Takes on Rival's Search Patent
InternetNews.com, Jan. 24, 2002
http://www.internetnews.com/IAR/article/0,,12_960971,00.html

Another story on the patent fight between FindWhat and Overture.

New Search Patents
SearchDay, July 17, 2001
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/01/sd0717-patents.html

Newly issued patents offer fascinating glimpses of emerging search technologies -- including those that may pose serious threats to your favorite search engine.

Keen wins patent for phone-advice system
News.com, April 25, 2001
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1007-200-5729404.html

Keen is a search engine with a twist -- you search to find human beings who will provide a custom answer, typically by phone. Now the company has obtained a patent on its system. Don't look for it to be filing lawsuits, however. The company says it got the patent to protect itself against others.

Patent Wars II: CMGI Strikes Back
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 6, 2001

CMGI's claims that patents AltaVista holds might force other search engines to pay royalties are likely nothing to worry about. The same type claims made by Lycos in 1997 went nowhere (see Patent Wars!, below).

AltaVista Wins Patents For Search Technology
AltaVista Press Release, Nov. 13, 2000
http://doc.altavista.com/company_info/press/pr111300.html

AltaVista claims new patents for methods of identifying and eliminating duplicate pages, ranking results by degrees of relevancy and spidering techniques. Do the patents pose problems for other search engines? Probably not. For example, nothing ever came of the conflicting Lycos and Infoseek patents at the end of 1997 (see Patent Wars!, below).

Ask Jeeves denies infringing MIT professors' patents
Reuters, Dec.17, 1999
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-1500265.html

Two MIT professors claim in a lawsuit that Ask Jeeves should have asked them before infringing on their natural language search patents. Ask Jeeves says the case is without merit.

Patent Wars!
The Search Engine Report, Oct. 6, 1997

Lycos announced it was to receive a search engine-related patent. Infoseek said it already had been granted one. Will there be suits over royalties? It's not that simple

Privacy And User Information

Welcome To The Google Desktop?
The Search Engine Report, April 2, 2004
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/3335011

Will Google's new Gmail free email system be just the first of many things we begin moving to a new Google Desktop? If so, Microsoft might have a lot more to worry about than web search. But might concerns over privacy prevent Google's success?

Google seeks consensus on personal-info issues
USA Today, March 22, 2004
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/techpolicy/2004-03-22-google-privacy_x.htm

You've read it before, and here it is again. Google -- and apparently only Google -- makes it easier for people to find out your personal details. As always, this is a problem, but it's a SEARCH ENGINE problem. If Google is "the biggest privacy invader on the planet," as a former CTO of the Privacy Foundation puts it, then so is Yahoo and Ask Jeeves, at the very least. They also operate powerful crawlers. And Google cofounder Larry Page is right -- it would be nice if the internet, or at least the search engine industry, sought some consensus on how to handle the real concerns people may have. For more on this topic, see also Search Privacy And User Information.

Leading Internet Providers Oppose Passage of Spyware Control Act
MediaPost, March 15, 2004
http://www.mediapost.com/dtls_dsp_news.cfm?newsId=242077

Google and Yahoo are among several prominent internet companies who are urging Utah's governor not to sign a spyware control act into law. They say the definition of spyware is too broad.

The perils of Googling
The Register, March 10, 2004
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/55/36142.html

Google -- AND OTHER SEARCH ENGINES! -- provide ways for hackers and others to research ways into material you may have thought was secure. It's not something that the search engines do actively. Rather, they simply record material that you may not realize gives away vital clues into your system. This is a nice article that discusses how to protect yourself. The focus is Google-specific, but some of the tips will be applicable to other search engines such as Yahoo, as well.

Canadian youth in California found out who he is through Google.com
AP, Feb. 19, 2004
http://www.canada.com/technology/story.html?id=541BD610-2D1D-449E-8676-254FC65BFF36

Teenager googles his first name and discovers he was abducted as a child. FYI, I tried repeating the search (he's named in the article) and came up with nothing about a missing child on Google (for the first five pages of results) or Google Images (for the first two pages of results).

Online Search Engines Help Lift Cover of Privacy
Washington Post, Feb. 9, 2004
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24053-2004Feb8.html

Time for the twice-annual big story about how search engines can help people locate personal details, ways into computer systems and other confidential material. The owners of such material would be shocked that their data can be mined in this way. The answer, as always, is not to put anything on the web that you don't want others to find, unless you secure it behind hacker-proof password protection. We also get a new word, "Googledorks," which I've never heard before.

Fugitive Nabbed Because Of Date's Google Search
TheIndyChannel, Jan. 28, 2004
http://www.theindychannel.com/news/2799934/detail.html

It's the classic man meets woman, woman googles man and discovers arrest warrant leading to apprehension story.

Network Solutions cuts short Google shortcut
News.com, Jan. 27, 2004
http://news.com.com/2100-1032-5148551.html

Google recently added a new feature letting you look up whois domain registration data via a search. Network Solutions objected to its database being queried, so blocked the Google requests. Now Google has pulled the feature. The Network Solutions claim to trying to protect privacy sounds weak. Anyone who wants this information can easily get it directly from Network Solutions itself, doing a whois lookup there. Yes, there are query limits -- but that's not the same as keeping email addresses and phone numbers from falling into the wrong hands period.

Security bugs floor Google's Friendster-clone
The Register, Jan. 27, 2004
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/35129.html

Was Google's social networking site Orkut shut down to improve privacy protection? That's the rumor The Register heard.

Online Data Conflict With Desire for Privacy
AP, Dec. 26, 2003
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30795-2003Dec25.html

A look at the issue of balancing privacy in the wake of easier access to personal details via the internet and search engines. It's summed up nicely in the closing paragraph, where someone asks Google to remove their phone listing but then uses Google herself to look up details about a potential date.

Are You Wanted by the Recording Industry?
SearchDay, Aug. 11, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2241591

Concerned that information about your file-sharing user name may have been subpoenaed by the Recording Industry Association of America? Check this database to see if you're a potential target.

Hackers turn to Google to find weakest links
New Scientist, Aug. 1, 2003
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994002

Hackers can use Google to locate pages that have inadvertently been placed on the web and which reveal usernames and passwords. Further, by making use of the Google cache, they avoid generating activity that make provoke suspicions. It's not just a Google problem, however. Any search engine could be used to locate these pages. Yahoo even offers caching, currently powered by Google but which will probably remain when Inktomi takes over. Solution? Don't place sensitive information on the web, and make efforts to ensure this isn't accidentally happening.

Yahoo and Your Personal Information
SearchDay, July 17, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2226961

Yahoo's public records search offers very basic information, but for a fee, you might be surprised at all of the information about yourself that can be found online.

FindWhat Pursues Scammer
InternetNews.com, June 27, 2003
http://www.internetnews.com/IAR/article.php/2228731

Like others, I got one of the spam mails last month offering access to a database of FindWhat advertiser email addresses. Unfortunately for FindWhat, the suggestion is that they sold the data. In reality, FindWhat says the company offering the "database" simply crawled FindWhat's listings, then did WHOIS lookups to find email addresses. There was no cooperation on FindWhat's part.

FindWhat has further told me that advertisers should not have been billed for any clicks generated as part of the email harvesting effort, that they believe no information has been sold and that they are taking "aggressive" legal action against the company.

That company also seems to seems to have borrowed content from PayPerClickAnalyst.com. PayPerClickAnalyst.com is not connected with the database sale and tells me the other site has taken its content without permission.

Court draws a line for online privacy
News.com, May 12, 2003
http://news.com.com/2100-1029-1001081.html

URLs that contain embedded search terms are found to be "content" by a US Court of Appeals and thus require US law enforcement agencies to jump through more legal hoops access such information. For more about such embedding and the fears some privacy advocates have had about it, see my past article, Google & The Big Brother Nomination.

Search Privacy At Google & Other Search Engines
The Search Engine Report, April 2, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/03/04-privacy.html

There's been some pretty scary statements made about Google and the privacy of search requests recently. Yes, there are privacy issues to be aware of when you do a search at Google. However, these issues are just as much as a concern for other search engines you visit, as well. More importantly, the fear that you personally could be tracked isn't realistic, for the vast majority of users, at least by Google itself. In the article above, a closer look at just what exactly Google knows about you, when you come to do a search -- and see why you needn't be so worried, for the moment.

Google And The Big Brother Nomination
The Search Engine Update, April 2, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/articles/03/04-bigbro.html

In February, Google was nominated by the Google Watch web site for Privacy International's 2003 US Big Brother Awards. Google was not selected as one of the Big Brother finalists, which certainly indicates that Privacy International itself did not see the company as among the largest threats to privacy. Nevertheless, the nomination has caused some to wonder about the privacy of their search requests at Google. In addition, some allegations made in the nomination have been transformed by others as proof of privacy violations, without being closely examined. In the article above, I explore each of the major allegations that Google Watch made against Google as evidence of it being a threat to privacy and of "Big Brother" behavior. At the end of each allegation, I'll provide my own verdict about how seriously a typical person may wish to consider each claim.

Creating Google-Free Space that Protects Your Privacy
SearchEthos, March 14, 2003
http://www.searchethos.com/google-free.html

Concerned that those using Google and other search engines may stumble across personal data you'd rather they not see? Here are some tips that may help.

Stalkers, the merely curious troll for lost acquaintances online
Reuters, March 12, 2003
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/webguide/internetlife/2003-03-12-net-search_x.htm

You've read this story before in the past, but here it is again. Anything you put online can be found by a search engine, big or small, Google or not. So if it is private, sensitive or generally something you don't want the general public to see, don't put it online!

By the way, the haystack analogy I'm mentioned saying in the article doesn't make complete sense, because you didn't get the entire thing. In the past, some people have said that a good search engine needs to have lots of pages recorded, because having only a few is like only searching through only part of a haystack. What if the needle is in the other part?

Today, I believe you are seeing more concern about private information appearing in search engines because they are recording much more of the metaphorical haystack out there. AltaVista in 1995 had 20 million pages -- today, Google and others record over 2 BILLION. In short, they get more of the haystack, which increases the odds that your needle will be in it. In addition, they do a better job of being magnets to pull those needles out, instead of making you feel lost in the hay.

Google: Net Hacker Tool du Jour
Wired, March 4, 2003
http://www.wired.com/news/infostructure/0,1377,57897,00.html

Another "let's blame Google" story. Guess what? If you don't configure your web server correctly, Google -- and any other search engine -- might index pages that allow people to hack into your server.

Search firm caves in to privacy pressure
News.com, Oct. 2, 2002
http://news.com.com/2100-1023-960509.html

After concerns were raised about web bugs at AllTheWeb.com, owner FAST posts a privacy policy.

Search firm takes heat for sharing data
News.com, Sept. 20, 2002
http://news.com.com/2100-1023-958813.html

Daniel Brandt of Google Watch now has taken aim at a second search engine over privacy issues: FAST, claiming the company is using webbugs to share search queries with DoubleClick in violation of Norwegian laws. FAST, which is based in Norway, says it is planning to comply with legal requirements.

Net Users Try to Elude the Google Grasp
New York Times, July 25, 2002
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/25/technology/circuits/25GOOG.html

Search engines have been making it possible to find personal information on the web for years, so the privacy problems described here aren't new. What is different is that even more people have access to the web and much more information has now been indexed.

Search for yourself online
MSNBC, March 19, 2002
-- no longer online --

After "Donna" googled her name, she discovered a site listing her address and credit card details. Her story suggests that looking up your own name or personal data might not be an exercise in vanity but instead one of self-protection.

AltaVista Unveils New Software
AP, June 12, 2001
http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,44461,00.html

AltaVista has upgraded its search software for intranets, with one of the key enhancements being new support for email formats. It can also work with AltaVista's "personal" software that runs on employee desktops, so that employees can search beyond just the information available on the company's shared network servers. This development has some privacy advocates concerned, suggesting that it will be easier for management or fellow employees to find personal information of other employees. This could certainly happen, but this isn't a software problem, it's a legal problem. Employees may be surprised to discover that "personal" email on company computers actually belongs to the company. Solution? If you don't want someone to see something personal, don't store it on your company computer, because intranet searching is going to continue expanding onto employee desktops. Alternatively, find out what your rights to privacy are according to company policies and your local jurisdictions.

Alexa To Pay In Privacy Dispute
The Search Engine Report, June 4, 2001

Are you an Alexa user? Then you might be entitled to receive up to US $40 in a proposed settlement that the company has made over privacy issues.

LookSmart Submission Data Was Left Vulnerable
The Search Engine Report, March 5, 2001
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/01/03-looksmart.html

Information in LookSmart's submission queue was left open to public, giving access to the names, phone numbers and email addresses of those who have submitted sites to the service. Credit card data, however, was not exposed.

What Is Hip? Not GoHip.com
Wired, Feb. 25, 2000
http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,34544,00.html

According to an Internet security firm, the GoHip search engine is distributing an ActiveX control that modifies your PC, including causing it to promote GoHip in your outgoing email.

User claims Amazon collected private information
Bloomberg, Jan. 7, 2000
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1007-200-1517791.html

Amazon is being sued over the type of personal information its Alexa navigational tool collects.

Yahoo opts for Net censorship
Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 4, 1999
http://www.smh.com.au/news/9911/04/national/national1.html

Yahoo removes messages that had no complaints and which weren't incorrect, in an effort to be extra careful.

Yahoo Two-Faced on Spam
Wired, Aug. 27, 1999
http://www.wired.com/news/news/email/explode-infobeat/technology/story/21461.html

Interesting story where Yahoo's advice to Yahoo Store owners to gain links conflicted with its Yahoo Mail guidelines. However, I wouldn't consider true the other suggestion that Yahoo's tips regarding search engines were meant to encourage search engine spamming.

Does Yahoo Own You?
The Search Engine Report, July 6, 1999

GeoCities members got a rude surprise when parent-company Yahoo revised the terms of using the free web page service. Under the revisions, Yahoo was granted the right to use a member's content without having to get permission or pay royalties. Yahoo has since revised its terms.

What's Related: Everything But Your Privacy
Interhack, October 1998
http://www.interhack.net/pubs/whatsrelated/

Researchers at Interhack have posted a document outlining concerns about information that Netscape's What's Related feature reports back to Netscape's servers. They describe how it is possible to determine the various web pages an actual individual has visited, which could possibly be abused. They say a similar situation is true for those using Alexa, whose technology Netscape uses for its What's Related feature. The authors make no accusation that the information is being abused, but rather they point out that the possibility for abuse exists. See also the Search Engine Report article about Smart Browsing for details on how What's Related works.

Yahoo Email Scam Resurfaces
Wired, Jan. 13, 1998
http://www.wired.com/news/news/technology/story/9641.html

Yahoo gets hit by another email scam. As an attempt to curb this kind of activity in their free email service, email addresses at Yahoo Mail can no longer contain the words "winner" or "contest."

Trademarks

NOTE: This section only deals with stories about search engines acting to protect their own trademarks. For stories relating to trademark issues with search listings and advertising, see the Advertising section above.

Yahoo Gets Boobled
John Battelle's SearchBlog, March 15, 2004
http://battellemedia.com/archives/000459.php

Booble is an adult search engine that Google has sued, claiming it illegally copies Google's look and feel. Now another adult search engine has launched to imitate Yahoo. You gotta think they're just hoping to get sued for the publicity. Google's suit (see below) has brought plenty of attention and traffic to Booble.

Google, EFF rally in trademark case
News.com, Feb. 24, 2004
http://news.com.com/2110-1024-5164091.html

Google and the EFF jump in with briefs supporting WhenU's software that triggers pop-up ads. In particular, visit a web site, and WhenU's software can make a competitor's ad appear. Doesn't it seem odd for Google, a pioneer of blocking pop-ups, to jump in and defend WhenU? But I haven't read the briefs, so it's likely that there are more broader issues that Google's hoping to protect rather than the right to deliver pop-ups.

Google Slaps Booble
InternetNews.com, Jan. 30, 2004
http://www.internetnews.com/IAR/article.php/3306121

Google doesn't take kindly to new adult search engine Booble, saying that its name is confusingly similar to the Google trademark. A visit to the Booble search engine shows a definite resemblance to Google. Is it really a parody of Google, which might land Booble in safe water? A lawyer cited in this article says now. But change the look and feel, and it seems like you'd be on safer ground. I certainly hope we won't see a string of people being sued just because they have oo in the middle of their names and end in le. Meanwhile, Booble's traffic is skyrocketing because of the publicity.

EBay goes after Google advertisers
News.com, Aug. 13, 2003
http://www.msnbc.com/news/951977.asp

eBay has used Google's trademark policy for paid listings to prevent advertisers from explicitly using the word "ebay" in their campaigns. So, if you're selling a book about selling on eBay, you can no longer big a on a term like "selling on ebay" at Google. The move by eBay is ironic given that the company commonly runs ads at Google and elsewhere using terms that are also trademarks of other companies. Try a search for "barbies" at Google, and an ad from eBay is prominent. In addition, it's entirely unclear that its illegal or wrong from people to use terms that are also trademarks in their ads.

Google Acts To Protect Trademark
The Search Engine Report, March 4, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2175231

When Google won the Search Engine Watch award for Outstanding Search Engine in January, I explained to readers how Google's success as a search engine was underscored by the increasing use of its name as a synonym for search, a consumer tribute but a trademark owner's nightmare. Now Google's first publicized action to protect its trademark from being transformed into a generic word has occurred.

Lookle bows to Google might
The Australian, July 16, 2001
http://finance.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,2350820%5E541,00.html

Apparently, Lookle looked a lot like Google, so Lookle changed its look to avoid problems. Google, by the way, told me that they did indeed send a letter to Lookle. Google's concern was that they felt the site imitated Google's look and feel too closely, plus it was operating as a meta search engine, using Google's results without permission. Lookle still appears to be meta searching other search engines without any apparent attribution, judging from a portion of the URL that appears after you do a search: "engines=FindWhat | About | AOLSearch | Excite| Fast | Lycos | MSN | Netscape| Northern_Light |WebCrawler."

Disney to Pay GoTo.com $21.5 Million in Settlement
InternetNews.com, May 26, 2000
http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article/0,2171,3_381351,00.html

GoTo wins millions in the logo dispute against Disney's Go.

Go backs down on logo battle
ZDNet, Feb. 18, 2000
http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2440821,00.html

Brief on Go changing its logo to please GoTo.

Jeeves settles dispute
The Independent, Feb. 13, 2000

The estate of P.G. Wodehouse apparently no longer has any problem with the use of the author's character by Ask Jeeves.

Search Engine Lawsuits O'Plenty
The Search Engine Report, Dec. 6, 1999

Update on the Disney-GoTo.com logo suit.

A Flap over Snap

Wired, Nov. 20, 1998
http://www.wired.com/news/news/politics/story/16389.html

Snap Online is being sued by Snap Technologies, claiming trademark infringement. Details about the complaint.

Disclosures

I have served as an expert witness on behalf of Terri Welles, in her case involving Playboy and meta tags. I have served as an expert witness on behalf of Excite & Netscape, in the case Playboy filed against them involving banner advertisements (see also my main disclosure page for further information). I provided pro bono consultation to Carla Virga's legal team, in the case filed against her by Terminix, involving meta tags.