Google Under Siege Over Privacy, IP and Antitrust Issues

Google Facing $10M Plus Fine From FTC for Safari Privacy Breach

Bloomberg is reporting that Google is negotiating with the FTC over the amount of the fine to be imposed for its circumvention of the Safari browser’s privacy settings.  As Google is already subject to a consent decree that calls for fines of $16,000 per day, the amount of the fines imposed could exceed $10 million.  The fine could be the largest privacy related fine imposed by the FTC which previously had fined data broker ChoicePoint Inc. $10 million for compromising financial records of more than 163,000 consumers plus an additional $5 million in consumer redress.

Google Asserts Search Results Protected Speech

Google is being reviewed on both sides of the Atlantic (and now even India) on antitrust grounds to determine whether Google unfairly ranks search results to favor its own businesses, increases advertising rates for competitors, and uses its control of the Android mobile operating system to discourage smartphone makers from using rivals’ applications. The FTC recently hired outside lawyer Beth A. Wilkinson, a former Justice Department prosecutor who played a lead role in the conviction of the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeighand who has brought about 40 major cases in government and private practice and won them all, to lead the investigation.

In an effort to insulate itself from antitrust claims, Google has funded a legal report by UCLA Professor Eugene Volokh that asserts that Google’s search results are based on editorial judgments by Google and therefore protected by the First Amendment.  ”Just as the First Amendment fully protects Internet speech, it also fully protects Internet speakers’ editorial judgments about selection and arrangement of content.”

FCC WiSpy Report Reveals Google Knew Street View Collecting Private Data

The FCC’s report on its investigation of Google found that Google staff knew that its Street View cars were collecting private data via open Wi-Fi networks.  Google was fined $25,000 by the FCC and exonerated by the Justice Department, but the findings have led to a reopening of the EU’s investigation since this is inconsistent with Google’s statements to EU investigators.

Jury Finds Google Violated Oracle’s Copyright in Android Development

A federal jury in San Francisco concluded that Google broke copyright laws when it used Java APIs to design the Android operating system, but deadlocked on whether Google had a valid “fair use” defense.  Google has moved for a mistrial.  After the verdict, the court moved on to consideration of Oracle’s patent claims.   The move could discourage developers from designing products based on Java.

Google’s Drive Launch Hits Legal Bumps

Google Drive Launch Marred by Controversy Over Terms Google’s launch of its new cloud storage service quickly became “clouded” by controversy amid concerns that its broadly worded user agreement gave it ownership of the content submitted even after the user terminated their account. This occurred despite the fact that the terms of service provides “You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.” The furor over this is a lesson on making sensitive provisions in contracts clear and for returning media calls (since some reports used Google’s failure to return a call as tantamount to an admission).

Google Quadruples Lobbying Expenditures From 2010, In Top 10 for 2012

Given the challenges it is facing, it is not surprising that Google has increased its lobby spending from $5 million in 2010 to $9.6 in 2011 and is on pace for $20.1 million in 2012 based on its Q1 report.  Google’s lobbying surge has made it the first internet company to break into the top 20 spenders on Capitol Hill, with Google ranked 7th overall in Q1.  The Q1 reports also show that Facebook his on track to double its expenditures from $1.3 to $2.6 million.

More Info: Google staffers knew Street View cars collected private data, Digital Trends; European Regulators May Reopen Street View Inquiries, New York Times; Google Antitrust Scrutiny Mounts in Europe, Bloomberg; Antitrust Suit Could Bring Down Google, The Daily Beast;  Google Faces Antitrust Inquiry In India, Information Week; U.S. Escalates Google Case by Hiring Noted Outside Lawyer; New York Times;  Search Results Protected by First Amendment, Google-funded Analysis Says; Threat Level,  Google Said to Face Fine by U.S. Over Apple Safari Breach, Bloomberg, Google’s teensy FCC fine, Washington Post; Google guilty of infringement in Oracle trial; future legal headaches loom, Ars Technica, Understanding Google Drive’s Terms of Service, Slaw.

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  1. Pingback: New Cyber Report: Amazon Tax, Google Under Siege and More « BGK Blog

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