Europeans again raise the specter of breaking up Google

In 2014, the European Parliament held a mostly symbolic, non-binding vote to break up Google. This weekend, European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager told the UK’s The Telegraph that “the threat to split the internet giant up into smaller companies must be kept open.”
Vestager is being transparent when she says “the threat . . . must be kept open” — for leverage. As a practical matter, it’s extremely unlikely that the European Commission could unilaterally impose that sort of antitrust “remedy” on Google, especially if it were opposed in the US.
If there were broad agreement on both sides of the Atlantic and Google itself agreed to be broken up, that would be a very different story. Much more likely are additional potential fines.
In June of last year, the European Commission imposed a $2.7 billion fine on Google “abuse of its market power” in vertical (shopping) search. Google has appealed the fine.
Two other antitrust cases are pending against Google

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Google’s antitrust infringement continues ‘unabated’, Google Shopping competitors tell European Commission

Comparison shopping engines aren’t satisfied with Google’s response to the European Commission’s demand that the search giant give equal treatment to competitors.
“Google’s current remedy proposal has been in operation for more than four months, and the harm to competition, consumers and innovation caused by the infringement established by the Decision has continued unabated,” a group of Google competitors wrote in an open letter [pdf] to Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager at the European Commission this week.
After the European Commission levied a record nearly $3 billion fine against Google in an antitrust ruling for favoring its own Shopping ads and squeezing out rivals, Google established Google Shopping as a separate business unit to compete in the ad auction against other comparison shopping engines (CSEs).
That change was supposed to take effect last fall, but ads from competitors have been slow to appear and remain scarce. We’ve recently reported on competitor ads beginning to show occasionally in the UK. In

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Google, Getty Images enter a multi-year global licensing partnership

Late last week, Google parent Alphabet and Getty Images announced a sweeping partnership that effectively ends a long-standing copyright and antitrust dispute between Getty and Google, which was filed in early 2016.
The newly announced deal was characterized by Getty as “a multi-year global licensing partnership, enabling Google to use Getty Images’ content within its various products and services.” As part of that deal, Google will be using Getty images across many of its “products and services.”
Another change, according to The Verge, is that Google will make copyright attribution and disclaimers more prominent in image search results and will remove view links to stand-alone URLs for Getty photographs.
Getty’s complaint against Google alleged traffic and revenue losses to its customers’ sites because users could see (and potentially copy) images directly from Google Image Search results. Getty claimed that the ability to save and download images promoted copyright infringement and “piracy.” Getty is not the only party to have made

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India’s competition regulator fines Google $21.1 million for ‘search bias’ in travel results

India’s Competition Commission (CCI) today fined Google $1.36 billion rupees (roughly $21.1 million) for “abuse of its dominant position” in search. The specific finding made by CCI (in a 4 to 2 decision) surrounded Google’s treatment of flight search results.
CCI said that Google “allocated disproportionate real estate” to the box of sponsored flight results at the top of the page, which the Committee said disadvantaged “verticals trying to gain market access”:

CCI found prominent display of Commercial Flight Unit by Google on Search Engine Result Page (SERP) with link to Google’s specialised search options/ services (Flight) in contravention of the provisions of Section 4(2)(a)(i) of the Act. CCI noted in its order that Google through its search design has not only placed its commercial flight unit at a prominent position on SERP, it has also allocated disproportionate real estate thereof to such units to the disadvantage of verticals trying to gain market access. Besides, it was also found

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Yelp says Google violated ‘do not crawl’ provision of 2013 FTC settlement agreement

Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com
Yelp has sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asserting that Google is improperly using Yelp images in local search results in violation of its 2013 antitrust settlement with the regulatory agency. Yelp also circulated the letter to several members of Congress and state attorneys general, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
The 2013 settlement concluded nearly two years of investigations and political maneuvering. As part of the agreement, Google said it would:
[M]ake available a web-based notice form that provides website owners with the option to opt out from display on Google’s Covered Webpages of content from their website that has been crawled by Google. When a website owner exercises this option, Google will cease displaying crawled content from the domain name designated by the website owner on Covered Webpages on the google.com domain in the United States. Website owners will be able to exercise the opt-out described above by completing a web-based

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Privacy group files flawed complaint against Google Store Sales Measurement

At a time when companies have growing access to consumer data from an increasing number of sources, privacy is more important than ever. But it’s also important for privacy advocates to understand what’s going on before they formally complain to regulatory bodies.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a complaint with the FTC over Google’s Store Sales Measurement program. The group is arguing that:
Google has collected billions of credit card transactions, containing personal customer information, from credit card companies, data brokers, and others and has linked those records with the activities of Internet users, including product searches and location searches. This data reveals sensitive information about consumer purchases, health, and private lives.
It asserts that Google is using a “secret, proprietary algorithm for assurances of consumer privacy” and that the company uses “an opaque and misleading ‘opt-out’ mechanism.” It further argues that these are “unfair and deceptive trade practices” and confer FTC jurisdiction. It’s asking for an

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Top European court to decide if Google needs to purge disputed links from global index

A top European court will now decide whether Google must remove “right to be forgotten” (RTBF) links from its global search index. The French data protection authority, Commission Nationale de l’informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), previously argued RTBF can be defeated when disputed content remains in Google’s global index.
In 2015, CNIL demanded global delisting to enforce RTBF. Accordingly, the regulator has effectively sought authority over Google’s search results in countries outside Europe — beyond its legal jurisdiction.
Google complied within Europe but declined to do so globally. CNIL then fined Google roughly 100,000€ for not following its directive to purge disputed content globally.
Google has correctly resisted CNIL on the grounds that citizens of other countries should not be subject to French or European law. Google has defended limiting RTBF removals to European users and has taken a number of steps to prevent people in Europe from accessing RTBF links:
We’ve been working hard to strike the right balance in implementing the European Court’s ruling, co-operating closely with data protection authorities. The ruling focused

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Report: EU responding to Google antitrust search-quality defense with new objections

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, regulators at the European Commission (EC) are preparing a “supplementary statement of objections” in the existing shopping search antitrust matter. The EC filed the original “statement of objections” (formal antitrust charges) regarding Google’s alleged abuse of market power in early 2015.
While the EC focused exclusively on shopping search in the original charges, it is widely expected that shopping is a kind of template for other potential “search bias” cases against Google. If the EC succeeds, nearly identical charges will likely follow in other vertical search areas such as local, maps and potentially travel.
The supplementary statement reportedly allows the EC to address arguments and claims made in Google’s formal response to the EC’s original statement of objections. In a blog post reflecting the arguments made to the EC, Google vigorously asserts that the evolution of its search results pages has been about improving quality and the user experience and is

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Report: 2 years in, 75 percent of Right to Be Forgotten asks denied by Google

It has been two years since the Court of Justice of the European Union established the “Right to be forgotten” (RTBF). Reputation VIP subsequently launched Forget.me as one way for consumers in Europe to submit RTBF requests to Bing and Google.
The company has periodically used consumer submissions through the site (130,000 URLs) to compile and publish aggregate data on RTBF trends. A new report looks at two years’ worth of cumulative data, on the nature, geographic location and success rates of RTBF requests.
The top three countries from which RTBF requests originate are the Germany, the UK and France. In fact more than half of all requests have come from Germany and the UK.

Google refuses roughly 70 percent to 75 percent of requests according to the data. The chart below reflects the most common categories or justifications for URL removal requests, on the left. On the right are the reasons that Google typically denies RTBF requests.
Google most frequently

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Streetmap Loses Anti-Competitive Lawsuit Against Google In UK

UK-based Streetmap sued Google in court last November under an “abuse of competition” theory. This was essentially the civil-suit version of the European Commission’s antitrust case against the company. The High Court of Justice in the UK has now ruled against Streetmap.
Streetmap had argued that the insertion of Google Maps at the top of search results (i.e., OneBox) in 2008 had deprived the company of traffic and revenue, effectively destroying it. However, the court disagreed.
According to The Guardian, the court said that the Maps OneBox was  “not reasonably likely appreciably to affect competition in the market for online maps.” Complicating the case is the fact that Streetmap offers a generally poor user experience that isn’t competitive with Google Maps.

Streetmap will apparently appeal the unfavorable decision. The Guardian quotes Streetmap spokesperson Kate Sutton on the ruling:
First, this decision is unfair for small businesses. The hands of small businesses are now tied behind our backs. The decision makes it

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