The Politics of Google




With great success comes great responsibility and, at least in Google’s case, incredible scrutiny. Governments the world over are licking their chops to take a swipe at the Internet giant (let’s all agree to stop calling them the search giant since they are much more these days) and it creates some very odd situations.

Yesterday a couple of those particular situations surfaced and are worth examination. First, the interesting double life of Senator Al Franken as it relates to Google. Franken (MN –D) is a member of the antitrust committee that is looking into claims of monopolistic blah blah blah against Google. In the recent hearings in fact he gave Google’s CSO (Chief Speaking Officer) Eric Schmidt a dressing down. Made himself look real tough, huh?

Well, as Mike Blumenthal pointed out yesterday Franken has both sides of his mouth functioning properly as he was in a video praising Google for their work in his state regarding getting small businesses online. Check out the video here (Embedding have been turned off so YouTube is the only way to see Franken’s comments. Note how excited he is at the one minute mark. Oh and don’t think you can comment on his comments either, those have been turned off.)

I will let you know that I am no fan of Franken’s. The only redeeming factor is that when he does something so stupid in office that it is funny, you can at least hope that he was trying to get a laugh (unlike most senators). After all, he is a comedian turned politician but I think he isn’t getting what it means to be the latter but I digress. Also, let’s remember he was put in his position by a state that thought it was a good idea to have a pro wrestler as governor thus making California look like a serious political state.

So with regard to a US senator Google has both a favored status AND a target on it? Anyone else seeing a red light here?

Now, for more interesting Google / government interminglings. The Next Web is reporting that Google Apps is in the hunt to replace Microsoft’s contract for productivity tools used in government (productivity in government, I made a funny).

In a decision that Google is sure to celebrate, the US Government today decided to consider its Apps product alongside of Microsoft’s productivity tools for a coming contract. Google dropped its lawsuit over the matter as a result.

The contract, which amounts to nearly 50 million dollars, is a flash point between the two giants, as they spar for space in the enterprise and government sectors. Google’s Apps suite is an up and coming tool, while Microsoft’s products are what might be called the ‘default’ option. Now that Google’s offerings will be considered side by side with Microsoft’s products, Office stands to potentially lose mind- and market-share.

So the dance of Google and government continues and promises to be maybe more interesting than that any other dance related “news” we have ever seen (sorry Janet Jackson and Nancy Grace). In the same breath Google is on the defensive with a senator who is also singing Google’s praises and the government that fears antitrust issues with Google is exploring ways for Google to further erode another competitors market share through its competitive offerings.

Wait a minute. Did I just say competitive? Oh, maybe that’s the problem. In this new world order competition is no longer something that is played out in the marketplace but rather it is legislated by people who have no real idea what they are talking about. That’s comforting isn’t it?

How do feel about the current state of affairs regarding Google and government? Much ado about nothing? Too close for comfort? Why are we even forced to talk about this kind of situation in a free market?

Would love to get your take so bring it!