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Australian Google Grenade

The Australian competition watchdog dropped a bomb this week on the online search marketing industry. The ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) has filed an action against Google – a world first – alleging that Google have broken Trade Practice laws by using the names of certain businesses in unrelated sponsored advertisements – directing searchers who click on a particular business name to their competition.

The case specifically revolves around a local car dealer who was allegedly targeted by a large classified website the The Trading Post. The Trading Post site listed sponsored links directly naming a smaller local car dealer. …fairly straight forward.

Google Faces Legal Action from Australian Government

It’s one thing when a company decides to sue Google. Google’s typical “we believe the claims are without merit and we will defend them vigorously” statement, usually sends a strong message that the search engine will bring out the big-guns in defense.

But what happens when the lawsuit is filed by the Australian Government? All of a sudden, we can’t automatically assume Google’s going to be victorious, can we? That’s the scenario Google is facing after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – the Ozzie Government consumer watchdog – filed suit against Google for misleading and deceptive conduct in their AdWords ads.

The case also includes the company who’s ads the ACCC is challenging. Here’s an excerpt from the filing:

Google’s Gmail Faces Another Legal Blow in Germany

g-mail Good news! You probably don’t need to worry about Google pulling Gmail out of Germany due to impending privacy laws.

Bad news! Instead, it looks like Google might yank the service anyway, after losing a trademark battle over the use of the name in Germany.

The regional court in the northern city of Hamburg ruled that Google may not use the name in Germany, upholding 33-year-old businessman Daniel Giersch’s claim to have a copyright on the name for an email service he has been developing for seven years.

Mr Giersch says he has used the name “G-Mail” since 2000, four years before the US giant launched its “Gmail” product

Does Europe Have the Power to Kill the Google/DoubleClick Deal?

I must admit, international anti-trust law is not one of my strengths, so perhaps someone could explain to me how the merger of two U.S. companies could come under the rule of the European Union?

BEUC, backed by consumers in Germany, Italy and Spain, has urged the competition commissioner Neelie Kroes to investigate the deal, arguing in a letter seen by the Guardian that it “may have a negative impact on the selection of online content available to consumers and on privacy”. The US federal trade commission is already investigating on similar grounds.

If Ms Kroes finds that the deal is in breach of European regulations, she could quash the takeover or force Google to divest large parts of its business.

FTC: We Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Net Neutrality

Yesterday, Ars Technica (man, I love cool Latin blog names!) covered a report on Net Neutrality by the Federal Trade Commission’s Internet Access Task Force. The report, “Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy,” minimizes the debate, noting that there are few current problems in the area.

In a statement, FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said:

This report recommends that policy makers proceed with caution in the evolving, dynamic industry of broadband Internet access, which generally is moving toward more – not less – competition. In the absence of significant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm, policy makers should be particularly hesitant to enact new regulation in this area.

Court Ruling Could Force Search Engines to Track and Hand Over Private Data

A court ruling against TorrentSpy could create a dangerous precedent that would require other search engines and ISPs to create and store user data.

With privacy advocates already concerned that Google’s keeping data for 18 months, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pressing a California court to overturn a ruling that would make it a requirement for internet companies keep sensitive data and hand it over in a civil lawsuit.

The ruling came in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by motion picture studios against TorrentSpy, a popular search engine that indexes materials made publicly available via the Bit Torrent file sharing protocol. TorrentSpy has never logged its visitors’ Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Notwithstanding this explicit privacy policy, a federal magistrate judge has now ordered TorrentSpy to activate logging and turn the logged data over to the studios.

“This unprecedented ruling has implications well beyond the file sharing context,” EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry said.

German Gmail Users, Achtung!

If you live in Germany and you are a Gmail user, it might be time to start considering backing up any important emails. A post over at Google Blogoscoped reported yesterday that Google is threatening to discontinue Gmail due to a recently passed German law.

The Blogoscoped article states:

”According to this law, email services [in Germany] will be forced to maintain personally identifiable records attached to email accounts. What exactly this might mean for Google I don’t know, but perhaps it would result in Gmail having to start requiring full addresses (and perhaps even having to verify an address by sending a snail mail to the user).”

The news was originally reported by the German news source Heise Online. The Heise article, which is written completely in German, can be found here.