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Google Faces Antitrust Questions, More Privacy Concerns

By , IT BUSINESS EDGE

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm

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Privacy advocates. The Federal Trade Commission. The Chinese government. They’ve all been on Google’s back recently.

And it seems the company is now on Consumer Watchdog‘s blacklist as well. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based consumer advocacy group is lobbying the U.S. Department of Justice to begin an antitrust investigation into the search giant. In fact, the argument has also been made that the company may need to be broken up. According to TG Daily, Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson says:

Google’s business practices actually determine much of the internet experience for most consumers by determining what Websites they view. Yet, Google remains a closed black box offering little insight into how it operates.

What’s more, according to Consumer Watchdog, Google is spending big bucks to lobby legislators in Washington to advance its agenda. Lobbying disclosure forms show the company spent $4.2 million on lobbyists last year. In all, its spending has increased nearly 60 percent. Simpson told TG Daily:

Google is seeking laws that let the company do whatever it wants in its quest for record profits. If that means record sums on influence-peddling, so be it.

In the meantime, The Onion is poking fun at Google’s privacy practices – or lack thereof. The tongue-in-cheek piece makes for a great laugh, but it’s based on just enough truth to make one wonder how much privacy anyone has anymore.

Privacy regulators from several countries are asking Google and other international companies those same questions. Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart was among those who issued a statement last week asking companies to be mindful of individual privacy issues. An e-mailed statement from Stoddart’s office said:

As part of an unprecedented collaboration, data protection authorities representing over 375 million people in 10 countries are speaking with a common voice to remind these organizations that they must comply with the privacy laws of each country where they roll out online products and services.

The regulators released the statement at the annual meeting of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

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