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Google's mob mentality defies U.S. attorneys general

Rob Enderle | July 1, 2013
Microsoft eventually learned that you can't win a battle against the government. Google appears poised to learn the same lesson. The difference: Google's fight goes well beyond separating a browser from an operating system and involves illegal drugs and illicit activities. There's a teachable moment here, writes CIO.com columnist Rob Enderle, but it may cost Google its advertisers.

What's interesting is that, when the AGs made the same request to Yahoo (powered by Microsoft's Bing), Yahoo complied within three days. Years ago, AOL likewise complied when AGs asked the ISP to crack down on child pornography.

Google, on the other hand, fought the AGs on auto complete since November, Hood says. Only after putting Google under litigation hold, meaning that Google has to retain all emails and documents related to the issue, did the search engine change its auto-complete options. It also removed many, but not all, of the YouTube videos that explained how to buy drugs online without a prescription.

That said, Google still displays ads from questionable online pharmacies, and Hood and his team were able to anonymously buy generic Viagra, "bath salts" and oxycodone from these sites without a prescription.

Much of the talk presents example after example of illicit behavior tied back to Google. It's a fascinating talk but, at the end, you may have a hard time seeing a much of a difference between Google and a criminal organization.

Hood, who is the co-chair of the Department of Justice's Task Force on Intellectual Property, has put Google under litigation hold.. In addition, Hood asks the California AG and other AGs to join him in going after Google investors and advertisers and suggests a broad media and legal campaign against Google.

A Costly Teachable Moment for Google, Its Customers
It's clear that Google, no more than Microsoft did over a decade ago, is completely unaware that some see it as a criminal organization with the capability to effectively buy its way out of prosecution.

This is actually a bigger problem for Google than it was for Microsoft, as bundling IE with Windows wasn't connected to child and adult safety. Google's behavior is being tied to drugs that can cause injury or death. This could certainly damage Google's public image and potentially result in expensive class action litigation. In addition, while the feds targeted only Microsoft, today's AGs are planning to go after Google investors and advertisers, too.

There's a teachable moment here. In contrast to Yahoo, Apple and Microsoft-all of whom were touted as "good guys" during the NAAG talks-Google has decided to go to war with the attorneys general. As a result, Google's on the cusp of having its brand trashed and its advertisers flee. No advertiser wants to be connected to underage prostitution, human trafficking or date rape drugs-all mentioned in the panel presentation-and as things stand they are certainly vulnerable.

If these AGs follow through, then anyone doing business with Google may be connected to illicit behavior. The NAAG video is worth watching for two reasons: It points out how not to behave as a company and, in a very real sense, it suggests that you might want to distance yourself from Google until this all settles. There's even an example of Google's ad process connecting Mazda to terrorists. What if that was your brand?

 

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