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Google Legal Headaches Roundup: Angry Chinese Resellers, Toolbar Snooping, Texas Conspiracy Theories

No stranger to lawsuits and regulatory complaints, Google is dealing with a trio of new claims and contentions. Ad reseller partners in China are suing Google for lost commissions and other damages tied to Google’s recent pullout of that market. According to an article in Shanghai Daily:

Seven former advertising resellers for Google China in east China yesterday demanded compensation of US$6.5 million after the world’s No. 1 online search service provider terminated all business connections with the firms.

Google offered less than US$2 million to the resellers, including US$800,000 for commissions and other fees, which those companies said, in a public statement, should have already been paid . . .

The seven resellers include Hangzhou eCentral, Wenzhou Zhongzi Futou Technology and Ningbo 5ENET Technology

Back in the US a would-be class action has been filed in federal court in California, contending that Google’s toolbar violates privacy rights by transmitting personal user data to third parties as they browse the web.  I was unable to find the complaint itself to examine the claims more closely. However it may be the sibling of this action that argues the sharing of search query referrer data violates privacy.  (Here are Google’s Toolbar privacy terms and general privacy policy.)

Finally, long-time Google critic US Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) asserts that Google’s collection of personal information via WiFI networks was not “inadvertent” as Google has said. Rather it was a “conscious effort” by Google to get the data. Speaking on cable network C-SPAN Barton reportedly said the following:

[T]here appears to have been a conscious effort to collect information. Google said it was inadvertent, but it wasn’t just kind of accidentally gathered, and so I do think that’s something to look at . . .

Calling the incident “very troubling,” [Barton] said he would consider investigating Google if he becomes chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the next Congress. 

Barton added that Democrats are also concerned about Google’s breach.

The FTC recently ended its own inquiry into the WiFi matter finding no intentional wrongdoing and imposing no penalties on Google. However Barton could hold hearings if he becomes Chair of House Energy and Commerce Committee in the new Republican-led Congress, though he’s given no direct indication of that. Barton is currently the ranking minority member on the committee.

Google has historically been perceived as a Democrat-leaning company, which may create additional problems now that Republicans are returning to power in the House. In fact, however, Google gave more money to Republicans during the last election cycle.

Postscript: Updating the situation with the Chinese ad resellers, PC World is reporting that about 200 employees from the seven companies are protesting outside Google’s Shanghai offices, and 40 of them are “on a hunger strike that will last until the group’s grievances are resolved.”

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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